Bianca and Lucentio and Kate and Petruchio are quite memorable couples in Shakespeare’s classic tale, The Taming of the Shrew. Bianca and Kate, total opposites, are pursued ardently by their suitors for totally opposite reasons. Lucentio falls in love at first sight with the beautiful and modest Bianca, while Petruchio begins his courtship of Kate with a slightly more mercenary motive.
In The Taming of the Shrew, Kate and Bianca are successfully wed and their marriages, which begin completely differently, travel a path through the course of the play which alters the individuals, the couples, and their marriages in different ways.
Upon arriving in Padua to set upon “a course of learning and ingenious studies” (Act I, scene 1, line 9), Lucentio spots the lovely Bianca. Lucentio immediately falls in love with the young and fair lady and cannot resist pursuing Bianca for his wife.
As he says to his servant, “I burn, I pine, I perish, Tranio, if I achieve not this young, modest girl” (Act I, scene 1, lines 150-151).
Since Baptista, Bianca’s father, has decreed that Bianca’s shrewish sister, Kate, must be married first, Lucentio develops a complicated plan to disguise and present himself to Bianca’s father as an instructor for Bianca. This will allow him secretly to woo Bianca while Tranio, pretending to be Lucentio, tries to convince Baptista that Lucentio will be the perfect husband for Bianca.
The plan falls flawlessly into place, and Lucentio and Bianca run off to be happily married though without the initial acceptance of Signor Baptista.
When they return, all disguises and deceptions are revealed. Signor Baptista is shocked and embarrassed but eventually accepts their marriage. Thus, the relationship of Bianca and Lucentio begins with immediate infatuation, or love at first sight, when Lucentio accidentally spies the lovely Bianca, and their courtship revolves around an elaborate deception. They elope under the cloud of that deception, but Bianca’s father ultimately accepts Lucentio as his son-in-law.
They begin their marriage happily and are happily “stuck” on each other, both confident that they have found their perfect mate. In comparison, a man named Petruchio is searching for a wealthy wife; and when visiting Padua, his friend Hortensio tells him of a beautiful and rich, though devilish, woman named Katherine. Petruchio makes fun of the men who act terrified of the girl and explains how she is no match for him. Petruchio states with pride, “Think you a little din can daunt mine ears? Have I not in my time heard lions roar?
Have I not heard the sea, puffed up with winds, rage like an angry boar chafed with sweat? Have I not heard great ordnance in the field, and heaven’s artillery thunder in the skies? ” (Act I, scene 2, line 195). Petruchio asserts that no woman is untamable, and it is worth the trouble of the training for the money that will come with marriage as money is his primary motive for marriage. Thus, Petruchio meets with Signor Baptista asking for Kate’s hand in marriage; however, Signor Baptista says he will not allow the marriage unless Petruchio wins Kate’s love.
Petruchio then begins to pursue Kate; and even though Kate continues to spurn Petruchio and continues her ill-tempered behavior, Petruchio manages to convince Signor Baptista that Petruchio has won Kate’s love but that the couple has settled upon an agreement that she may still act a shrew in public. Convinced of their love, Signor Baptista allows the marriage, and Petruchio and Kate are wed. Petruchio then discovers a way to tame Kate’s “tongue” by simply acting the way she does so she can obtain a glimpse of what it is like to be around an unpleasant, nasty, and obnoxious person.
Petruchio’s motive for courting Kate at first is simply for the monetary gain he can realize if she becomes his wife. Unlike Lucentio who idealizes Bianca, Petruchio does not see Kate as a perfect, modest, lovely lady. For Petruchio, courting Kate is a business proposition with no basis in the love that Lucentio and Bianca are so caught up in. However, just as Lucentio and Bianca’s marriage begins in deception, so does the marriage of Kate and Petruchio. However, the reasons for those deceptions are very different. Lucentio deceives Signor Baptista so he can marry the perfect woman, Bianca.
Petruchio deceives Baptista so he can gain not only Kate but her money as well. Petruchio and Kate’s marriage begins as a train-wreck full of harsh words, fights, and outrageous behavior as opposed to Lucentio and Bianca’s “love-at-first-sight,” perfect marriage; however, slowly but surely, Kate gains respect for Petruchio as the marriage progresses, and Petruchio develops true affection for Kate. When Signor Baptista throws a party for both pairs of newlyweds, Pertuchio decides at the feast to engage in a wager with Luciento and Hortensio.
After asking the women to excuse themselves from the table, the men bet 4000 crowns to see, when called, which wife will return the most obediently. Lucentio, assured of his win because of his good-natured, modest, and loyal wife, goes first. However, when asked to return, Bianca sends word that she cannot because she is busy. Next Hortensio sends for his wife who tells the servant that she will not come because she thinks her husband is playing a prank. Convinced that Petruchio will surely fail as well, jaws drop in reaction to Kate’s prompt, obedient return when summoned.
Kate then chastises Bianca and Hortensio’s wife in front of the entire party saying, “To wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor. It blots thy beauty as frost do bite the meads,… To watch the night in storms, the day in cold, whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe, and craves no other tribute at thy hands but love, fair looks and true obedience—too little payment for so great a debt…. Then vail your stomachs, for it is no boot, and place your hands below your husband’s foot: in token of which duty, if he please, my hand is ready, may it do him ease” (Act V, scene 2, lines 147-188).
Petruchio then confirms his feelings for Kate as he declares in front of the party, “Why, there’s a wench! Come on and kiss me, Kate” (Act V, scene 2, line 189). Petruchio and Kate have a better chance at happiness. Lucentio and Bianca begin their courtship and marriage with love at full throttle, but they are so “in love” that their bond has not had a chance to fully develop into a deep and mature love (read about importance of courtship). It is innocent, childish love that does not necessarily draw them closer together through learning to make sacrifices for each other or truly learning to respect each other.
They are so wound up in one another that they have neglected to lay a strong foundation of mutual respect in their relationship. In contrast, Petruchio and Katherine begin a marriage where love is nonexistent, and their two headstrong, willful personalities are constantly at odds with each other as they butt heads over every small matter. Petruchio knows that love with Kate is achievable but will not come easily, and he puts Katherine through hell in order for her to learn how to act like a loving and proper wife.
Through this process, Katherine becomes a happier person, discards her rude, ill-tempered ways, gains respect and love for Petruchio, and comes to understand Petruchio’s intentions—mutual love and respect between a husband and wife. Petruchio and Katherine’s love is not an instant gift from Cupid’s arrow; it is earned. Therefore, their marriage will endure and be strong because Kate and Petruchio will be appreciative of, respect, and support one another. Their love has blossomed through tears and turmoils and will continue to give them the strength to face their future together.
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