Even the journey was a humiliation. Journeys which symbolizes change and in this instance we do see the change. Petruchio determined to tame her ‘to make her come and know her keepers call’ decides that the way to do it was through deprivation, much like how hawkers tame their birds, but in this instance it is by ‘killing a wife with kindness’. Petruchio with his strong personality and cunning mind is seen crushing Kate’s resistance to a pulp. With her in his household and him controlling everything in it, she is powerless to do anything. She can’t do anything and she was isolated. She can’t even control the servants. She humbled herself so far as to beg with Grumio to give her anything edible, even a ‘neat’s foot’. Shakespeare presents us with a Kate who is angry but at the same time almost biddable.
It was clear that something had changed when we see her, Petruchio, the haberdasher and of course Hortensio who was new at the game. We see Katerina almost begging for the hat and the dress which was, to Petruchio, not good enough for her. Hortensio who was astonished by the change he senses in Katerina and the way Petruchio is treating her is obviously sympathetic to her. Kate was overjoyed to hear that they were going back to Padua to see her family that she was almost like a puppy, eager to please but once in a while, we see her feiry personality emerging and challenging Petruchio, ‘my tongue will tell the anger of my heart’, an evidence maybe that she is not quite tamed as everyone deems her to be.
Along the way, Shakespeare presents Katerina was presented much changed from the woman she was in the first journey. In front of astonished Hortensio, who we keep saying aside comments, we see her agreeing to Petruchio’s foolish baiting, ‘and be it moon or sun or what you please; if you please to call it rush candle, henceforth I vow it shall be for me’. To me this was the instance Katerina had finally acknowledge her defeat, or shall we say pseudo-defeat. And apparently Petruchio also sensed that, even Hortensio commented on it saying that Petruchio should ‘go thy ways, the field is won’.
But Petruchio had to be sure, and Shakespeare presents us with the challenge of seeing if Katerina had truly been tamed, or as Bianca does, now knows how to play the game. The test of the ‘budding virgin’ who was really an ‘old, wrinkled, weathered’ man was also a joy to see as we can tell that Kate was acting deliberately even after Petruchio embarrassed her by pointing out the mistake he deliberately made.
Shakespeare presents Katerina in a new solidarity with her new husband as they watch the unfolding of the mysterious and confusing goings on in Bianca’s love life. They were the audience to these happenings much reminiscent to the first scene where she was the one being watched. Then it was Tranio and Lucentio who has a very close relationship and now the same could be said for Kate and Petruchio. They even share amusement at this ‘ado’ and we could finally see their closeness. But Petruchio, the ever cunning put yet another test for our Katerina. To kiss him without reserve in the middle of a crowded street with others looking on. It this was like a seal to their trust and shows how much Katerina had changed. ‘ Better once than never, for never too late’ is apt for Katerina. This was Kate’s chance to have something and she grasped it, even underhandedly. Truly the ‘field had been won’.
Shakespeare presents us with a Katerina more subdued with the sense of barbed deliberation in her answers, in which suggests to the audience that this Kate is more subtle and wordly who has the same spirit but knows how to use it to hurt someone in a more delicate way. A far cry from the Kate who said early on that ‘a woman maybe a fool/If she had not a spirit to resist’. Then the ultimate test for Katerina. The speech she gave in front of everyone was a litany of what a good wife should be. Petruchio was very confident in her and it showed. It maybe that they were planning this all along but some would say that it was the ultimate sexist speech ever.
Her speech was deliberate and slow, emphasizing each word with a look to a ‘froward wife’, namely Bianca and the widow. This would seem very much effective in stage. In the end of the speech, which ended beautifully in rhyming couplets ‘in token of which duty, if he please,/my hand is ready may it do him ease’, we could make our own assumption, whether this was planned by both Katerina and Petruchio, him to make more money and her to finally fool them so much that it would bring her amusement and gratification after all those years of abandonment by her own family. It can also be read as a real submission of a broken woman, much like a meekness of a broken horse. But I prefer to think it is the former.
Katerina has to be the most changed character in this whole play. And the way Shakespeare presents her is very interesting since I think no female in his other plays are quite like her, she had the spirit of queen Elizabeth but at the beginning a sense of a toddler. But as the play progress and with Petruchio’s character to guide her. She finally sees an advantage to her shrewdness and finally uses it to her advantage. And if my interpretation was right she had used it well to her advantage.