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Module Two: LA2W

Q.6 Look again at all of Act 4, Scene 5, beginning with the stage direction
"Enter Petruchio, Katherina, Hortensio and Servants" and ending with Hortensio's line
"And if she be froward,
Then thou has taught Hortensio to be untoward."
Consider the dramatic importance of this scene within the play.

In this scene, Petruchio, Katherina and Hortensio are on the road to Padua to see Katherina's father. Petruchio is behaving almost insanely, but Katherina at last submits to his will and agrees that what he says is correct, even to the extent of embarrassing herself in front of a complete stranger, who turns out to be Vincentio.

This is, in fact, the fulfillment of Petruchio's schemes to 'tame' his shrew. From here on, Katherina is no longer the wild, 'curst' female other people believe her to be—the final scene at the wedding banquet merely affirms to all that the change has taken place, for it is in this scene that it actually occurs.

Petruchio, having achieved his goal, is able to return to his proper self. When we first see this character he is bluff but honest. He participates in a few moments of word-play and fisticuffs with Grumio, his impertinent servant—demonstrating Petruchio's wit, and his robustness, but also his tolerance. Surely a truly harsh master would not have a servant who dared to be so cheeky—it is clear that Grumio deliberately misinterprets his master's command to knock. In the subsequent scene with Hortensio, Petruchio asserts that he is by no means cowed at the idea of a scolding woman. He is a soldier, well accustomed to far more terrible things. And indeed, as subsequently transpires, he prefers a 'lusty wench' and is very much amused by her breaking a lute over Hortensio's hapless head.

He is transformed gradually into the near-lunatic of IV:5. At first, Petruchio describes his scheme for approaching Katharine, and it is mostly contradiction:

Say she be mute, and will not speak a work
Then I'll commend her volubility,
And say she uttereth piercing eloquence." II:1:174-7

Their first meeting is a magnificent clash of wits, and it is quite clear that Petruchio is strongly attracted to Katherina: he cannot help but allow sexual innuendo into his words, and asks a kiss. In fact, he has to resort to something very like cheating in order to get his way, pre-empting Katherina's objections to the match and benefitting from Baptista's desire to get his daughter out of his house!

Petruchio escalates the war between the sexes quite considerably after this. He is late for his own wedding, and arrives in disgraceful garments and riding a horse that, from the description, sounds as though it can barely stagger. This is to some extent a traditional method of shaming a scold—called the 'skimmington'—but the humiliation is usually applied only to the woman. Although Petruchio is madly dressed, he is sharing the embarrassment—and, as he rightly says,

"To me she's married, not unto my clothes." III:2:116

He is not a man who sets great store by outward appearance, and he teaches Katherina not to mind it as he is 'taming' her, by his rejection of cap and gown. His humiliation of himself by his wild and beggarly clothing is echoed in the scene on the road: after all, it is surely embarrassing for him to hail an aged gentleman as a young woman, and for his wife to do the same. But in IV:5, Petruchio passes very lightly over the embarrassment.

His scheme for subduing Katherina takes Petruchio on, beyond flaunting society's conventions to asserting his superiority even over the laws of nature, and requiring his wife to acquiesce. As Hortensio comments:

"Why, so this gallant will command the sun." IV:3:192

This colossal arrogance is at its height in scene IV:5, with his insistence that the sun is the moon, and finally, Katherina decides to go along with Petruchio, rather than be forced to turn back. She agrees that he can decide. He tests her submission at once, and she reaffirms it:

"What you will have it named, even that it is,
And so it shall be so for Katherine." IV:5:21-2

Hortensio, ever the commentator, points out that Petruchio has won the field (though he seems to have forgotten this during the final banquet scene—but Hortensio's character is full of inconsistencies and was almost certainly rewritten in various places).

So Katherina has agreed to submit to her husband. She began the play as an acknowledged shrew, standing on the wrong side of society, and helpless except by what her sharp tongue could achieve (interestingly, she could not altogether get the better of Petruchio), and an occasional whack over the head with a lute! Petruchio's wild behaviour vis a vis his servants forced her to take the side of reasonableness: in effect he showed her wildness beyond even her own, and made her take the part of a proper member of society. Then, however, he pushed her into unreasonableness again by his wild insistence on being superior even to the laws of nature.

In this scene, Katherina really understands what Petruchio has been doing. She submits to his insanity, and takes a complete part, praising poor, confused Vincentio as a 'budding virgin'. But her sly allusion

"my mistaking eyes
That have been so bedazzled with the sun.." IV:5:45-6

refers to Petruchio's earlier 'confusion' of sun and moon, and shows that she is now willing to go along with his odd humours. This is brought to its fullest display in her long speech about the obedience women owe to their husbands. It is in this scene (IV:5) that Petruchio and Katherina form the real partnership which enables him to place a bet on her docility, knowing that he can rely on her not to let him down.

This scene, IV:5, also heralds the final twist to the Lucentio-Bianca story. Tranio has acquired a false Vincentio, and the real Lucentio is not waiting for Baptista's consent before he whisks Bianca off to church.

So poor Vincentio is introduced to the game os 'supposes' by two chance-met strangers who 'suppose' him to be a young woman, to his complete bewilderment. It is hard to convince him that Petruchio is serious (and sane) when the latter talks of Lucentio's marriage and calls him father. This leads very well into Vincentio's utter confusion when his own identity is taken from him again, this time deliberately, by the Pedant and Tranio, at the beginning of Act V.

However, despite a great deal of comic misunderstanding and confusion, all is happily arranged and Vincentio is allowed to be himself as the assumed identities are shed. It is not only the surface-level changes of Lucentio into Cambio, and Tranio into Lucentio, which are then dispensed with, but Bianca's obedient submissiveness is shortly to be done away with too—and these changes are begun in IV:5.

In scene IV;5, the pretences Petruchio has put on in order to achieve his goal of

"peace... and love, and quiet life" V:2"107

are put aside, and he is back to his normal self (with one very brief reversion when Kate refuses to kiss him). Katherina has grown straight as the hazel, having abandoned her wilful shrewishness and achieved a proper partnership with her husband. Vincentio's brief confusion is just beginning—but in all, the scene is the one in which the plots and pretences start to be unravelled, and it is the dramatic highlight of the Petruchio-Katherine plot.


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