A comedic play by William Shakespeare
involving “taming” a wife, a relatively common idea during the Elizabethan age. This is a good play to read or see for anyone being introduced to Shakespeare’s works- it’s one of the easier ones to understand
- but it’s not really the Bard’s best play. The story was turned into a musical called “Kiss Me Kate
,” and has been updated in “10 Things I Hate About You
,” which I ended up seeing and was surprised to find I actually enjoyed it, despite the fact that it’s a teen
flick. The story’s influence can also be seen in the ice-skating film “The Cutting Edge
,” where the horrid ice-queen- Kate
- is brought down to size by her new skating partner
Katharine (a.k.a. the shrew) is the eldest daughter of Baptista, a well-off man of Padua. Katharine is known for her horribly ugly temper (hence, the nickname) and everyone felt sure that no man would ever dare to marry the supercilious woman. Meanwhile, Katharine’s younger sister, Bianca, continues to get numerous offers for marriage, but Baptista refuses to allow her to be married until he can get Katharina married- and off his hands- first.
One day a young gentlement named Petruchio enters Padua, looking for a wife, and he hears of the rich and fair-looking Katharine, and about her infamous temper as well. He scoffs at the news of her temper and plans to persue the woman anyway. Petruchio himself is high-spirited and witty, and speaks to Baptista about his wish to marry his eldest daughter. Baptista tries to warn him, but Petruchio cares not. Baptista then settles the arrangement, offering 20 thousand crowns as her dowry, and goes off to fetch Katharine. When she enters to meet Petruchio, Katharine is naturally spiteful towards him, but after every venemous sentence she speaks, Petruchio tells her how beautiful her words and voice are. He tells her that he’s heard of her mildness being praised all over, and wishes to woo her for his wife. This really angers her, but he claims that regardless of her own wishes, he will still get his way. When Baptista returns to check on them, Petruchio claims it went wonderfully and that she plans on marrying him the following Sunday. Katharine denies this, saying she would rather see him hanged on Sunday. Petruchio claims that even though she’s acting reluctant, before her father entered she was very kind and loving. He tells her to get ready for the wedding, because it was for sure going to happen.
When the time comes for the wedding that Sunday, and all their guests were waiting, Petruchio has yet to arrive. Katharine gets very upset about this, thinking he’d only done all of this to make a joke out of her. He eventually does arrive, but not dressed up at all, and with no finery for Katharine to wear either. They fuss about it but head to the church anyway, after Petruchio exclaims she is marrying him and not his clothes. Petruchio continues his rudeness during the ceremony, swearing and putting off the preacher and generally creating an embarrassing disturbance. He contiued his absurdities by throwing wine all over someone after the ceremony, and when Baptista asks them to join him at the marriage feast, Petruchio refuses and claims he wishes to leave for home immediately with his new wife.
All the way back to his house, Petruchio rants at his servants, and when they finally arrive, they sit down to eat but Petruchio finds fault in everything. He throws food on the floor and orders it all away. When Katharine looks to go to bed, still starved and extremely tired, Petruchio feigns anger with the bed and throws the covers about the room. She then has nowhere to sleep but in a chair, but gets very little sleep because her husband continues with his angry outbursts towards his servants all night.
The next day he acts the same, being very kind to Katharine but screaming at everyone else. When Katharine gets a chance to speak to one of the servants privately, she asks for a secret meal so she can actually eat, and they refuse. Petruchio soon enters, having made some food for her himself, and sets it down for her. She says nothing, so he attempts to take it away. By this time Katharine is so famished she asks him (kindly!) to leave it. This appeases him and he lets her eat. Then Petruchio begins to plan for a grand visit to see her father, where they will be finely dressed. When the tailor brings in clothing for them, Petruchio again flies into a rage about the apparel. Katharine struggles with him about the clothes, claiming she likes what they have to offer and wishes to wear it. Eventually, Petruchio gives in.
When they head out to Baptista’s, Petruchio continues his bizarre behavior, claiming things opposite than they are just to get a rise out of Katharine. He says the moon is the sun, simply because he says it is, and soon all of this wears on Katharine and she begins to agree with whatever he says. At one point, they pass an old man and Petruchio claims it is a woman. He tells the man he looks very fair and lovely and tells Katharine to make the same remarks to him. Katharine hugs the man, calling him a “young budding virgin... fresh and sweet.” Petruchio then laughs at Katharine, saying she is wrong- the man is not a fair maid, of course. Katharine apologizes to the old man. The couple then realize the man is the father of Bianca’s new suitor, and they travel together to Baptista’s home.
At the house, Bianca’s future husband Lucentio and friend Hortensio joke with Petruchio, saying he has placed himself in an unfortunate marriage with such a shrew. Petruchio makes a bet with the guys. He says they each must call on their women, and whoever answers first will be considered the most obedient. The wager is put at 20 crowns, though Petruchio says he will bet 100 crowns on his wife, since odds are supposedly against her. They agree. Which lady obeys the summons? Katharine, of course. Everyone is amazed, and Baptista is so happy he adds 20 thousand crowns to the original dowry. Katharine continues to exhibit her obediency, soon becoming famous in Padua not for being a shrew, but for being the most duteous wife in the land.