So if you can’t join ‘em, hate ‘em right!!! I’m just joking, sort of. Since I don’t have a Valentine this year, I’ve decided to review a book with a character for those who are feeling a little less than loved today.
This play is actually set up as a play within a play. In the first scene we see a Lord bringing a drunk back to his home for a joke. He has the man dressed up and all of his servants treating him as a noble. The story the Lord has concocted is that this man has been out of his wits for 7 years. Once the man wakes up and discovers his “position” a group of actors come in and put on a play…
So Baptista has two daughters, Katherine and Bianca. Kate is known for her sharp tongue while Bianca is known for being sweet and is therefore the more desired of the two sisters. Baptista has decided that no one can marry Bianca until Kate is married off first. Until that point in time, Bianca must have Masters to teach her all the accomplishments. Of course, Bianca’s many suitors come up with creative ways to court her- they provide the “Masters.” Many of them have their servants pretend to be “them” so that they can pretend to be Bianca’s teacher while secretly wooing her. Mean while, one Petruccio comes to town, and after hearing of Kate’s infamous temper decides she is the woman for him. As you can imagine the other men are grateful for their “savior.” He woos Kate by out shrewing her. As typical of Shakespeare there are switches in identity, borrowing identities, and in general madcap fun!!!!
Through this process we do see glimpses of Kate’s character. It begs the interesting question of whether Kate is really cursed. Kate seems like a woman a head of her time. She is brutally honest and sees the hypocrisy of the women of that day. Early in the story we see Kate tying her sister up and demanding to know which man her sister truly likes. Baptista rescues Bianca and reproaches Kate. But why does Kate tie up her sister. Is it due to jealousy, or does she suspect her sister is a coquette? Then Kate meets Petruccio. Despite her name calling and temper towards him, we see that on her wedding day, Kate is actually distraught by the thought that she is being left at the altar.
Then we have the “taming.” Ok this was a lot more violent than I remembered reading this as a child . I have to wonder who tamed who? I mean maybe if the “taming” took like 6 months I’d say that Kate was tamed. But a week? I don’t know, I think Miss Kate learned to out play her husband. I mean the transformation, is kind of night and day. One day she’s hating what Petruccio is doing; and acting shrewish, then the very next day, she’s successfully playing the game. Methinks it would have been interesting to see a continuation of this story in five years.
I think what makes Kate such an interesting character study is the change we see in her sister. Bianca means white in Italian. The connotation is Innocence. Despite her lily white appearance, she acts less than a proper lady. We see her shamelessly flirting with her “masters.” In fact she seems to be leading on three different men. Then she elopes with Lucentino (I hope I spelled that right). Then there is the bawdy humor in which she engages at her own marriage reception. Some how Kate’s breaking the lute over the teacher’s head, pales in comparison to Bianca’s impropriety.
Anyway, Bluestocking wishes all a Very Happy Valentine’s Day!!!!