Pet. ‘Say that she rail, why then I’ll tell her plain she sings as sweetly as a nightingale.’ The adverb ‘sweetly’ is very positive and portrays Katherine in a favourable light, whereas she is in fact hated and feared by many. Petruchio uses many of these similes in his soliloquy such as ‘Say that she frown, I’ll say she looks as clear as morning roses newly wash’d with dew,’, which appears to be in the form of a sonnet. This is ironic as sonnets were generally written when the poet was in love and Petruchio is not in love with Katherine.
Petruchio uses imperatives to show he has dominance in the conversation. ‘Pet. Come, sit on me.’ The imperative shows he feels powerful enough to order Katherine about and is not deterred by the fact that she is able to confidently rebuff any advances he makes. The use of the sexual innuendo is also a form of covert prestige. Peter Trudgill (1975) suggested that men use non-standard English and taboo language in an effort to appear manlier. By using this form of covert prestige Petruchio is establishing himself in the dominant position typically given to the man by society.
As language equalled power in the Jacobean era, the length of the utterances or how much a person spoke also signalled their power. Petruchio uses lengthy utterances. ‘Pet. You lie, in faith, for you are call’d plain Kate, And bonny Kate, and sometimes Kate the curst…’ This connotes the idea that he is very witty and therefore very powerful. In contrast Katherine uses significantly shorter utterances. ‘Kath. A joint stool.’ This suggests that she in fact has less dominance and less power in the conversation, although the phrase connotes the idea that she over looked Petruchio as a stool was a small and not very noticeable piece of furniture. This suggests that she does not think he was the wit or power to match her words.
Petruchio also uses rhyme to make him seem witty. ‘Say that she rail, why then I’ll tell her plain she sings as sweetly as a nightingale.’ There is a half rhyme with ‘rail’ and ‘plain’ and an internal rhyme with ‘rail’ and ‘nightingale’. The fact that he can rhyme in his speech, makes him seem more intelligent and therefore more powerful to Katherine. Although Katherine’s utterances aren’t as long as Petruchio’s, she uses a pun to show her wit can match his. ‘Well have you heard, but something hard of hearing;’ In the time that the play was written the verb ‘heard’ and the adjective ‘hard’ were both pronounced in the same way so this would have been a pun, although a modern audience may have trouble understanding this.
Throughout the play Shakespeare uses many effective linguistic techniques to show the power struggle between Katherine and Petruchio. The two characters are of equal intelligence and wit, and this shows in conversation and how they are able to feed off of each others words. ‘Pet. For knowing thee to be but young and light – Kath. Too light for such a swain as you to catch.’ Katherine takes the adjective ‘light’ which Petruchio has used in a negative light and changes its context to show her in a positive light. Both characters use this to their advantage. Petruchio to show Katherine that he is equal to her and able to ‘tame the shrew’ and Katherine to counter his proposal and show that she does not want him.