Practice: “Taming of the Shrew”
Here we have Petruchio, brash and clever man of the world, who hilariously aims to break the mean spirit of the apple of his eye, the wildcat Kate, by having them attend their own wedding party dressed in rags. She is appalled, he is cheerfully resolved. There is, of course, method to his madness, as someone said!
Well, come, my Kate; we will unto your father’s
Even in these honest mean habiliments;
Our purses shall be proud, our garments poor;
For ’tis the mind that makes the body rich;
And as the sun breaks through the darkest clouds,
So honour peereth in the meanest habit.
What, is the jay more precious than the lark
Because his feathers are more beautiful?
Or is the adder better than the eel
Because his painted skin contents the eye?
O no, good Kate; neither art thou the worse
For this poor furniture and mean array.
If thou account’st it shame, lay it on me;
And therefore frolic; we will hence forthwith
To feast and sport us at thy father’s house.
Go call my men, and let us straight to him;
And bring our horses unto Long-lane end;
There will we mount, and thither walk on foot.
Let’s see; I think ’tis now some seven o’clock,
And well we may come there by dinner-time.
Now let’s hear from Petruchio’s servant, Grumio, as he recounts his disastrous misadventures with his master on the road with poor Katherine:
shouldst have heard how her horse fell and she under her horse;
thou shouldst have heard in how miry a place, how she was
bemoiled; how he left her with the horse upon her; how he beat me
because her horse stumbled; how she waded through the dirt to
pluck him off me: how he swore; how she prayed, that never prayed
before; how I cried; how the horses ran away; how her bridle was
burst; how I lost my crupper; with many things of worthy memory,
which now shall die in oblivion, and thou return unexperienced to
How to portray a character whom you find disagreeable, unsavory, or worse? You must somehow find the sense in their point of view. Here is a monologue that might strike some as an affirmation of sexism– or is it? I’ll let the scholars work that one out, but for now, try the words of The Bard himself spoken by the smart and dangerous Katherina, who has been “tamed” by the outrageous Petruchio and has finally found love and devotion for her new husband:
Fie, fie! unknit that threatening unkind brow,
And dart not scornful glances from those eyes
To wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor:
It blots thy beauty as frosts do bite the meads,
Confounds thy fame as whirlwinds shake fair buds,
And in no sense is meet or amiable.
A woman mov’d is like a fountain troubled,
Muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty;
And while it is so, none so dry or thirsty
Will deign to sip or touch one drop of it.
Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance commits his body
To painful labour both by sea and land,
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.
Such duty as the subject owes the prince,
Even such a woman oweth to her husband;
And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,
And not obedient to his honest will,
What is she but a foul contending rebel
And graceless traitor to her loving lord?–
I am asham’d that women are so simple
To offer war where they should kneel for peace,
Or seek for rule, supremacy, and sway,
When they are bound to serve, love, and obey.
Why are our bodies soft and weak and smooth,
Unapt to toll and trouble in the world,
But that our soft conditions and our hearts
Should well agree with our external parts?
Come, come, you froward and unable worms!
My mind hath been as big as one of yours,
My heart as great, my reason haply more,
To bandy word for word and frown for frown;
But now I see our lances are but straws,
Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare,
That seeming to be most which we indeed least are.
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.