Petruchio the Sophist and Language as Creation in The Taming of the Shrew Essay
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In the article, Tita French Baumlin shows how Petruchio uses language and not brutality to “tame” Katarina. Petruchio also changes the way that people view Katarina. This brings up the question if Katarina is really tamed or if it is all just a front. I believe that Katarina learned how to disguise her feeling and simply changed the way she speaks by mimicking her husband. Petruchio speaks eloquently and very elaborately. When he is introduced he is already playing on word while asking Grumio to knock on a gate for him.
Petruchio is a match for Katarina because of how good he is with words. He can go toe to toe with her, unlike many of the people who have to deal with Katarina, because of this “rhetorical skill, that most defines his character”. Petruchio is also someone who can reason or convince someone of something simply through his language. For example, he easily makes Baptista believe that Katarina loves and wants to marry him quickly.
He proves that the best way to battle and beat Katarina’s sharp tongue was to verbally fight back with wit.
Baumlin points out that Petruchio never hits Katarina to tame her though many other similar stories have the husbands beating their wives into submission. While Pertruchio hits Grumio and his other servants in front of Katarina, he never puts his hand on her. Even when he forces her not to eat or sleep “Petruchio himself does not eat or drink when his wife is so deprived”. Petruchio does not inflict pain on Katarina that he does not bear himself. He uses only his language to change her shrewish behavior instead of actual abuse.
Katarina had been given a chance to not only change as a person for her own good, but to also change the way other view her. Her family believes that no one will want to marry her. Everyone in town believes she is sharp tongued and a shrew. Katarina has an anger problem perhaps because of the way her sister is treated as opposed to how she is by their father and other men in town. This anger has given her a very bad reputation. Petruchio comes and gives her the opportunity to change that. He starts by simply calling her
Kate and in that new name comes the possibilities of becoming a new person. Baumlin infers that Petruchio “seeks to shatter the ‘Katherine’ persona”. Perhaps Katarina was also sick of people thinking she was this unlovable shrew woman who would never make a man happy. It is hard to change the way a person behaves, which is why Katarina resists Petruchio at first but by the end of the play Katarina definitely as undergone some sort of change. She is no longer mean spirited and seems to obey her husband as well. Did Petruchio really tame Katarina?
I believe that Petruchio taught Katarina how to use her words in a better way to get what she wants. She didn’t want to have to deal with Petruchio’s annoying “taming” techniques anymore, so she changed the way she spoke to him to appease him. If Katarina had really been tamed, I do not think that she would have given the long speech at the end of the play. It would have been Petruchio to give the speech because he was the one who proved that he could tame Katarina. Instead, Katarina gives not only a long speech but one she knows would please her husband.
She has learned to speech his elaborate fashion and she also mimics his absurd ways of speaking as she claims that the wife’s hand must be underneath her husband’s foot. This is also the first time that Katarina speaks for such a long time without Petruchio chiming in, which shows that she has learned how to keep him quiet instead of it being the other way around. I think that Kate has figured out how to humor her husband and avoid conflict rather than allowing herself to be tamed. She uses her words to convince Petruchio and others of her “taming” but in the end she gets the husband that she wants.
She also makes herself look like the wife than her much sought after sister, Bianca. By the end of the play, Katarina has become a winner. Baumlin makes many good points on how Petruchio’s language is a major part of the play. It shows that Shakespeare creates witty characters for more than just a laugh, but also to hint at what is going to happen in the play. Katarina’s overall tone in the play changes as she learns how to create situation in her favor using language as well. Katarina is still a shrew, just in disguise.