The Taming of the Shrew Monologues

Instructor: David Boyles

David has a Master's in English literature and is completing a Ph.D. He has taught college English for 6 years.

''The Taming of the Shrew'' is one of Shakespeare's wittiest plays, though it is also one of his most controversial due to its depiction of gender relations. Both these aspects of the play are on display in the monologues by its two main characters, Petruchio and Katherine.

A Controversial Comedy

The Taming of the Shrew was first performed around 1594, making it one of the earliest of Shakespeare's comedies. While it was written early in his career, it includes many of the hallmarks of his best comedies: cutting wit, complex wordplay, and compelling meditations on gender roles and relations. However, on this last point, it is one of Shakespeare's most controversial plays.

Katherine, the opinionated and witty woman who is 'tamed' by her suitor Petruchio, shares qualities with other Shakespeare heroines like Rosalind from As You Like It and Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing. Like Rosalind and Beatrice, she is smart, outspoken, and independent, defying the gender expectations of Shakespeare's day. In this play, however, she is treated quite differently. Those later Shakespeare heroines end the play with something close to equality with their male counterparts while Katherine is literally tamed by Petruchio through a plan of psychological and physical abuse. She ends the play by submitting to his will and her 'proper' place as a wife.

This seemingly regressive view of gender roles has made the play controversial today. These tensions, as well as Shakespeare's complex wordplay, are apparent in the two long monologues, or solo speeches, spoken by Petruchio and Katherine.

Petruchio tames Katherine in 2003 Carmel Shakespeare production
Taming of the Shrew

Petruchio's Monologue

Petruchio's monologue occurs at the end of Act 4, Scene 1. Having married Katherine at the behest of Hortensio, who needs Katherine to be wed so he can pursue her sister Bianca, Petruchio has taken her to his country house for their honeymoon. He lays out his plan to us, the audience, in a soliloquy, or monologue delivered directly to the audience, at the end of this scene.

Petruchio compares his task to that of a falconer training a hawk and describes his plan to deprive her of food and sleep until he has broken her down, and she submits to him. He also describes how he will do this while pretending to care for her: 'Ay, and amid this hurly I intend that all is done in reverent care of her' (4.2.183-184). Summing up this plan of pretending to care for her while actually torturing her, he uses a phrase that has since entered the language as a common saying: 'This is a way to kill a wife with kindness' (4.2.188).

Katherine's Monologue

The fruits of Petruchio's 'taming' are seen at the very end of the play. In Act 5, Scene 2 Katherine delivers a long monologue explaining that she has seen the error of her ways and submitting to Petruchio. Like Petruchio's monologue, which opens with the falconer comparison, Katherine's begins with a long metaphor. She compares a woman's relationship with her husband to a subject's relationship with his king. She lists the ways a king protects his subjects and deserves respect, in the same way a husband should.

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