The Taming of the Shrew

Compare and contrast the wooing between Petruchio and Kate, and that between Lucentio and Bianca.


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Lucentio uses a Latin passage to woo Bianca, just as Petruchio wields words as weapons to court - or, if you prefer, to subdue - Katharina. When Hortensio attempts to use a musical scale to do his own seducing, it fails. In these and other instances throughout the play, Shakespeare demonstrates the power inherent in language. With nothing more than words and a bit of clothing, for instance, a Pedant can be made to seem like Vincentio, and a servant can be made to seem like a master. The characters in the play who are most adept at using language - most notably Petruchio, Lucentio and Kate - are not only the most interesting and the most complex, they are also the most successful at getting what they want. The lesser language users - such as Gremio and Hortensio - come up short, despite their wealth and power.

Moreover, through his emphasis on the force of language, Shakespeare enacts his own power as a wordsmith. His plays only exist, after all, as collections of language - and yet they are vivid, three-dimensional, compelling. When Lucentio sneaks his way into Bianca's heart, or Petruchio and Kate spar so fiercely, one can detect Shakespeare winking at his spectators. After all, however inventive and poetically accomplished his individual characters may appear, they speak nothing more than the bard's words, not their own. The ultimate display of the power of language is evident not in the play's action so much as in the play's existence.