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Multiple Heroes In The Taming Of The Shrew Essay, Research Paper

Multiple Heroes in The Taming of the Shrew

Throughout Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, it is easy to see that a great

responsibility is put on Petruchio for his efforts in having to tame the shrew, Katherine.

With this responsibility also came admiration when his goal was finally achieved. Because

of this admiration for taming a shrew, Petruchio is the character most looked upon as a

“hero” in this play. However, I believe that although Petruchio can be looked upon as a

hero, Katherine and Bianca also have good arguments as to how they are heroes also

because of the drastic ways they changed as people. In my eyes, The Taming of the

Shrew has more than one hero, in fact, there are multiple heroes.

The most obvious hero in this Shakespearean play is Petruchio. Petruchio, upon

setting foot in Padua, has announced that he has come “Happily to wive and thrive as best

I may” (Dolan 63). He is looking for a wife, and feels like he has much to offer.

Hortensio jokingly tells Petruchio about Katherine, the shrew, which immediately sparks

Petruchio’s interest in the wealthy, fiery woman. After Petruchio and Katherine’s first

meeting in Act II, Scene I, Petruchio says this: “For I am he born to tame you, Kate, And

bring you from a wild Kate to a Kate Comformable as other household Kates….I must and

will have Katharine to my wife” (Dolan 83). This is where the story begins.

When the story comes to an end, in the last few scenes, it is obvious that Katherine

has now been tamed. Petruchio has accomplished what he has set out to do by taming her

the way he would tame a pet falcon. He says in Act IV, Scene 1, in reference to treating

her like a falcon, “This is the way to kill a wife with kindness; And thus I’ll curb her mad

and headstrong humor. He that knows better how to tame a shrew, Now let him speak.

‘Tis charity to show” (Dolan 107). By starving Katherine, not letting her sleep, and

torturing her with new clothes that are “not good enough” for her, Petruchio has shown

that he is a hero. He did the impossible when he married and tamed Katherine.

Even though some people, women in particular, are likely to say that Petruchio

isn’t a hero because that is not a decent way to treat a human being; a person can’t argue

with the fact that by the end of the play, Katherine is a different person. She is no longer

rude, obnoxious, or disobedient. In fact, she is a well-respected, well-mannered woman,

who is capable of having a mutual, loving relationship. No one else in Katherine’s life has

been able to change her headstrong, “shrewish,” ways, but Petruchio was able to do this,

making him a perfect hero for the play.

On the other hand, I believe that it can be argued that Katherine was also a hero in

her own way. After being treated second best her entire life, it is understandable why she

acts the way she does. She wants attention for herself, especially from her father who

adores her younger, more obedient sister, Bianca. Katherine has such an awful reputation

that when Hortensio learns that Petruchio is interested in marrying her he tries to warn

Petruchio off by saying: “Her only fault, and that is faults enough, Is that she is intolerable

curst And shrewd, and froward, so beyond all measure That, were my state far worser that

it is, I would not wed her for a mine of gold” (Dolan 65). Basically Katherine is known

for being a shrew that could never be tamed, nor would anyone ever want to try.

Katherine does not help herself or her reputation when Petruchio does start

courting her. In their first conversation, witty, insulting, humorous dialogue flows

between them freely, which shows Katherine’s shrewish temperament. When Petruchio

tells Katherine to come sit on him, she replies with, “Asses are made to bear, and so are

you” (Dolan 79). Another response is, “If I be waspish, best beware my sting” (80). And,

when Petruchio tells her that they will be married on Sunday, she responds with, “I’ll see

thee hanged on Sunday first” (84). Katherine puts on a great display of the reasons she is

considered such a shrew.

However, by the end of the play, Katherine is a completely changed woman. She

has seen that the way Petruchio is treating her is often the way she would treat others.

She was not a nice person; she was in fact a shrew, and now she will not act that way any

longer. Katherine over came her feelings of being neglected and needing attention and

was able to love and understand what it takes to be in a loving relationship. Katherine

says, “Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper, Thy head, they sovereign; one that

cares for thee…” (Dolan 138). That quote was from her soliloquy at the end of the play,

which is somewhat offensive to women these days because she has become completely

submissive to her husband. But, it also more importantly shows that she respects and, in a

sense, loves her husband for helping her see that she needed to change and be a better

person. However, in order for Katherine to be a hero, she herself wanted and realized she

needed to change. Only heroes can look within themselves and change to be a better

person.

The last hero that I believe is present in The Taming of the Shrew is Bianca, the

youngest, more docile daughter of Baptista. Bianca starts off being a perfect daughter and

perfect woman; however, this perfect Bianca did not have a backbone. As much as

Katherine tried to fight everyone off, Bianca tried to win everyone over. In a conversation

in Act I, Scene I, between Bianca, Katherine, and Baptista, Bianca replies to both her

sister and father: “Sister, content you in my discontent–Sir, to your pleasure humbly I

subscribe, My books and instruments shall be my company, On them to look and practice

by myself” (Dolan 55). Bianca is doing two things by saying this: she is making herself

look better than her sister, and she is pleasing her father, even though it’s something that

she may not agree with. Bianca is determined to be angelic-like and dutiful to fill the role

of the perfect daughter and woman.

However, as the play goes on, Bianca seems to find some inner strength and starts

to go against what a “perfect” woman would do. First of all, she starts to fall in love with

her tutor, which would be intolerable if Lucentio was only a tutor and not a man with

money. She also lets it be known to Lucentio that she is interested when she says, “I

know you not, I trust you not, take heed he hear us not, presume not, despair not” (Dolan

89). This is said after Lucentio has admitted who he really is and that he is there to court

her. I believe she in encouraging Lucentio when she says, “despair not.” Bianca also

discourages Hortensio in the same scene after he reads her a love poem by pretending to

not understand or care for that matter. All of this is going on, even though Bianca knows

that her father will pick her mate for her, and she normally would not have any say in who

it is. I believe this shows that Bianca is at least thinking about standing up for what she

wants and believes in instead of just caving in to what others want for her.

The final scene is what makes Bianca truly a hero in my eyes. After Lucentio and

Bianca are married (only because he had enough money to please Baptista), Bianca really

finds herself. In the last scene, Lucentio tells the servant to fetch his wife, and Bianca

responds by not coming and saying he must come to her. To show more of her new-found

character, when Bianca learns that there was a bet placed on her obedience she replies

with, “The more fool you, for laying on my duty” (Dolan 137). Bianca is not putting up a

front anymore and has found her backbone. She now is determined to have a say in what

goes on and refuses to be pushed around. To me, she is a hero because she refused to

play the “perfect” woman role her entire life. Even though it may change the way people

look at her, she is finally going to stand up to people and let her thoughts be known.

As you can see, I believe that there are three different heroes in Shakespeare’s The

Taming of the Shrew. Although their hero characteristics may contradict each other, I still

believe they are heroes in their own ways. Petruchio will always be a hero to men because

he was able to tame a shrew. He took on an impossible mission and conquered it.

Katherine will probably never be a shrew again, but she will be a loving wife, which is all

thanks to Petruchio’s doing. This makes him a hero. Katherine herself though is looked

upon as a hero because she did change her shrewish ways. It is not easy to be ignored and

thought of as second best by everyone. These were part of the reasons she felt she had to

act out; she wanted attention of her own. However, after being with Petruchio, and seeing

how he could actually love her, she decided she wanted to change. Katherine turned into

a better person for herself and because she wanted to change, not because of anyone else.

This is what makes her a hero. The last character that I believe is a hero is Bianca.

Bianca is a hero in many of the same ways that Katherine is because she decided to change

who she is. They are also very different though because they changed in completely

different ways. Bianca was content to be whatever anyone wanted her to be. She would

not stand up to anyone. However, in the end, she decided that she would not be taken for

granted anymore. She refused to do what her husband told her to do, which she never

would have done in the past, proving that she had finally developed a backbone. Bianca is

a hero to many women because she refused to play the “perfect” woman role her entire

life. Bianca realizes that she is a person with thoughts and feelings too.

Bibliography

Source:

Dolan, Frances E. William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew, Texts and

Contexts. Bedford Books: Boston, MA, 1996.

35b


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