Katherina may be a shrew, but Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew does not truly show a study of how a selfish, spoilt individual is made to conform to society’s expectations, or be tamed into a ‘proper’ woman. At the end of the play, Katherina is not, necessarily, tamed – she just realizes what she must to do in order to get the things she wants. Two main examples of her submitting to Petruchio in order to achieve her desires are in Act 4, scene 5, (the sun versus moon scene) as well as Act 5, scene 2 (the kiss me kate scene and her final monologue).
In Act 4, scene 5, the audience is shown a major part of Petruchio’s ‘taming’ process. Petruchio exclaims: “Good Lord, how bright and goodly shines the moon! ” (iv, v, line 3, page 185). It is, of course, the sun shining brightly, as Kate rightly corrects him. When Petruchio threatens Kate by telling her that they will not proceed on their journey to her father’s house unless she agrees with him, Kate is smart enough to realize that the only way to continue on the trip would be to comply.
She readily agrees with Petruchio, quite respectfully and subserviently, in fact. Even when Petruchio counters her agreement with “Nay, then you lie. It is the blessed sun” (iv, v, line 20, page 187) Kate manages to control her anger and, once again, agrees with him. The audience is aware that Kate knows Petruchio is using this ‘obedience’ strategy as a way to tame Kate and that she seems to have caught on to his tactic. By showing her self-control during that moment, instead of having an outburst, it is obvious that Kate outsmarted Petruchio.
She is not, at all, tamed; simply able to get the things she wants in a calmer manner. Instead of taming her, Petruchio has taught her new ways of achieving the things she wants. As well, in Act 5, scene 2, Kate is also shown to be manipulating the situation around her while appearing “tamed”. When the couple is heading towards Lucentio and Bianca’s wedding dinner, Petruchio pauses in the street and asks Kate to kiss him. She is a little appalled at his forward behaviour and questions him briefly. “What, in the midst of the street? … / No, sir God forbid, be ashamed to kiss. ” (v, ii, line 148, 149, page 205). Again, she is threatened with having to return home instead of joining in the festivities, and Kate gives Petruchio a kiss. This obedient kiss may indicate Petruchio’s power over her, but it was clear to Kate that if she did not give him the kiss he asked for, she would not have been allowed to proceed to the wedding feast. Kate is smart and cunning and she manipulated his yearn for her tameness in order to do everything that she wants to while making him happy and pleased.
In addition, Kate’s final monologue, also in Act 5, scene 2, tells the audience a lot; about the play itself, as well as the society in Shakespeare’s era. On face value, Kate’s final monologue seems to be a long lecture about serving your husband, no questions asked. “Then vail your stomachs, for it is no boot, / And place your hands below your husband’s foot” (v, ii, lines 92-3, page 221). However, Shakespeare gave Kate the last word in the play, a sign of her consistent power and control.
As well, her monologue can be perceived as quite ironic. Kate is aware of the beliefs about how women in the household should act and, as clearly portrayed throughout the entire play, the role Petruchio has been trying to get her to fill. By playing along fullheartedly with society’s expectations, in front of the large audience of guests, Kate becomes “truly tamed” – or just incredibly clever. By teaching Bianca and the widow how to treat their husbands properly, she is deemed tamed. “‘Tis a wonder, by your leave, she will be tamed so. v, ii, line 206, page 221). Now, Kate has cleared her reputation. The Taming of the Shrew shows how shrewd Kate changes – but she never morphs into the Elizabethan wife Petruchio, and all the other characters, thinks she becomes. Instead, she learns how to manipulate situations in order to get the things she desires without having large outbursts and a sour attitude. This Shakespeare comedy is a laugh at society’s expectations, as it shows how a powerful woman, Kate, outsmarted her arrogant, Elizabethan husband. Katherina: