Shakespeare's Presentation of Katherina in Taming of the Shrew
Katherina, at the beginning of the play, is shown as having many
problems with her family. The inability of Kate's family to understand
or deal with her is only a symptom of a greater underlying problem:
the world in which Kate lives. Kate is obviously a highly intelligent,
witty and spirited woman; however, the domestic Paduan woman's world
leaves her no outlet in which to express her gifts. Padua has no place
for Kate, and therefore rejects her as vile-tempered and laughable.
Gremio dismisses her: "You may go to the devil's dam; your gifts are
so great, here's none will hold you." (I.i.105-6). She is notorious
throughout the city for her temper, and has been subject to
humiliation and ridicule; the sarcasm with which she defends herself
only adds to her image. A need for love and acceptance has turned to
self-hatred, aggressiveness and defensiveness. Herein lies Kate's
biggest problem. She is unable to let anyone in.
Contrasting this is the 'perfect' woman, her sister Bianca, who
appears to be well mannered and knows her place in society is under
her father, or once married, her husband. Having such contradictory
characters makes Katherina's harsh tongue seem even more extreme and
allows the other characters in the play to draw distinct comparisons
between her and her sister.
In the taming scene (Act 2 Scene 1) it is the first time the reader
really hears Katherina speak, as previously she has only spoken the
occasional line. Here we see how Bianca and Katherina are treated
differently by their father, "Poor girl, she weeps," says Baptista
when he first sees Bianca tied up and his first actions are to tend to
his youngest daughter and untie her hands. To Katherina he shows only
shame, as he says she has, "a devilish spirit." Even when Katherina
turns to him, asking if she is accepted as his daughter, Baptista
refuses to answer. This clearly shows that Bianca is the favourite
daughter in Baptista's eyes and Katherina is simply a nuisance who he
has little time for.
Once Petruchio enters the room and he is alone with Katherina,
Shakespeare portrays her as being quite sexually expressive, although
she continues in her 'shrewish' behaviour. "Your were a movable, "
refers to Petruchio being easily got rid of, as if to suggest that
Katherina wants to make it perfectly that she isn't like other women.
She isn't going to bow down to men, but take control of the situation.
They go on to talk about a wasp and made a sexual pun of, "with my
tongue in your tail?" talking about Petruchio giving Katherina oral
sex. Both parties do this form of flirting very aggressively with
Katherina pitching her attitude to the level of her counterpart, by
acting more masculine in her dominating approach.
Petruchio goes on to...