The Taming of the Shrew | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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The Taming of the Shrew | Act 5, Scene 2 | Summary

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Summary

This is a banquet scene, in celebration of Lucentio and Bianca's marriage. At the table the other men make fun of Petruchio for marrying a "shrew," but he tells them Katherine is utterly transformed. He proposes a wager: he, Hortensio, and Lucentio will all send servants to call for their wives, and the man whose wife comes without complaint or delay is the winner. Bianca is busy, and Hortensio's rich widow suspects some kind of prank. Katherine comes in immediately, and Baptista, astonished by her obedience, gives Petruchio 20,000 crowns. When the other ladies arrive, Katherine lectures them on being properly submissive to their husbands. She and Petruchio kiss and leave the banquet, followed by the rest of the guests.

Analysis

The tone of the conversation shows that the play is winding down, with all its major conflicts resolved. Petruchio knows he has won, and he shows a more relaxed and cheerful—even dignified—side of himself than in previous acts. He jokes with the other men but does not insult or belittle them; instead, he makes a series of puns likening marriage to the gentlemanly sports of hunting and archery. Although Baptista Minola is the host and Lucentio is the guest of honor, Petruchio dominates the conversation and makes himself the center of attention, making it clear that he has won.

The most straightforward reason for Petruchio's good mood is his "taming" program, which has succeeded beyond anyone's wildest expectations, including his own. Katherine ("Kate") is now so subservient to her husband that she is willing to chastise other women for their own small acts of disobedience. Petruchio's wager—the obedience contest—is designed to show this extreme shift in her personality. Even two acts earlier, Katherine would have scoffed at any man—husband, father, or otherwise—who dared to tell her where to go and what to do. Now, she comes running at Petruchio's merest whim. The presence of Bianca and the widow further underscores the change, since neither of these women could ever be called shrewish, but both see themselves as at least somewhat independent of their husbands. Katherine's newfound zeal is remarkable and, in the eyes of many critics, more than a little disturbing.

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