Monday, February 20, 2012

Characterization in Taming of the Shrew

I found the characterization of those in The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare to be extremely fascinating. Katherine, the shrew who must be tamed, is described with extremely negative characteristics. Katherine is seen as an insulting, abrasive, and miserable woman. Her overall unpleasant attitude is also matched with a great amount of wit, one that is only challenged by Petruccio. It is particularly interesting to compare the sisters, Bianca and Katherine. It is obvious that Bianca serves as a foil to Katherine. Where Katherine is seen as aggressive and almost vicious individual, Bianca is seen as the exact opposite. She is characterized as a peaceful, kind, and even-tempered woman. Shakespeare’s technique as portraying the sisters as foil characters to one another only strengthens their very different personalities. 
One of the most interesting pairings, in my opinion, seen in Shakespeare’s texts is the relationship between Katherine and Petruccio. It seems that among all of the men in Padua, Petruccio is the only person who is able to conquer the challenge of wooing Baptista’s eldest daughter, Katherine. Other men who were forced to interact with Katherine, were very much intimated by her aggressive attitude. This can be seen particularly when Katherine strikes Hortensio when he is attempting to teach her to play the lute. Despite her reputation, Petruccio takes it upon himself to convince Katherine to marry him. Petruccio and Katherine’s fascinating interaction can be first seen in scene 2.1 of the play. Where other men have been emasculated when conversing with Katherine, Petruccio does not suffer the same fate. Immediately, Petruccio takes Katherine completely off guard when calling her “Kate”. Although Katherine responds to Petruccio by informing him that this is not her name, he continues to call her a number of names involving “Kate”. This passage can be seen when Petruccio says: “You lie, in faith, for you are called plain Kate, and bonny Kate, and sometimes Kate the curst, but Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom, Kate of Kate Hall, my super-dainty Kate- fofr dainties are all cates...” (2.1 184-87). This passage immediately starts of the witty banter that Petruccio and Katherine converse in. It seems that nearly every statement that is uttered by Katherine, is completely contradicted by Petruccio. The interaction seen in this scene between Petruccio and Katherine was very humorous. It is very clear that none of the other men in The Taming of the Shrew would have been brave enough to dare to converse with Katherine in such a way. However, possibly this is what Katherine needed. Perhaps, the reason for Katherine acting the way she does could be a result of feelings of jealousy of her sister, Bianca. It is clear from the amount of suitors that Bianca had, contrasted with the one suitor that Katherine had. Therefore, it is a reasonable conclusion to believe that Katherine’s negative attitude could be a result of sibling rivalry and animosity! 

1 comment:

Cyrus Mulready said...

You do a nice job calling our attention to this passage, Megan, and before we had a chance to note it in class! The relationship between Petruccio and Katherine is the most interesting in the play--far more, for instance, than the courtship between Bianca and Lucentio, for instance, which is more about the disguising game than their interest in one another. I'd be curious to know what you think about the ending of the play in light of our conversation on Friday. Does this relationship (Petruccio and Katherine) lose something, in your mind, because of the way the play ends?