The Taming of the Shrew: Psychological Masks

In the play, The Taming of the Shrew, by William Shakespeare, there is a recurring theme of people hiding their real identity. First, there are cases of deception, such as Tranio pretending to be Lucentio, Lucentio pretending to be a Latin tutor, Hortensio pretending to be a music tutor. More complex than these obvious examples of deception are Shakespeare’s clever uses of psychological masks. Several characters in the play take on roles that do not agree with their personalities.

The psychological masks

The psychological masks that they wear are not immediately apparent to the audience, or even to the characters themselves, until they are unmasked through the course of the play.

Shakespeare mostly uses this device with the characters of Katherina, Bianca, and Petruchio. Each of them has adapted to their circumstances by wearing the mask of a different personality, and has convinced others that their mask is their real identity. Katherina’s psychological mask is of a shrew. Her father dotes on his younger daughter, Bianca, and appears to love her more than Katherina.

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Kate pretends not to care, calling her sister a “pretty pet. ” She rebels against rules and good behavior. In a few examples of her outrageous antics, we see her attack her sister, throw things, and smash a guitar-like instrument on a music teacher’s head. We soon discover that Kate has concern for others because she demands that her sister tell her suitors which of them she prefers, and Bianca refuses to tell her, saying that she likes them all.

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Katherina shows her tenderness when she cries when Petruchio is late to their wedding.

On the way to her new home, she defends a servant as Petruchio begins to beat him, showing again that she cares for others besides herself. She comes to the servants aid again by saying “T’was a fault unwilling. ” when Petruchio gets mad over spilled water. She begs him “be not so disquiet,” when he shouts that the meat is overcooked. In the end, she realizes that the way to a peaceful life with Petruchio is to be obedient to her husband. She agrees with him that it is morning when it is the middle of the night, agrees when he says that the sun is the moon, and says that an old man is actually a young woman.

Katherina and Petruchio

Katherina comes to Petruchio when he calls, when other wives would not. In final show to the world that she is not a shrew at all, Kate returns two disobedient wives to their husbands, despite their protests. She delivers a speech to them on the need for women’s hearts to be as soft and beautiful as their womanly exteriors, showing, yet again, that she is not a shrew, but a loving, obedient wife. Bianca is given the psychological mask of being a nice, obedient girl. For example, Bianca tells her father that she will be glad to stay in her room with her books and music, pleasing him with her show of obedience.

The reader’s first clue that this is not the real Bianca comes when she refuses to answer Kate’s question about which of her suitors she prefers. She replies by saying that she can’t answer, suggesting that she enjoys the attention of having three men compete for her attention, and does not feel the least bit ashamed to let two of them chase after her for nothing. When Lucentio speaks amorous words to her under the pretence of teaching her Latin, she says in reply that she does not know him or trust him, but that he should not be sad.

This shows that she is willing to trick her father and allow a stranger pretending to be a teacher to woo her in secret. Finally, Bianca’s true colors show when she refuses to listen to her husband when he tells her to come to him at once. This shows that it is Bianca, and not Kate, who the real a shrew. Petruchio wears the psychological mask of a guy who only has eyes for money. He makes his mask clear to the reader when he tells Hortensio to “wife wealthily” adding “you don’t know the power of gold. after being told about Katherina’s bad behavior, not to mention her temper. It appears that Petruchio marries Kate for her money, but immediately starts to “kill her with kindness”. He begins going so by depriving her of food and sleep because he claims that neither the food from the kitchen nor the bed is good enough for her. Petruchio puts on a show of bad temper towards his servants for every fault, showing Kate what it is like to live with a bad-tempered person. For the first time in her life, Kate finds herself trying to get someone else to control their anger.

Petruchio also shows Kate that she will get the things she wants when she learns to agree with what her husband says. By treating Kate in this manner, Petruchio seems cruel, but there is a reason for it. If he were truly interested only in money, he could have left Kate at home and gone out on his own. In the end, his efforts to improve his wife have worked. He improves Kate’s life, so that she does not continue to live an unhappy life. Because of Petruchio, Katherina the shrew is happily married in the end, and comes to be a good example to others.

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The Taming of the Shrew: Psychological Masks. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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