When reading about Petruchio’s flirtatious battle with Katherina and Katherina’s bold resistance and sharpness of tongue in reply to Petruchio’s sexual remarks (2.1.186-319 in the Yale Shakespeare), I can easily relate and cannot blame her for her choice of harsh words. Petruchio is a modern day player and more likely than not encompasses practically all the characteristics of a flirt: good looks, charm, wit, confidence, and persistence. He refuses to take no for an answer from the girl he is trying to pursue, easily believing that, being the kind of guy that he is, she will eventually succumb to his perseverance. Katherina, on the other hand, appears to know more about guys like that than her sister, even though Bianca is the male-magnet in this play. Katherina was more of an observer than an actor when it came to watching her sister get all the suitors, and it may have frustrate her at times, such as when she tied her sister up and demanded to know which suitor she was leaning more towards at the beginning of Act II Scene II. At the same time, however, Kate observed the actions of Bianca and her men and knew how the game of courting was to be played. Perhaps after all this time, she had realized how similar, and perhaps even pathetic, people get when in love and had promised herself that she would not fall prey to such circumstances.
Petruchio, on the other hand, also appears to know exactly how to win the shrew over, and keeps on being persistent in his game. He knows what he wants and he goes after it, despite her retorts to his wooing. His actions and her reactions made me wonder about the modern day world and the game of flirting. Katherina might have sensed a sort of attraction to Petruchio from the start, and began to forcefully push herself away from him. If she didn’t care about him, she wouldn’t have cared to be so harsh in her words. She was a wild shrew for a reason. And perhaps it was this pushing away that encouraged and excited Petruchio all the more.
Similarly, in today’s world of courtship, a guy tends to get excited by a girl’s game of playing hard to get. When I was wondering where this game had originated from, I thought way back. It’s so traditional, it must’ve started from the first day of Time. Katherina, on the day of her wedding, proved to be more human and feminine than others gave her credit for. When her betrothed was late, she said she wished she’d never met him and left the stage in tears (3.2.27). After her wedding, when Petruchio took her away from the party, she began to get more mellow and quiet. He was definitely taming the shrew at this point. But perhaps her shrewdness was a way for her to keep herself safe from the pangs of love. It was her cover-up to preserve her sense of self, knowing all along that feelings of love and being wanted by another would eventually break through her wall anyway.