Monday, February 20, 2012

Conflicting Thoughts on Katherine

           Katherine is definitely the most interesting character in the play in my opinion because of the conflicting nature of her character.  When we begin Act 2 we see that she has bound her sister’s hands together.  She questions her sister about who she loves, and Bianca insists that she doesn’t love anyone, but that she would gladly plead for someone to love her (Katherine).  Katherine then strikes her sister, calling her a liar.  I feel that Katherine’s standoffish appearance and violent temperament stems from her envying the attention her sister receives from men.  Bianca has always been the pretty one, the delicate little treasure of her father and men in general, whereas Katherine has always been the “other” daughter, the “other” sister.  Deep beneath the surface, I feel like she is hurt and jealous of all the positive attention her sister has received over the years.  Also, she is tired being bound to the arrangements her father has made upon her.  She is the older sister, and by the natural order of things she should be married before her younger sister.  Nonetheless, many men cannot handle the power play she engages them.  Katherine uses language to overpower the men, always throwing witty comebacks at them.  Attempts by her suitors end in failure because they are unable to handle her.  Unlike her younger dainty sister, Katherine, it seems, will not lower herself to submitting to a man because she refuses to accept Bianca as the standard to follow.  She will not emulate Bianca in order to gain attention and approval from them.  This does not change the fact that she still wants to be married one day, however.  When Katherine tries to follow Bianca after their confrontation Baptista, her father, prevents her.  It is then that Katherine reveals her resentment toward her father for favoring Bianca: “She is your treasure, she must have a husband.  I must dance barefoot on her wedding day, and for your love to her to lead apes in hell" (2.1.31-34).  

            Katherine’s stubbornness and ill-temper have led men to call her a shrew, and she is constantly described as being “too rough” for the men’s liking.  In fact, Petruccio seems to be the only one who is able to handle her in the power plays between them.  He begins his conversation with her by addressing her as “Kate,” and speaks about how the name is associated with so many different things.  He calls her “plain,” “bonny,” “curst,” and “super-dainty,” and even plays on the name Kate by comparing her to “cates” which are dainty delicacies (2.1.183, 184, 186, 187).  When Katherine corrects him, explaining that everyone refers to her as “Katherine,” he is insistent upon calling her Kate," and that is what he continues to address her as throughout the play.  When Katherine goes to strike him, Petruccio does not recede from her.  Petruccio is insistent on making her fall in love with him so that he can inherit her wealth.  The two end up getting married, against Katherine’s will at first, and yet somehow she seems to reach a more contented state and goes along with the arrangement.  Despite not having too much of a choice in the matter, I feel angry that Katherine seems to put up so little of a fight when Petruccio is calling her his possession after the ceremony.  I feel as if she has withdrawn herself from the power struggle that is evident between her and Petruccio.  I found myself wondering where the tough and stubborn Katherine had gone to.  I was expecting her to lash back at Petruccio for belittling her so much because he blatantly says “She is my goods, my chattels.  She is my house, my house-hold stuff…my anything” which I feel should have evoked some frustration from Katherine, who does not want to submit to a man’s will like her sister does (3.3.101-102, 103).  It just didn’t seem believable that Katherine didn’t want to retaliate back after putting up such a fight in the beginning, but perhaps she wanted to be married so badly that she willingly went along with it...?  I do wonder why Shakespeare has Katherine remain silent after Petruccio’s speech after the wedding ceremony as it bothered me more than it probably should have.  


Malissa Arjoon-Jerry said...

I agree when you say, "Deep beneath the surface, I feel like she is hurt and jealous of all the positive attention her sister has received over the years". Someone would be hurt if their sister got more attention than she did and I believe Katherine would act the way she has been acting because of the attention to Bianca. Another thing you said, about being angered by Petruccio calling Katherine her property and stuff like should anger people. Everyone is an individual and should not be owned by anyone. Everyone should have freedom and Petruccio isn't providing that for Katherine.

Linda Wessberg said...

I really like a lot about what you are saying here. Kate's character is definitely one of the more intriguing ones included in this show and I like that you start by describing her physical attributes and then going deeper under the surface to touch on her more emotional attributes. As for what you say about the end, I think it is very strange also that Katherine seems to lose her sense of self almost when she makes that final speech and her decisions regarding Petruccio, but at the same time I really do think an irony can be found in her actions and I feel as though a lot more is happening at the end than what we are being shown.