An exploration of the way Shakespeare presents the characters and relationships of Kate and Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew.

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An exploration of the way Shakespeare presents the characters and relationships of Kate and Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew.

The relationship between Kate and Petruchio is central to the development of The Taming of the Shrew, as both characters clearly represent and are centrally involved in the main theme of the play, the taming of the “shrew”, Kate.

        The audience is first introduced to Kate by other characters’ opinions of her, such rather than from Kate herself. Language such as Gremio’s, ‘she’s too rough for me,’ and Hotensio’s, ‘Unless you were of gentler milder mould,’ gives Kate her reputation as a “shrewish” character. When Kate first speaks, she speaks rudely, threatening to hurt Hortensio by, ‘combing his noddle with a three legged stool.’

The fact that Kate is described as different and nonconformist before she even gets a chance to speak gives the audience preconceptions of her character, perhaps unfairly, and immediately paints her as a shrew. Much is heard about Kate when she is not around to defend herself, which gives the audience the impression that Kate is perhaps being portrayed unfairly. The audience may feel that Kate has a reason for being upset with her father and men in general, as her father appears to prefer Bianca to Kate. ‘A pretty peat….’ Shows Kate’s jealousy towards her sister, as she is the one who gets all her fathers attention. Kate’s exclamation, ‘Ha!’ followed by her storming out again demonstrates her anger towards her father and men, which is central to her character early in the play.

Both Kate and Petruchio speak in verse almost exclusively throughout the play, immediately marking them as important characters in the play. Kate and Petruchio both speak in verse, which also makes them seem a fair match for each other, reflecting their characters and actions in the play. Kate is equal to Petruchio linguistically which also displays an aspect of her character, that she feels that she is easily the equal of any man.

        During their first exchange, Petruchio immediately sets about Kate, that he will, ‘woo her with some spirit when she comes,’ and that he will describe her as the opposite of everything she is in order to confuse her and break her down. In Petruchio’s first exchange with Kate, it is clearly he who comes off better, immediately setting about her with short witty lines, and puns, ‘for dainties are all Kates.’ This gives the effect if making Petruchio seem very confident and sure of himself, if he begins his taming with such good humour and interest.   In contrast to this, Kate is very angry and frustrated by the Petruchio, and immediately becomes “shrewish,” resorting to insults, ‘A joint stool,’ and violence. This gives the effect of Kate being much less in control of what is going on, and perhaps reflects the direction their relationship is going to take, that Petruchio will be the one in charge, and Kate will not have any control. This could however also demonstrate Kate’s intelligence and wit, that she is able to keep up and match Petruchio’s wordplay.  However Kate feels the need to resort to violence, again demonstrating Petruchio’s intelligent wordplay and calm attitude, as he does not react violently towards Kate, but simply restrains her and continues with his wooing. Shakespeare also uses puns such as,’moveable,’ and, ‘bear,’ to add excitement and comedy to the play, as these puns would have provided humour for Elizabethan audiences. This is a good dramatic device to be used on stage, and adds interest for the audience. Shakespeare also uses alliteration such as,’ crest,’ ’coxcomb,’ and,’craven,’ to again draw attention to the important dialogue between Kate and Petruchio, which is integral to the play, and another dramatic technique which again draws the viewers attention on the stage. This alliteration also keeps the dialogue running at a pace, reflecting both Kate and Petruchio’s character.

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        This first exchange between Kate and Petruchio is also carefully structured for maximum effect. The fact that Petruchio outlines his taming strategy before he even meets Kate both demonstrates that this is the foremost thing on his mind, implying that it will be significant in the play, and that he has other reasons for this than care for Kate, as he plans to tame her before he has even met her. This again gives the reader the impression that Petruchio is again more interested in the dowry he can acquire by taming Kate than in Kate herself, ‘if wealthily, then ...

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