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How is the character of Petruchio presented by Shakespeare in The Taming of the Shrew?

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How is the character of Petruchio presented by Shakespeare in The Taming of the Shrew? In addition to being the title of one of Shakespeare's earliest comedies, The Taming of the Shrew was also the self appointed role and paramount purpose of one of it's main characters, Petruchio. Shakespeare presents this central character in a variety of ways and care must be taken so that early unfavourable impressions of Petruchio may not be misleading. What did Shakespeare want his audience to think about this 'apparent' fortune hunter? Is this man from Verona a heartless tyrant or just a strongly masculine figure, confident but perceptive, who has met his equal in the feisty Katherina? The plot has been revealed in Scene 1 for Bianca's would-be suitors to find a husband for Katherina. Petruchio is introduced in Act 1 Scene 2, in a humorous way. Upon arriving at the house of his friend Hortensio, he orders his servant Grumio to knock the door. His servant makes great jest using a pun on the word 'knock' (which also means to hit someone), deliberately misinterpreting his master. This angers Petruchio who becomes impatient and wrings his ears causing Hortensio to intervene to calm the situation. Shakespeare gives an immediate impression of Petruchio as someone who is impatient and doesn't suffer fools gladly. He will not hold back but strikes out when riled. Petruchio furthers this impression of himself as a ruthless character when he reveals his purpose for being in Padua is: "Happily to wive and thrive as best I may". (Act 1, Scene 2, line 53) On hearing about 'a shrewd ill-favoured' heiress called Katherina from Hortensio, he determines to marry her. He hasn't seen her, in fact all he knows about her is that she is horribly ill tempered, yet all he is appears to be interested in is her money. He is quite specific in his affirmation of his purpose to get married to a wealthy woman. ...read more.


Though little fire grows great with little wind, Yet extreme gusts will blow out fire and all. So I to her, and so she yields to me For I am rough and woo not like a babe." (Act 2, Scene 1, lines 127-133) In the first of his two main soliloquies, Petruchio enlightens the audience as to the strategy he will use to begin the wooing of Katherina. He hopes to keep her off balance and disconcerted by continuing his policy of saying the opposite of what is true. "Say that she rail, why then I'll tell her plain She sings as sweetly as a nightingale. Say that she frown, I'll say she looks as clear As morning roses newly washed with dew. Say she be mute and will not speak a word, Then I'll commend her volubility" (Act 2, Scene 1, lines 166-171) Shakespeare is developing the character of Petruchio, showing his audience yet another facet of his personality, a humorous charm. This would have served the purpose of getting the spectators 'on his side', and built a sense of anticipation for the eventual meeting between him and Katherina. When she enters the scene, Petruchio begins his offensive immediately by being deliberately provocative, using the diminutive version of her name, Kate. In six short lines, (lines 181-186), he uses this shortened form of her name no less than eleven times, praising her all the while as he informs her he is going to marry her. No doubt the audience found the situation on stage highly amusing and entertaining, particularly the outrage which was sure to be on Katherina's face, however, there was a purposeful and authoritative stand being taken by Petruchio too. The witty repartee, which flies between the two, would have involved the audience completely. Shakespeare uses a staccato style of language similar to that used in ancient Greek drama for this meeting, where the two combatants speak a series of one line answers to each other, each using sexual pun and innuendo and trying to outdo the other in terms of their wit and sarcasm. ...read more.


This shows how much the 'taming' has been successful. The old Katherina did not appear to care what people thought of her and her shrewish behaviour (she broke an instrument over the head of Hortensio), but now she is a married woman and wants to be seen as someone who behaves in a manner that society expects of her. Petruchio, however, is not one to comply with society for its own sake and does not want his wife to either, he doesn't want to break her spirit completely. As long as she complies with him, he is satisfied. By the last scene in Act 5, Petruchio is so confident of his wife's behaviour he makes a wager on the strength of it and indeed wins, to the amazement of the other characters. Katherina's closing words appear to express her total capitulation to her husband, (and if they are exaggerated to allow him to win the wager, then only the two of them know this). The following closing lines show Petruchio's delight in his wife and the affectionate relationship they have established: "Why, there's a wench! Come on and kiss me. Kate. Come, Kate, we'll to bed." (Act 5, Scene 2, lines 180, 184) How does Shakespeare present Petruchio in this play? He portrays him as a larger than life character, an intelligent man with exceptional language skills, using metaphors, pun and poetry, but more importantly, he presents him as the only possible person who could have taken on the role of taming Katherina, using masculine strength and aggression on occasion - yes, but showing perceptiveness and above all outrageous humour. The watching audience would have been thoroughly entertained. BIBLIOGRAPY The Taming of the Shrew Stevie Davies, Penguin Books Ltd, 1995. The Taming of the Shrew, Monarch Notes and Study Guides, Margaret L. Ranald, Monarch Press, 1965. The Taming of the Shrew, York Notes Advanced, Rebecca Warren, York Press, 2000. The Taming of the Shrew, Notes, Salibelle Royster, Coles Publishing Company Limited, 1964. The Taming of the Shrew, Brodie's Notes, T.W. Smith, Pan Books Ltd, 1986. Sandra Browne A'Level Coursework 1 ...read more.

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