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Act III, Scene 2
Petruchio arrives late on his wedding day and the guests think he has changed his mind. As Katherine is about to leave in tears, Petruchio enters dressed in funny clothes with his horse saddled in a ridiculous way. His appearance shocks everyone. Tranio and Baptista try to dissuade him from entering the church in the attire, but he rejects their suggestions. Tranio and Lucentio remain behind, and Tranio tells him that he will ask someone to play Vincentio and verify Lucentio’s dowry so that Bianca can be married.
Gremio returns from the wedding and describes the ceremony to Tranio. During the ceremony Petruchio swears so loudly that the priest drops his book. He then strikes the priest and gives Katherine such a kiss that everybody is in disbelief. He then refuses to attend the wedding banquet and prepares to leave for his country home with his bride. When Katherine refuses to accompany him, Petruchio dramatically draws his sword, points it towards the guests, and pretends that they are enemies attempting to hold her against her will. He then seizes his bride, and they depart. The stunned guests agree that Petruchio is someone that can reckon with Katherine.
This humorous scene shows Petruchio putting into practice his plan to change Katherine. His plan is simple; he will expose her to more ridiculous behavior than her own and show her how it feels to be in the opposite person’s shoes when one is treated rudely. He arrives at his wedding late, wearing outrageous clothes. His friends try to persuade him not to wear them into the church, but he is adamant. During the wedding ceremony, he swears, strikes the priest, and roughly kisses the bride. After the wedding, he toasts his own health, forcing himself into the limelight. Katherine is outraged at his behavior; she calls him names, such as "mad-brain rudesby full of spleen;" ironically, all of these names also describe her.
The guests are also shocked at Petruchio’s behavior. They do not realize that he is mocking Katherine, acting even more rudely and stubbornly than she acts. When he refuses to go to his own wedding banquet, draws his sword against the guests, and quickly takes Katherine away by force to the country, they are aghast. Only Tranio sees a method in his madness.
It is important to notice Baptista’s reaction to Petruchio. Before his arrival, Katherine’s father is upset and disappointed, certain that the bridegroom has changed his mind and backed out of the marriage. When Petruchio arrives late and in his ridiculous clothes, Baptista is not pleased at the behavior of his future son- in-law. Nonetheless, he says, "I am glad he’s come, howsoeer he comes." He is the picture of the eager father ready to be rid of a rude and troublesome daughter.
The irony of the scene is that neither Petruchio nor Katherine is rude by nature. Katherine acts in a shrewish manner because she feels rejected by her father, her sister, and the society around her. Her rudeness is a defense mechanism on her part, a way to draw attention to herself. Petruchio’s rudeness is also a pretense. He is trying to teach his wife a lesson. At this point in the play, Katherine is unable to see herself in his actions. In later scenes, however, she comes to realize her shrewish behavior and to change her ways as a result of Petruchio’s cunning plan.
The entire scene, if played with the intended exaggeration, can be uproariously funny. The reader should picture Petruchio arriving in his wild clothing, riding on a broken down horse. Next he should be pictured in the church, swearing nosily, striking the priest, and brutally kissing his bride. Finally, imagine Petruchio drawing his broken sword, pointing it at the amazed guests, and forcibly taking a screaming Katherine off stage as they leave for his country home. This exaggerated behavior, coupled with the witty lines offered by many of the characters, creates a masterful, comic scene.