The Taming of the Shrew — Katherina’s Speech

Fie! Fie! Unknit that threatening unkind brow,
And dart not scornful glances from those eyes,
To wound thy Lord, thy king, thy governor:
It blots thy beauty as frosts do bite the meads,
Confounds thy fame as whirlwinds shake fair buds,
And in no sense is meet or amiable.
A woman moved is like a fountain troubled,
Muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty,
And while it is so, none so dry or thirsty
Will deign to sip or touch one drop of it.
Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance commits his body
To painful labour, both by sea and land;
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe,
And craves no other tribute at thy hands,
But love, fair looks, and true obedience;
Too little payment for so great a debt.

Such duty as the subject owes the prince,
Even such a woman oweth to her husband:
And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,
And not obedient to his honest will,
What is she but a foul contending rebel,
And graceless traitor to her loving lord?
I am ashamed that women are so simple
To offer war where they should kneel for peace;
Or seek rule, supremacy, and sway,
When they are bound to serve, love, and obey.
Why are our bodies soft, and weak, and smooth,
Unapt to trouble in the world,
But that our soft conditions and our hearts
Should well agree with our external parts?
Come, come, you froward and unable worms!
My mind hath been as big as one of yours,
My heart as great, my reason haply more,
To bandy word for word, and frown for frown;
But now I see our lances are but straws,
Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare,
That seeming to be most, which we indeed least are.
Then vail your stomachs, for it is no boot,
And place your hands below your husband’s foot:
In token of which duty, if he please,
My hand is ready, may it do him ease.

–William Shakespeare

Bonnie’s Analysis of The Taming of the Shrew

This Shakespeare play is not often touted as a favorite. It did inspire a very robust musical called Kiss Me Kate which is enjoyed by audiences. Katherina is a very different main character than most of Shakespeare’s heroines. She is known throughout the town for her angry abrasive manner. Her sister Bianca, on the other hand, is known as the sweet simpering charmer with many suitors wanting her hand.

Petruchio comes to town to “wive it wealthily.” His desire is no secret. Upon hearing about Katherina, he takes on the challenge to woo her and wed her. He gets the large dowry and the wealth, but careful analysis of his actions show that he really wants much more than that. Like every man he desires a quiet, loving and responsive wife.

Until Petruchio undertakes his plan to break down Kate’s resistance, we’re not sure whether he wants the money more than an enriching marriage relationship. Katherina has always gotten her way by anger and acting out. The best way to deal with such childish and immature behavior is a tough love approach which Petruchio puts into action. No child should be rewarded for such behavior and certainly not a wife. Kate has not allowed herself to receive love. After establishing a reputation for shrewish behavior, she can hardly suddenly turn into a loving and gentle wife. Her pride and selfishness hold her back more than anything. How often this is the problem with human beings and never more so than in the repentance and faith required by God for salvation.

It seems that men often like Petruchio and this play because they think it envisions a time when male domination was the norm in everyday life. This is a ridiculous way to view the play. We have no indication that this was the culture in Shakespeare’s time. In fact, his heroines are often more wise and capable than the heroes. Petruchio does not show the common attitude toward women, but has put a plan into action to “tame” Kate and get her to accept the love he has to offer. It can’t be done in her present state of mind and attitude. She has to drastically change and it will take a real strong man to engineer that transformation. Katherina herself finds the offer of love more difficult to accept than being denied food and sleep. There are those even in our own culture who see themselves as unlovable. Petruchio wears her down to force her to take the love he wants to offer.

There is some damage done by the popular Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton production of this play. In the end, Taylor plays the scene well, but she acts as though she is pretending this submission so that she can rule her husband in a subtle way. There is no indication of this in the actual script. Actors can add much to a character role and in this case Taylor ruins the intent by adding 20th century values that aren’t in the original. It is much more reasonable and pleasant to take it for what it is. Petruchio initially looked for money in the marriage and got love as well. Katherina expected nothing, except perhaps to save face in a culture that expected women to marry, and got love. Both are more than satisfied and it is a very happy ending.

So why do I love this play? Well, the fact is that the woman is to be in submission to the man as the Bible indicates in a number of passages. I have other articles on this site that explore that concept — check them out. He, on the other hand, is to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. When these two principles are embraced fully by the married couple, happiness and contentment result. The man is the leader, the woman is his completer. She makes him greater and more able to fulfill his God given role. He takes care of her both physically and spiritually. Together, the two are greater than they could be separated into different individuals. God designed the married couple to be one, to have children, to serve Him more fully than they could alone. He provides the house, she turns it into a home.

When Petruchio enters into the wager with his friends, he has already bent Katherina’s will so that she can accept the love of a man – him. Only now can she be content. He will show the others that it is possible to change. The other two husbands are wondering at the fact that Kate came when first summoned. Petruchio tells her to call her sister and Hortensio’s wife. Hortensio says, “I wonder what it bodes.” Petruchio replies, “Marry, peace it bodes, and love, and quiet life, an awful rule, and right supremacy, and, to be short, what not that’s sweet and happy?”

When Katherina returns with the widow and Bianca in tow, her husband bids her to tell them what a wife owes her husband. Just as the Bible does, the text uses the word lord in reference to a husband. Be careful, dear reader, to take issue with that. It shows a respect that is often lacking in our modern day relationships. Don’t take it as tyranny because it isn’t. Women have a hard time with these Biblical concepts of love, respect, and serving in the way the Lord designed life here on planet earth. Be careful of your attitude.

I especially like the part where Kate talks about the husband out in the world laboring painfully for the means to keep his wife who is safe at home. In return, he craves only love, fair looks, and true obedience, — too little payment for so great a debt. Just as a subject owes obedience to the prince/king, the wife owes it to her husband. In our present day culture, there is not nearly enough appreciation by the wife for the sacrifices made by the husband to provide for her. If you are fortunate enough to be able to stay at home, your husband has to labor a great deal. Those who don’t work outside the home think it would be easier and very satisfying to do so. They have no concept of the pressure of the daily grind of the job. Those men would love to be doing other more fulfilling things with their time, but they know they have to get up and go to work every day, spend their energy, use up their brain power, and then get up and do it again tomorrow. Then the wife has the gall to expect him to do chores around the house on the weekend when he needs to recuperate and regain his sanity for the next work week. How ungrateful we often are to abuse our spouses so. If both are working outside the home, the situation is even worse. I have observed over the years that a wife who can be at home and tend to making it a refuge from the world, is a much more pleasant woman to everyone.

Katherina finishes her speech. Petruchio pays her a wonderful compliment though we wouldn’t consider being called a wench a compliment. He means it in the most wonderful way, for he says, “Come on and kiss me, Kate.” He has won the wager, and even more to his credit, he has taught Kate how to be a fulfilled and fulfilling wife who accepts love and gives it.

As Katherina says, “I am ashamed that women are so simple to offer war, where they should kneel for peace; or seek for rule, supremacy, and sway, when they are bound to serve, love, and obey.” A noble goal for all married women. Serve the Lord by serving your husband.

– end

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