The Growth of Katherina in Taming of the Shrew
Although Katherina's final speech in The Taming of the Shrew may sound subservient on the surface, it actually reflects her growth and development into a stronger and more complex character. Without losing the forcefulness that she displayed earlier in the play, the delivery of her final speech exhibits the cleverness and deceptiveness that she has learned from Petruchio throughout the "taming" process.
At the beginning of the play, Katherina is seen as the forceful sister and Bianca as the clever one. Katherina is described by Grumio as the "fiend of hell" (I.i.88) and by Tranio as "curst and shrewd" (I.i.180). In contrast, Lucentio sees in Bianca's silence "mild behavior and sobriety" (I.i.71). Early in the play, Katherina forcefully binds Bianca's hands and beats her and a weeping Bianca resorts to her father to get away from Katherina (II.i.1-25). Bianca does not use force but instead relies on cleverness to get her way. As part of her cleverness, Bianca displays a gentle and subservient nature that she knows is pleasing to her father. For example, even though Baptista tells Bianca that she cannot marry until Katherina has taken a husband, he asks that she let this "not displease [her]" (I.i.77) and tells her to go inside. Bianca willingly obeys her father's wishes, telling him: "Sir, to your pleasure humbly I subscribe;/My books and instruments shall be my company" (I.i.81-82). Conversely, when Baptista then tells Katherina to stay, she forcefully ignores his wishes and leaves after responding: "What, shall I be appointed hours, as though (belike)/I knew not what to take and what to leave? Ha!" (I.i.103-04).
Lucentio is very much like Bianca. He uses clever disguises and strategies to obtain his ends. While Lucentio disguises himself as a schoolmaster "t'achieve that maid/Whose sudden sight hath thrall'd [his] wounded eye" (I.i.219-20), Tranio takes on his master's identity. After he wins Bianca's love with his cleverness, he assumes that she will remain silent and obedient when she becomes his wife. He doesn't realize that Bianca is also very clever and that her earlier mild behavior has been a pose. Lucentio is so sure of Bianca's subservience that he wagers a hundred crowns with Petruchio that Bianca will come when he sends for her. However, the cleverness he used to win Bianca's love did not ensure her obedience as his wife and he loses the wager.
Petruchio--like Katherina--is very strong and forceful. However, his forcefulness is viewed as a positive masculine attribute, whereas Katherina's forcefulness is seen as a negative, "shrewish" trait. But Petruchio is not only forceful; he--like Bianca and Lucentio--is also quite clever. He seems to relish the challenge of taming Katherina, both for the sport of it as well as the monetary rewards that she will bring to their marriage. In order to "tame" Katherina, Petruchio freely uses both force and cleverness. At their...