A Maiden Mislabeled
Katherine Minola is a sad, desperate maiden who has become mislabeled by Baptista and other characters in Taming. Her reputation as being “shrewish” or unmanageable, and brash becomes strongly attached to her. I think it becomes easy for the audience (as the play moves on) to spot moments of Katherine crying out, literally and metaphorically, for some respite from her socially assigned role. In Act 1, scene 2 Petruccio, although he has not met Katherine yet, essentially compares her to the likes of an angry sea, roaring lion, firing cannon, piercing trumpets, and artillery fire. These unfair references should be checked with Kate’s actions in Act 2 and 3. After Baptista, Katherine, and others are waiting for Petruccio to show up on the wedding day, a different type of emotion is exposed by Kate. “Would Katherine had never seen him, though” is the line uttered by this distraught woman who exits the scene weeping (3.2.26). It appears that no character gives much consideration to this “shrew” acting so vulnerably. Baptista only states a backhanded comment of “Go, girl. I cannot blame thee now to weep./ For such an injury would vex a very saint,/Much more a shrew of thy impatient humour”(3.2.27-29). Her father does not understand her strong opposition to this union. It is not that she is acting in her typical brazen way. Katherine shows real fear of what Pertuccio’s motives are in his wooing her. She even states early in Act 3, scene 2 “I must forsooth be forced/ To give my hand opposed against my heart…”(lines 8-9). Thus the lines clearly emphasize how something within her heart does not feel right with the marriage.
Earlier in Act 2, more cheerless emotions of “the shrew” are spotted in the play. After Katherine binds Bianca, she questions her about whom she loves. It appears Katherine is taking her frustration out on the sister that all men care for and admire. Bianca bravely replies, when her Kate prods if she loves Hortensio, “If you affect him, sister, here I swear/I’ll plead for you myself but you shall have him” (2.1.14-15). Bianca talks kindly, but her speech is not well received by Katherine who believes her sister has all the power, let alone the affection from men. Another occurrence of weeping appears when Baptista enters the scene with his two daughters. Katherine lets her guard down with a couple of important lines. “She is your treasure, she must have a husband./ I must dance barefoot on her wedding day…./Talk not to me, I will go sit and weep/ Till I can find occasion of revenge” (2.1.32-33, 35,36). These lines divulge an immense amount about Katherine’s feelings over the whole marriage circumstance. She may act willfully, but she allows the readers to see her desire for a loving marriage and approval within these lines. “I will go sit and weep” is yet another sign of Kate’s utter sadness and unashamed inclination to weep. Katherine does not wish to “dance barefoot on [Bianca’s] wedding day” or as the footnote 2 explains, what is “expected of older unmarried sisters.” Her fearfulness and disappointment in her situation come bubbling over and the audience cannot help but feel pity for our mislabeled maiden. One could argue that Baptista’s unfair love of Bianca has driven Katherine to her current troubles and attitude on life. The Minola’s would surely be labeled a ‘dysfunctional family’ if their situation was looked at today by therapists. Perhaps I am taking a far too sentimental look at poor Katherine, but I still consider her to be misunderstood and an emotive woman that should not be ignored by anyone, including the audience, Baptista, or potential suitors.