Conventions at the time also saw men as higher in marriage than women; but perhaps views on marriage and old conventions were changing. This may also mean that Shakespeare disagrees with the old conventions. This is why, I believe, he throws a loophole in to Katherina’s last speech. She speaks of a wife being ‘obedient to his [the husbands] honest will’. Does this mean then that if the husbands will is not honest then the wife need not be obedient?
I believe so. I also believe that Katherina has not been tamed at this point of the book, but however she does love Petruchio. This is shown when they arrive outside Lucentio’s house. Petruchio draws Katherina aside; ‘prithee Kate, let’s stand aside and watch the end of this controversy’. The pair’s agreement to move away from the scene and become an audience here shows their mutual feeling on the ‘controversy’ and also the pair’s new found togertherness.
Critics such as Shaw and Billington suggest that there is an interesting incongruity between Katherina’s early speeches and her last speech. This suggests to me that Katherina feels that her taming is beneficial, so she goes along with Petruchio’s act. She does however use subtle hints to show the audience that she is aware of the taming and is using it to her benefit, suggesting she is stronger and in fact is using Petruchio, for example the ‘loophole’ in her last speech. However, if Katherina is stronger then this interpretation does not work., Petruchio still marries her and gets his way. Katherina is only allowed to be subtle about her opposition and Petruchio is aware of his own behaviour.
Also when reading this play it is extremely important to consider at all times, ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ is a play within a play. It might be deliberately overplayed or ironic in order to make it seem more acted, rather than real. This would also help to make a point about how we set our conventions. So I believe that this mistreatment of Katherina throughout the play is a mockery of the so-called ‘old’ marriage conventions.
The loophole in Katherina’s last speech is, I feel, a kind of moral to this story. It helps us to see that the man is perhaps the main force in a marriage but there must also be mutual respect, otherwise it is just sexist. This is the third interpretation of the play – that Shakespeare is mocking the conventions of marriage by producing a parody of the plethora of plays at the time like The Taming of A Shrew
Act 4 Scene 5 takes place on a public road, it is therefore a neutral location of which nobody has ownership. This neutral location enables the characters to negotiate their roles more freely – take for example, Katherina may negotiate who is in control. The ‘audience’ present, Hortensio and Vincentio, is all male. This may mean that Petruchio is going to simply show-off, in order to show the other males who is in charge of their relationship in order to impress them. The play continues when Katherina starts to play the game, pronouncing Vincentio to be a ‘budding young virgin, fair, fresh and sweet.’
In a wider context of the play, it seems as thought the play is questioning how women should ‘act’ in a relationship. Looking back to the induction, the Lord gives the boy many instructions on how to act as a wife, and to talk to his ‘husband’ with ‘soft low tongue and lowly courtesy,’ and to say ‘what is’t your honour will command wherein your lady and humble wife may show her duty and make known her love?’. Also the play is a comedy, therefore is not to be taken too seriously. Petruchio and Katherina often mock the dogmatic viewpoints on both the feminist side, and the side which sees Petruchio as a ‘comic hero’.