David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: A Retelling in Prose — Act 1, Scene 2

 — 1.2 —

Petruchio and his servant Grumio stood on a street in front of Hortensio’s house in Padua.

Petruchio said, “Verona, for a while I have taken my leave of you so that I could travel to see my friends in Padua. Of all my friends, my best beloved and approved friend isHortensio, and I think that this is his house. Grumio, knock here, I say.”

“Knock, sir! Whom should I knock? Has a man rebused your worship?”

Petruchio thought, Rebused? He means, abused and rebuked. Grumio plays games with me and deliberately pretends to misinterpret what I order him to do. I have never been able to tame him and make him stop his misbehavior.

“Knock here, and knock hard. Pound here, and pound hard.”

“Pound you, sir! Who do you think I am! Why should I pound on you?”

“Knock here before this door. Knock hard, or I will knock your head.”

“My master has grown quarrelsome,” Grumio said. “If I follow your orders and knock hard on you before this door, I doubt very much that you will be pleased. I might hit you first, but you will hit me harder.”

“You won’t obey my orders!” Petruchio said. “If you won’t knock, I will ring — I will either ring the bell or wring your ears. Since it is a servant’s duty to ring the bell, I know what a master should do — I will make you sing sol-fain pain.”

He grabbed Grumio’s ears and wrung — twisted — them.

Grumio fell to the ground and shouted, “Help! My master is insane!”

“Now knock when I tell you to knock!”

Hortensio came to the door of his house and said, “What’s going on? What’s the matter? My old friend Grumio! And my good friend Petruchio! How is everyone in Verona?”

“Signior Hortensio, have you come to break up the fight?” Petruchio asked, “Con tutto il cuore, ben trovato— with all my heart I am glad to see you.”

Hortensio said, “Get up, Grumio, get up. We will settle this argument.”

He said to Petruchio, “Alla nostra casa ben venuto, molto honorato signor mio Petruchio — welcome to our house, much honored Petruchio.”

To Grumio, Hortensio said, “Get up. We will settle this quarrel.”

“It does not matter what he alleged to you in Latin,” Grumio replied.

There he goes again, Petruchio thought. He is Italian, and he knows that we are speaking Italian, not Latin. He willfully misunderstands me.

Grumio continued, “I now have a lawful reason to leave his service. Why, he ordered me to knock him and to pound on him! Is it fitting for a servant to obey such orders! He must be drunk or a card short of a full deck! Maybe I should have obeyed his orders. Maybe things would have worked out better for me.”

“He is a foolish villain!” Petruchio said. “Good Hortensio, I ordered the rascal to knock on your door and for the life of me I could not get him to do it.”

“Knock on the door!” Grumio said. “Hardly! You spoke to me and clearly said, ‘Knock here, and knock hard. Pound here, and pound hard.’ I didn’t know that you were talking about the door! What else was I to think other than you were ordering me to hit you and to pound on you? And you tell me now that you were ordering me to knock on the door?”

“Either get out of here, or shut up,” Petruchio said to Grumio. “I am warning you.”

“Petruchio, have patience,” Hortensio said. “Grumio will behave now. Why, this is a bad business between you and him. Grumio is your old, trusty, amusing servant.And tell me now, sweet friend, what happy windblows you here to Padua from old Verona?”

“It is such a wind as scatters young men throughout the world to seek their fortunes farther than at homewhere little experience can be found,” Petruchio said. “But in a few words, Signior Hortensio, this is how it stands with me:Antonio, my father, has died, and I have thrust myself into this maze of a world to — with any luck — happily to wive and thrive as best I may. I have money in my wallet and property at home,and so I have come abroad to see the world and to seek a wife.”

“Petruchio, should I speak frankly to you and tell you where to finda woman who would make a shrewish and ill-tempered and sharp-tongued wife? I am afraid that you would thank me but little for my information, yet I promise you she shall be rich — very rich. However, you are too good a friend of mine for me to wish that you would marry her.”

“Signior Hortensio, between two such friends as we are, a few words are enough for us to understand each other,” Petruchio said. “Therefore, if you know a woman who is rich enough to be Petruchio’s wife — and I want to marry a rich woman — then tell me about her.

“I do not care if she is as foul as was the wife of Florentius, a knight who quested to find the answer to the question ‘What do all women most desire?’ An ugly hag gave him the right answer — ‘to be the ruler of a man’s love’ — but he had to marry her. In that case, all worked out because on their wedding night, the ugly hag turned into a beautiful young woman, She, the daughter of the King of Sicily, had been enchanted.

“I also do not care if she is as old as the Sibyl who was granted a wish by Apollo, god of light and music. She reached down and grabbed as much sand as she could and then asked to live as many years as she held grains of sand in her hand. In this case, things did not work out. She forgot to ask for eternal youth, and so she grows older and older and older and when she is asked what she wants, she replies that she wants to die.

“I also do not care if she is shrewish as — or worse than — Xanthippe, the wife of Socrates. She was so shrewish that Socrates turned to philosophy to acquire the patience to cope with her.

“This shrew whom you are talking about does not frighten or worry me or lessen my desire to marry a rich wife, and she would not even if she were as rough and violent as the swelling Adriatic seas. I come to wive it wealthily in Padua; and if I wive it wealthily in Padua, then I will wive it happily in Padua.

“I do not care if she is ugly, old, and ill tempered. I do care that she is rich — if I am to marry her, she must bring money to me.”

Petruchio clearly stated that what he looked for in a wife was the money that she would bring him. He also implied that money was all he looked for in a wife. However, his future actions would show that he wanted much more than just the money that a wife with a very rich father could bring him.

Grumio said, “My master speaks frankly and clearly. If you give him enough gold, he will be happy to marry a puppet or a small figurine or an old hag with not even a single tooth in her head even if she has as many diseases as fifty-two horses. Why, he will marry anything and see nothing amiss provided that he receives money from the marriage.”

“Petruchio, since I have told you so much already, even though I was joking, I will continue to give you information about the shrew and her father,” Hortensio said. “I can, Petruchio, help you to get a wife who has much wealth, who is young and beautiful, and who was brought up as best becomes a gentlewoman. Her only fault, and it is a grievous fault, is that she is intolerably curst and ill tempered and shrewish and perverse, so beyond all measure and to such an extreme that, were my financial situation far worse than it is, I would not wed her even if I were to get a gold mine in recompense.”

“Hortensio, peace!” Petruchio said. “You don’t know the effect that gold has on me. Tell me her father’s name and it will be all I need; for I will board her as though I were a pirate attacking a merchant ship — even though she chide and grumble as loud as thunder when the clouds in autumn crack with lightning.”

“Her father is Baptista Minola. He is an affable and courteous gentleman. Her name is Katherina Minola. She is famous in Padua for her sharp and scolding tongue.”

“I know her father, though I do not know her. Her father knew my late father well. I will not sleep, Hortensio, until I see her. So therefore let me be thus so rude to you as to leave you so quickly after we have met — unless you will accompany me as I visit her father and her.”

“Please, sir,” Grumio said, “let him go while the mood lasts. I swear that if she knew Petruchio as well as I do, she would think that scolding him would have little effect upon him. She may perhaps call him ‘knave’ half a score times or so, but that’s nothing to him. Why, once he begins to reply to her, he will scold her with his own rope-tricks.”

Petruchio thought, Grumio means rhetoric or perhaps tricks that would best be punished by hanging — or perhaps both.

Grumio continued, “I’ll tell you what, sir, if she withstands him even a little bit, he will throw an insulting figure of speech in her face and so disfigure her with it that she shall have no more eyes to see with than a cat that has been fighting with another cat that has scratched out its eyes.”

“Wait a moment, Petruchio,” Hortensio said. “I will go with you. For in Baptista’s keep — his inner sanctum — he keeps my treasure. There he hides away his younger daughter, beautiful Bianca, the jewel of my life. He is keeping her away from me and from all her other suitors — my rivals for her love. Baptista wants Katherina to be married. Knowing how difficult — or perhaps impossible — it is for such a marriage to take place because of her shrewish defects that I have told you about, Baptista has decreed thatno suitor shall have access to Biancauntil Katherina the curst — the ill tempered — has gotten a husband. Baptista is clever: He believes that by not allowing Bianca to be married until Katherina is married, Bianca’s suitors will help him find a husband for Katherina.”

Grumio declared, “Katherina the curst!Katherina the ill tempered! Those are the worst titles for a maiden who is the worst!”

“Petruchio, my friend, I want you to do me a favor,” Hortensio said. “I will disguise myself with a beard and sober academic clothing so that I look like a fully qualified tutor, and you, Petruchio, will introduce me to old Baptista and recommend that I become a music tutor to Bianca. With this trick, I will have the opportunity to see her. Unsuspected by Baptista, I can be alone with Bianca and woo her.”

“Here’s no knavery!” Grumio said sarcastically. “Look at how the young folks lay their heads together to find a way to fool the old folks!”

Gremio and Lucentio, who was disguised as a tutor, appeared on the street in front of Hortensio’s house.

Grumio said to Hortensio, “Look! Who are those people?”

“Be quiet, Grumio,” Hortensio replied. “The older man is my rival for the love of Bianca.”

He added, “Petruchio, let us stand here, off to the side, for a while and spy on them.”

Grumio said sarcastically about Gremio, an old man, “He is a fine young man and an amorous and romantic young man!”

Gremio said to the disguised Lucentio, “Very well. I have read over this list of books for when you tutor Bianca. Buy them unbound and have them very beautifully bound. Make sure that they are all books about love — do not give her any other kind of lessons because I want her to think about love and marriage. You understand me. Signior Baptista will pay you to tutor Bianca; I will give you additional money to represent my interests. Take the paper that you will use in the lessons and let me have it very well perfumed because Bianca is sweeter than perfume itself. What will you read to her?”

“Whatever I read to her, I will plead your love for her as well and strongly as if you, my patron, were standing in front of her. I may even be able to plead your case better than you yourself could — unless you were a scholar, sir.”

“What a wonderful thing learning is!” Gremio said. “Scholars are so proficient with words that they must be very wise.”

“What a wonderful ass is this stupid woodcock!” Grumio said. “Woodcocks are so easily caught in traps that they must be very stupid.”

“Be quiet!” Petruchio said to Grumio.

“Grumio, be quiet,” Hortensio said.

He then said, “God bless you, Signior Gremio.”

“We are well met, Signior Hortensio,” Gremio replied. “Do you know where I am going? To visit Baptista Minola. I promised to inquire carefully about a tutor for the beautiful Bianca, and by good fortune I have found this young man, who is just the tutor she needs. He is learned and has good manners, and he is well read in poetry and other books — all of them good ones, I promise you.”

“That is good,” Hortensio replied. “I myself have met a gentleman who has promised to help me to find an additional tutor for Bianca: a fine musician. Therefore, I will also be able to serve beautiful Bianca, who is so beloved by me.”

“She is so beloved by me,” Gremio said. “My deeds will prove that.”

“So will his moneybags,” Grumio said.

“Gremio, this is not the time to express our love for Bianca,” Hortensio said. “Listen to me, and if you are polite, I will tell you news that is equally good for both of us. Here is a gentleman whom I met by chance. If you and I can come to a financial agreement that is acceptable to him, he will woo curst Katherina — and marry her, if her dowry pleases him.”

“If he actually does what he says he will do, it is good,” Gremio said. “Hortensio, have you told him all her faults?”

Petruchio said, “I know she is an irksome and brawling scold. If that be all, sirs, I hear no harm that can stop me from wooing and marrying her.”

“Are you sure?” Gremio asked. “Where are you from?”

“I was born in Verona, and I am old Antonio’s son,” Petruchio said. “My father is dead, and I inherited his fortune, and I hope to live a good and long life.”

“Sir, such a life, with such a wife, is unlikely!” Gremio said. “But if you have a stomach for it, and you want to woo and marry Katherina, then go to it, by God! You shall have my help in so doing. But do you really intend to woo this wildcat?”

“Do I really intend to continue to breathe and to live?” Petruchio replied.

“Will he woo her?” Grumio said. “Yes, or I’ll hang her. Why should she escape bad fortune? I am not sure which — Petruchio or the hanging — is the frying pan and which is the fire.”

“Why have I come here but for the purpose of wooing and marrying her?” Petruchio said. “Do you think that a little din and racket can hurt my ears? Have I not in my time heard lions roar? Have I not heard the sea — puffed up with winds — rage like an angry boar coated with sweat? Have I not heard great cannon in the battlefield, and Heaven’s artillery thunder in the skies? Have I not in a pitched battle heard loud calls to arms, neighing steeds, and the noise of trumpets? And you want me to be afraid of a woman’s tongue, that gives not half so great a blow to the ears as will a chestnut popping in a farmer’s fire? You would be better off trying to frighten boys with boogiemen.”

Actually, Petruchio was a young man who was seeing the world for the first time. He had made up this exciting past history.

“Petruchio fears no shrews and no boogiemen,” Grumio said.

“Hortensio, listen to me,” Gremio said. “This gentleman of yours — Petruchio — is fortunately arrived, I think, for his own good and ours.”

“I promised we would pay for his costs in wooing Katherina,” Hortensio said.

“And so we will, provided that he wins and marries her,” Gremio said.

“He will,” Grumio said. “I would bet a good dinner on it and so be sure that I will be well fed.”

Tranio, who was dressed in Lucentio’s fine clothing, and Biondello, who was dressed in his usual servant’s clothing, appeared on the street. They ignored the disguised Lucentio and pretended not to know him.

Tranio, Lucentio’s servant who was disguised as Lucentio, said, “Gentlemen, God bless you. If I may be so bold, tell me, please, which is the readiest way to the house of Signior Baptista Minola?”

“The Signior Baptista Minola who has two daughters — is that the man you mean?” Biondello asked, making clear which man Tranio was asking about.

“Yes, that is the man, Biondello,” Tranio said.

“Do you mean to see the daughter, sir?” Gremio asked.

“Perhaps I mean to see both him and her, sir,” Tranio said, “but what business is it of yours?”

“I hope that you are not going to see the daughter who is the shrew,” Petruchio said.

“I don’t care for shrews,” Tranio replied. “Biondello, let’s go.”

Quietly, Lucentio said to Tranio, “Your pretending to be me is off to a good start. Well done.”

“Sir, a word before you go,” Hortensio said. “Are you a suitor to the maiden you talked about — the one who is not a shrew. Yes or no?”

“And if I am a suitor to her, sir, is that a problem?” Tranio replied.

“No,” Gremio said, “if without more words you will leave here.”

“Why, sir, I ask you, are not the streets here as free to be used by me as to be used by you?”

“The streets are for both of us, but Bianca is not,” Gremio said.

“For what reason?” Tranio asked.

“For this reason, if you want to know — she is the chosen and choice love of Signior Gremio,” Gremio said.

“She is the chosen and choice love of Signior Hortensio,” Hortensio said.

“Just a moment,” Tranio said. “If you are gentlemen, do this for me: Listen patiently to me. Baptista is a noble gentleman, to whom my father is not completely unknown. His daughter is beautiful, and she is entitled to many suitors, including me. This would be true even if she were more beautiful — or less beautiful — than she is. Fair Leda’s daughter Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, had a thousand wooers, and so fair Bianca may have one more suitor — and so she does. I, Lucentio, would woo her even if Paris, Prince of Troy, came here in hopes to woo her all alone and to make her Helen of Troy.”

“Wow! This gentleman will out-talk us all,” Gremio said.

“Sir, do not check him the way that you would a horse,” Lucentio said. “Let him run unchecked. He will show himself to be a jade — a weak horse that will quickly tire and quit.”

“Hortensio, what is going on here?” Petruchio said. “Why is everyone arguing?”

Hortensio ignored Petruchio and said to Tranio, “Let me ask you,” Hortensio replied, “have you ever seen Baptista’s daughter?”

“No, sir,” Tranio replied, “but I hear that he has two daughters. One daughter is as famous for her scolding tongue as the other is for beauteous modesty.”

“Sir, I will woo the daughter with the scolding tongue,” Petruchio said. “Do not attempt to woo her.”

“Good idea,” Gremio said. “Leave that labor to great Hercules. He is already known for his twelve labors — hereafter let him be known for a thirteenth labor.”

“Sir, understand this,” Petruchio said. “The younger daughter — the one whom you should woo — her father keeps away from all suitors. He will not allow her to be married to any man until her elder sister the shrew is first wed. Only then will the younger daughter be free to marry and not before.”

Tranio replied, “If it is true, sir, that you are the man who will help all of Bianca’s suitors, including me, to gain access to her after you break the ice and get married to the elder daughter and so set free the younger daughter, then whoever shall win and marry Bianca will not be so ill-bred as to be ungrateful to you. You will be rewarded.”

“Sir, you speak well and well do you understand what is in fact happening here,” Hortensio said. “Since you confess that you are a suitor to Bianca, you must do as we do and gratify this gentleman, Petruchio, with money to pay the cost of wooing Katherina, the shrewish elder daughter. All of us will benefit if he marries her — once he marries Katherina, we can woo Bianca.”

“Sir, I will pay my part of the expenses,” Tranio said. “To seal our pact, let us get together this afternoon and drink toasts to Bianca’s health. We will do what prosecuting lawyers and defense lawyers do — combat each other mightily in the arena but eat and drink as friends.”

Both Grumio and Biondello said, “Excellent idea. Let’s go.”

Hortensio agreed: “Good idea, indeed. Let’s do it. Petruchio, I will be your host and pay for your drinks.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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