The Taming of the Shrew: Psychological Masks

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In the play, The Taming of the Shrew, by William Shakespeare, there is a recurring theme of people hiding their real identity. First, there are cases of deception, such as Tranio pretending to be Lucentio, Lucentio pretending to be a Latin tutor, Hortensio pretending to be a music tutor. More complex than these obvious examples of deception are Shakespeare’s clever uses of psychological masks. Several characters in the play take on roles that do not agree with their personalities. The psychological masks that they wear are not immediately apparent to the audience, or even to the characters themselves, until they are unmasked through the course of the play. Shakespeare mostly uses this device with the characters of Katherina, Bianca, and Petruchio. Each of them has adapted to their circumstances by wearing the mask of a different personality, and has convinced others that their mask is their real identity.

Katherina’s psychological mask is of a shrew. Her father dotes on his younger daughter, Bianca, and appears to love her more than Katherina. Kate pretends not to care, calling her sister a “pretty pet.” She rebels against rules and good behavior. In a few examples of her outrageous antics, we see her attack her sister, throw things, and smash a guitar-like instrument on a music teacher’s head. We soon discover that Kate has concern for others because she demands that her sister tell her suitors which of them she prefers, and Bianca refuses to tell her, saying that she likes them all. Katherina shows her tenderness when she cries when Petruchio is late to their wedding. On the way to her new home, she defends a servant as Petruchio begins to beat him, showing again that she cares for others besides herself. She comes to the servants aid again by saying “T’was a fault unwilling.” when Petruchio gets mad over spilled water. She begs him “be not so disquiet,” when he shouts that the meat is overcooked. In the end, she realizes that the way to a...
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