PETRUCHIO: They shall go forward, Kate, at thy command.– Obey the bride, you that attend on her./Go to the feast, revel and domineer,/Carouse full measure to her maidenhead,/Be mad and merry, or go hang yourselves;/but for my bonny Kate, she must with me./Nay, look not big, nor stamp, nor stare, nor fret, 230I will be master of what is mine own./She is my goods, my chattels, she is my house,/My household stuff, my field, my barn,/My horse, my ox, my ass, my any thing,/and here she stands, touch her whoever dare!
The quote gives great insight into the end note of a marriage created in haste, with the intentions of personal and familial gain and with the closing of the marriage as a “contract” including the exchange of large sums of money for the groom and his family. Petruchio, makes his deal, getting his bride (then leaving her behind) and yet with a clear sense that the father, Baptista need wonder just what a deal he has made with a mad man, and just what heartache he has dealt on his Shrew of a daughter, given that she has finally conceded to marry even when her resistance was logical. Marriage has massive implications for the partners, all their servants and future servants and also each ones birth family. If the decisions about marriage are not made correctly, and are made in haste then the “institution” is unlikely to fulfill the vast role it is given, to cement allegiance between families of equal or greater stature and bring wealth to one and prestige to another. Petruchio and Katherina each know they have been sold a “bill of goods” and Baptista has just learned of such on the day of their wedding. When the families all come together later, after the marriage of both main couples they find Katherina much changed. Closing a banquet the husbands all seek to prove the virtue and obedience of their wives and only Katherine obliges and then proves her loyalty by a telling of the demand of a virtuous wife:
PETRUCHIO: Katherine, I charge thee tell these headstrong women / What duty they do owe their lords and husbands.
WIDOW: Come, come, youre mocking; we will have no telling. PETRUCHIO: Come on, I say, and first begin with her.WIDOW: She shall not. PETRUCHIO: I say she shall: and first begin with her. KATHERINA: 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 moved 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
It would seem that the value of each man, including the father to the girls has again been defined as a result of the way in which their women behave. The marriage that was born of trickery comes to be the marriage that all aspire to, and this defines the social character and standing of each man to the other and of each woman to herself, her marriage, her husband and even her birth family. The marriages that were wished and hoped for, and built on affection turn out to be those which were most challenging, as they were born out of hope that did not seed itself in reality. While the marriage that was completely contrived for economics and convenience became a model marriage indeed. It is unknown if this is meant to be a dramatic plot twist, or just a comical ideal, but each would be proven as a symbol of the changing of the tides of marriage.
Shakespeare, William. “The Taming of the Shrew.” The Taming of the Shrew. Ed H.J. Oliver. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. 89-232.
Oliver, H.J., ed. The Taming of the Shrew. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998..