Essay: Act III, Scene II of Taming of the Shrew
Despite clearly favoring Lucentio against Hortensio, Bianca is still coy and gentle in her ways as she tries to accommodate both her teachers, who are actively vying for her attention, stating “good masters, take it not unkindly, pray, that I have been thus pleasant with you both.” Kate, on the other hand, is more brusque in her demeanor as she breaks the Lute on Hortensio’s head, who thinks that “she’ll sooner prove a soldier” than a musician, and is equally rude towards Petruchio, who persists despite her unkind remarks. Referring to him as an ass, she even strikes him at one point, warning him “if I be waspish, best beware my sting.”
Katharine does not take lightly to Bianca’s display of kindness towards her many suitors. There is certainly an element of jealousy to her treatment of Bianca. Tying up her more docile sister’s hands, she even tries to extricate from her the true nature of her feelings, asking ” of all thy suitors, here I charge thee, tell whom thou lovest best: see thou dissemble not.” When Bianca is unable to give a satisfactory answer, she even hits her, and, when confronted by her father, justifies her actions saying, “her silence flouts me, and I’ll be revenged.”
Born with an independent spirit, Katharine feels alienated in the societal milieu of 16th centuryEurope. While she appears brusque, or at best, indifferent, in her manners, her attitude is reflective of her disillusionment with both her family and the men who seek her courtship and yet are unwilling to accept her for who she really is. She is also bewildered by her sister’s attitude, who, unlike her, is more willing to abide by the conventional view of an ideal lady-wife. By the end of the play, as Kate re-emerges as a submissive wife to Petruchio, one cannot help but wonder if she is truly happy to have given up her independent spirit in exchange for acceptance by her peers, especially her husband.