Katherine Minola’s Journey from her World of Illusion to Reality in Shakespeare’s the Taming of the Shrew Essay By: Neha Pathak
“Society only exists as a mental concept; in the real world, there are only individuals” -Oscar Wilde
Petruchio, in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew saw in Katherine where society saw a shrew, a passionate and intelligent individual, who expressed herself a little too passionately. He also knew that such behaviour was considered unacceptable, that the society of that time expected certain qualities in a woman, and following the norm was the only way of assuring happiness. Petruchio teaches Kate that the best solution is to mould one’s actions to become acceptable by the society, whether one agreed with the laws of society or not. At the end of the day, the relationship they shared mattered more than people’s opinions of them, and making it a more co-operative and happy relationship was very important. The understanding of how society works was essential to her happiness. Katherine transforms from a combative, antagonistic “shrew” to a co-operative, good-natured wife as she transcends the delusions of others, and eventually becomes able to distinguish illusion from reality. Katherine, when she is introduced in the play, is imprisoned in a world of illusions of her own creation. She is seen as a ‘shrew’, a misbehaved and ill-tempered woman, by the society she lives in. She is reputed in Padua as a woman who has everything she could ever need or want but is still dissatisfied, prone to fits of anger which sometimes lead up to violence. The general opinion of her is made clear when Hortensio explains what he thinks of Katherine: With wealth enough and young and beauteous,
Brought up as best becomes a gentlewoman:
Her only fault, and that is faults enough,
Is that she is intolerable curst
And shrewd and froward, so beyond all measure
That, were my state far worser than it is,
I would not wed her for a mine of gold. (I.ii.85-91)
This label of being ‘curst’ and shrewish, under which Kate is trapped, however, is based on prejudiced notions that failed to consider possible causes behind her behaviour. Kate’s behaviour may be a result of pent up jealousy at society’s and in some cases her own father’s preference of her sister Bianca₁, and sadness at her own contrasting reputation. She may also have been angry that her father sees her through society’s eyes₂. Kate exhibits her anger because she believes it to be a solution to her problems. When trying to get her point across to someone, she often resorts to screaming, degrading and insulting the person, under the illusion that doing so makes them listen to her, but all she succeeds in doing is tangling herself further in the circle of unacceptable behaviour, and worsening her reputation. Kate’s frustration is also rooted in her abhorrence of the traditions of society, where women had little or no effect on decisions. When Petruchio walks in to her life, she declares that she would never marry him, believing that her opinion should be taken into the highest level of consideration. But the thought of an independent woman was alien to the society she was born into. Even after the marriage ceremony, when Petruchio wanted to leave before dinner, she refused, saying “Do what thou canst, I will not go to-day;/No, nor to-morrow, not till I please myself” (III.ii.208/209). Petruchio retaliated saying “I will be master of what is mine own” (III.ii.229), sending the message that he is in the position of power, and there was little she can do can change that. Petruchio’s intention was to show Kate that her arguments wouldn’t change that fact, and she alone couldn’t do much. All her protests instead worked towards worsening her reputation. This incident marks the beginning of Kate’s learning period. Katherine begins to understand and accept the reality of her situation in life during the time she spends with Petruchio. In the beginning of her married...
Bibliography: Chopra, Deepak. The third Jesus: the Christ we cannot ignore. New York: Harmony Books, 2008. Print.
Shakespeare, William, and Robert Bechtold Heilman. The taming of the shrew . 2nd rev. ed. New York: Signet Classic, 1998. Print.
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