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    Anti-romantic Petruchio Essay

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    Courtly love came from the French l’amour courtois when a knight would treat his girlfriend with the same respect as his liege lord, she was in control of the relationship and the knights love for the lady inspires him to do great deeds so he was worthy of his love; in short the man was very chivalrous towards his significant other. This is the polar opposite to the way the anti-romantic Petruchio treats Katherina and defy literary tradition; however there is evidence of courtly love in The Taming of the Shrew between Lucentio and Bianca whose love appears real.

    Petruchio, the master of manipulation, and Katherina have a long conversation where Petruchio’s main objective is to ‘woo’ Katherina; he has many ways of doing this which includes being incredibly polite to her, flooding her with compliments and flattery such as ‘thy virtues spoke of and thy beauty sounded’ and ‘the fair and virtuous’, all these things are very unlike him and is dramatic irony, you could even say that it was another use of disguise.

    He uses flattery as a weapon to silence her as when he is talking to her she hardly says anything. Petruchio manipulates and keeps repeating her name in different puns to try and ‘woo’ her but also to show his authority; he refers to her as a ‘dainty’ and a ‘Kate’ which were both sweets in the Elizabethan times; which firstly implies that he thinks she is sweet this is ironic as the audience thinks she is far from sweet, but also objectifies her.

    Furthermore there is a hawking motif that is used in this play; the hawking term ‘haggard’ has a double meaning as Katherina was described as this term, it also refers to a wild bird that needs to be tamed, just like Katherina will be later in the play, so therefore the hawking motif shows the reader what Petruchio’s intentions with Katherina are.

    At the end of the wooing scene Petruchio is very business like in the way he tells Katherina how they will be married, he has many ways of doing this; firstly, he uses a lot of modal verbs like ‘shall/will/nill/must/’these words do not give her much say in the matter and once again portrays his dominance in the relationship. Secondly, he disregards the flattery and compliments as ‘chat’ and goes on to talk in ‘plain terms’ about their impending marriage.

    He confesses that her he and her father have already decided on the dowry as if it were a business transaction not a marriage it shows that the relationship was not going to be real from the beginning. In the concluding scene Petruchio is seen as a ‘winner’ when everyone sees that he has tamed Katherina, thus proving that it was a competition not true love At the beginning of the play women are portrayed as strong characters.

    During the passage when Petruchio tries to make Katherina fall in love with him she is very quick witted, especially when they are bantering in sexual innuendos (which are motifs throughout the play) and double-entendres. However, this all changes when Katherina tries to hit Petruchio and he physically restrains her; these actions clearly show the switch in dominance, this stagecraft excites the audience, therefore making the play more enjoyable.

    The proxemics of this part are very important to get the right reaction He states after this ‘I swear I’ll cuff you if you strike again’, this must have really undermined Katherine and it gives the viewers a sense of foreboding; some people feel that this quote from the play is just playful, comedic banter however if you look closer you can see that it is actually quite dark which shows that there are two levels of meaning in the play, one for enjoyment of the audience and the second level portrays Shakespeare’s views on strong issues of the time.

    This is where Katherine first starts to conform to where she should be in the Elizabethan hierarchy, in these times women are symbols of a man’s power just like positions. On the whole in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew women are constantly victimised from this scene to when Katherina first moves in with Petruchio, in this scene she is not allowed to eat or sleep to teach her a lesson, do you think a man would have stood for this? Many believe that Baptista is not a responsible father and that he plays ‘a merchant’s part’. For one, he does not listen to Katherina when he and the Petruchio are discussing marriage arrangements.

    They were living in a patriarchal society where Katherina and Bianca would not have had a say in most decisions – even if it is one of the most important decisions a girl will have to make now a days. It appears that he cares more about getting respectable men for his daughters than who his daughters love. Bianca’s is a similar situation as she falls in love with Lucentio but Baptista first has conversations with other suitors, Hortensio and Gremio (who are ostensibly romantic wooers) about their wealth, this shows us that he is more interested in money than his daughters future happiness, this can be seen as deceit.

    There is a theme of deceit woven throughout the drama, it is also used at the end of the scene when Tranio tries to find a fake father so Baptista will choose him as Bianca’s husband, this funnily enough is successful, even though he is not actually as wealthy as the other suitors. The dramatic impact of concluding in this way is that it is perceived to be comical and light hearted in contradiction to the subject matter. In Act 2 scene 1 of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew there are numerous poetic and dramatic devices which he uses highly effectively.

    These range from Petruchio’s use of puns and sexual innuendos to make Katherina like him to Gremio, Lucentio and Hortensio disguising themselves for Bianca’s attention. Most of these devices centre on women showing that even though they are living in a very male dominated society most things revolve around women. However, this play is still very sexist; a good example of this is in the last scene when the wives are expected to come when their husbands call, in the Elizabethan times when this play was written women were lower in the social hierarchy than men this reflects in the play.

    I feel that Shakespeare is therefore trying to draw attention to the inequalities of the time and that he is also commenting on the traditions of weddings fourty years previous when he uses the dramatic effect of making Katherina place her hand under Petruchio in the concluding scene. This puts into real life that women in the Elizabethan times when this play was written were lower in the social hierarchy than men. So overall, Shakespeare’s uses of dramatic effects are used to make the play more exciting and to make people think about social issues of the time.

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    Anti-romantic Petruchio Essay. (2017, Oct 21). Retrieved from

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