The Taming of the Shrew | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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The Taming of the Shrew | Act 3, Scene 2 | Summary

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Summary

Katherine and Petruchio's wedding day has arrived, but the groom is nowhere to be found. Baptista is dismayed, and Katherine runs offstage in tears. At last Biondello reports that Petruchio has been spotted, and a few minutes later he comes onstage in cheap, mismatched clothes. The other men plead with Petruchio to change into something more appropriate, but he declines and wanders offstage to seek out Katherine. Baptista and most of the other gentlemen follow Petruchio to the church, leaving Tranio and Lucentio onstage. The two now rehearse the details of their plan to win Bianca for Lucentio, by having a stranger pose as Lucentio's father. Lucentio says he would rather simply elope with Bianca, but Tranio urges him to bide his time.

Gremio returns from the church and announces that the wedding has concluded. The old man is horrified by Petruchio's behavior, which, according to Gremio's report, has been even more boorish than usual. Petruchio, he says, not only swore and drank excessively, but struck the priest who performed the ceremony and threw a glass of wine in the sexton's face.

At this point the rest of the wedding party returns, and Petruchio declares that he and Katherine will be skipping the reception to tend to some urgent business. Kate begs him to change his mind, but he insists on leaving immediately and threatens to fight anyone who interferes. Baptista, baffled, invites the guests to enjoy the wedding feast even though the bride and groom are gone.

Analysis

In this scene Katherine continues to hold her own against her father and her groom. She is well aware that Petruchio is out to humiliate her: "I see a woman may be made a fool/If she had not a spirit to resist." Nor has she run out of insults for Petruchio himself, whom she calls a "mad-brain rudesby." When Baptista complains that his son-in-law is running late, Katherine reminds him that she is the one who has been forced to marry Petruchio. "You think you're humiliated, Dad?" she says in effect. "Well, imagine how I must feel!" Baptista, however, misses the point and thinks she is upset because she has been stood up at her own wedding.

When Petruchio does show up, it becomes clear he has reached a new low in his attempts to break Katherine's will. His clothes, his behavior, and even the broken-down horse he rides into town are all intended to humiliate his bride. Even the usually diplomatic Baptista calls him an "eyesore." Petruchio's outlandish actions at the church show his total disregard for anyone else's feelings—least of all Katherine's.

Baptista, whose top priority is simply to marry off Katherine, is happy in spite of the ruined celebration. He is so thrilled, in fact, that he starts to think about Bianca's upcoming wedding as well. When Petruchio and Katherine skip out on their own wedding reception, he invites Lucentio (Tranio in disguise) and Bianca to take the place of the bride and groom at the high table. Tranio, perplexed by the day's events, asks "Shall sweet Bianca practice how to bride it?" (i.e., how to be a bride). Baptista replies that "she shall."

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