The Taming of the Shrew: Katherina - the Woman Formerly Known as Shrew
The Katherina that gives the final speech in The Taming of the Shrew is quite a departure from the Katherina we were introduced to in Act I. This new Kate is modest, quiet and obedient. All of these qualities were not present until Act V. Such a profound personality change prompts the questions how this happened and what purpose do her changes serve?
The answer to the first question, how did this happen, is simple to answer: Petruchio has tamed her. His taming tactics are comparable to that of a military officer and a patient mentor: He is ruthless and unwilling to bend the rules in order to make her learn, however, he is content to let her learn at her own pace. The text for his lessons is Kate's own temper, actions and words. By spewing her deeds back into her face at an unrelenting pace, she is forced to see how ridiculous she has been acting, and it is at this point that the transformation begins.
Due to the nature of Petruchio's teachings, The Taming of the Shrew can be seen as a rather sexist play, painting women as servants and possessions to be ruled over. I think that if one wants to see it that way, one can. However, I believe the opposite. This play makes a statement about shallowness, the partnership of a married couple and what virtues are truly valuable.
During the course of the entire play, all of the characters except Petruchio treat Kate with disrespect. Baptista, her father, is especially insensitive to his daughter's feelings. When Petruchio comes to inquire about Kate, he describes her as fair and virtuous woman. Her father neglects to acknowledge that it was possible that his daughter could have those fine qualities (II.i.42-63).
While teaching Kate,...