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

 — 2.1 —

In a room in Baptista’s house, Katherina was tormenting Bianca, whose hands Katherina had tied together.

Bianca pleaded, “Good sister, do not hurt me or your reputation by making a slave of me. That is something I hate and will not endure. But if you want, you can have my possessions. I am wearing jewelry. If you will untie my hands, I will take it all off myself and give it to you. You can even have my clothing — I will strip myself down to my petticoat. Or I will do whatever else you command me to do — I know my duty is to obey my elders.”

“I order you to tell me which of your suitors you like the best,” Katherina said. “Make sure that you do not lie to me.”

“Believe me, sister, of all the men alive now I have never yet beheld a special face that I could fancy more than any other. I have no preference for any of my suitors.”

Katherina was interested in marriage and suitors, but she had no suitors of her own.

She said to Bianca, “You are lying! Do you prefer Hortensio?”

“If you like him, sister, I swear here and now that I will plead to him to woo you … if there is no other way for you to have him.”

“Perhaps you fancy riches more than you do youth. You must want to marry Gremio so that he will buy you fine clothing.”

“Is it because of him that you envy me so? No, you are joking. Now I see that you have been joking with me all this time. Please, sister Kate, untie my hands.”

“If you think that I was just making a joke, then everything else was also a joke,” Katherina said.

Baptista had heard the commotion, and now he came into the room in time to see Katherina hit Bianca.

“What are you doing, Dame Insolence!” Baptista said. “From where has come this bad behavior?”

He added, “Bianca, stand beside me. Poor girl! You are crying. Go and ply your needle and sew; have nothing to do with your sister.”

As he untied Bianca’s hands, he said to Katherina, “You should be ashamed, you good-for-nothing with a devilish spirit. Why are you hurting her who never did anything to hurt you? When has she ever said to you a cross word?”

“Her silence mocks me, and I will get revenge on her because of her silence,” Katherina said.

She moved toward Bianca, but Baptista blocked her way and said, “You dare to try to hurt Bianca in my sight?”

He added, “Bianca, go to another room.”

“Why won’t you leave me alone?” Katherina said. “Now I see that Bianca is your treasure. She must have a husband, and as an unmarried older sister I must follow the custom of dancing barefoot on her wedding day — that is supposed to break my bad luck in being unmarried! And if I die unmarried, I am supposed to lead apes to Hell instead of leading children to Heaven. That is the fate of an old maid. Don’t talk to me. I will go and sit and cry until I can find an occasion to wreak my revenge on my sister.”

Katherina exited.

Baptista watched her go and then said, “Has any man ever been so beset by troubles as I am?”

Several people now entered the room. Gremio and Petruchio walked in. So did Lucentio, who was disguised as a tutor. So did Hortensio, who was disguised as a musician. So did Tranio, who was disguised as Lucentio. Bringing up the rear was Lucentio’s servant Biondello, who was carrying books and the stringed musical instrument known as the lute.

“Good day, neighbor Baptista,” Gremio said.

“Good day, neighbor Gremio,” Baptista said, adding, “God bless you all, gentlemen!”

“And you, too, good sir!” Petruchio said. He added, “Don’t you have a daughter named Katherina, who is beautiful and virtuous?”

The word “virtuous” bothered Baptista, who knew that his elder daughter was a shrew. He replied, “I have a daughter, sir, called Katherina.”

Gremio wanted Petruchio to succeed in marrying Katherina. He advised him, “You are too blunt. First go slow and be sociable and then get down to business.”

“You are mistaken, Signior Gremio,” Petruchio said. “I know what I am doing.”

He said to Baptista, “I am a gentleman of Verona, sir. Having heard of Katherina’s beauty and her wit, her affability and bashful modesty, her wondrous qualities and mild behavior, I am now so bold as to make myself an eager guest in your house to make my eyes witnesses of that report which I so often have heard. To show my appreciation for your hospitality and to pay for my entrance into your house, I present you with a recommendation for a servant of mine.”

He pointed to the disguised Hortensio and said, “This man here is knowledgeable in music and in mathematics. He is entirely capable of teaching your daughter those two sciences, of which I know that she is not ignorant. Accept my recommendation of him, or else you do me wrong: His name is Litio, and he was born in Mantua.”

“You are welcome here, sir,” Baptista said to Petruchio, “and Litio is also welcome here, for your sake. But as for my daughter Katherina, I know that she is not the girl you want, which is a pity for me.”

“I see that you do not mean to part with her,” Petruchio said, “or else you do not like my company.”

“Please don’t misunderstand me,” Baptista said. “I am saying only what I believe is the truth. But where are you from? And what is your name?”

“Petruchio is my name; I am Antonio’s son. He was a man well known throughout all Italy.”

“I have heard much about him,” Baptista said. “You are welcome here for his sake.”

Gremio said, “With all respect for your story, Petruchio, let us, who are humble suitors for Bianca, speak, too. Backare! Back off a little! You are too pushy!”

“Oh, pardon me, Signior Gremio; I am eager to be doing what needs to be done.”

He thought, What needs to be done is my wooing of and marrying Katherina. Once I have married her and am sure of having a good wife, then she will need to be done and I will do her. I want a warm wife and a warm bed.

“I doubt it not, sir,” Gremio said, “but you will curse your wooing if you are too eager. Neighbor Petruchio, this recommendation of a tutor is a gift very grateful to Baptista — I am sure of it.”

He added to Baptista, “To express the same kindness, I myself, who have been more in your debt than any other man, freely recommend to you this young scholar.”

He pointed to the disguised Lucentio and said, “He has long studied at the renowned university in Rheims, France. He is as well educated in Greek, Latin, and other languages as the other tutor is well educated in music and mathematics. His name is Cambio; please accept his services.”

“A thousand thanks, Signior Gremio,” Baptista said.

He said to the disguised Lucentio, “Welcome, good Cambio.”

To Tranio, who was pretending to be Lucentio, he said, “Gentle sir, I think that you have the bearing of a stranger in town. May I be so bold as to ask you why you have come here?”

“Pardon me, sir,” Tranio said. “The boldness is my own. I am a stranger in this city, and I have come here to make myself a suitor to your daughter, the beautiful and virtuous Bianca. I know about your firm decision not to allow Bianca to be married until Katherina, her elder sister, is married. I request that once you know who my father is that you give me the same freedom as Bianca’s other suitors to see her and to woo her. To help you educate your two daughters, I have brought you gifts. Here I give you a simple instrument — a lute — as well as this small packet of Greek and Latin books. If you accept them, then their worth is great. You will add to their value by accepting them.”

Biondello handed Baptista the gifts.

“Lucentio is your name,” Baptista said, looking at an inscription in one of the books. “Where are you from?”

“I am from Pisa, sir. My father is Vincentio.”

“Vincentio of Pisa is a man of great power and influence. I have heard good reports of him, and you are very welcome here, sir.”

Baptista said to the disguised Hortensio, “You take the lute,” and then he said to the disguised Lucentio, “You take the set of books.”

He then said to both of them, “You shall see your pupils now.”

Baptista called for a servant and then said to him, “Take these gentlemen to my daughters and tell them both that these gentlemen are their tutors. Tell my daughters to be on their best behavior.”

Lucentio, Hortensio, and the servant exited.

Baptista then said to those remaining, “We will go and walk a little in the garden, and then we will eat dinner. You are all very welcome here, and I hope that you will feel comfortable and at home here.”

Petruchio was eager to start wooing Katherina, whom he still had not seen.

“Signior Baptista,” he said, “my business requires haste. I cannot come every day here to woo Katherina. You knew my father well, and he has left me — his only heir — all his lands and possessions, which by good management I have increased rather than decreased their value. I am a man of property, and I am competent. I also get down to business quickly. Tell me, if I get your daughter Katherina to love me, what dowry will she bring to me when I marry her?”

“I have no sons. After my death, Katherina will get one half of my lands,” Baptista said. “As soon as she is married, she will bring you 20,000 crowns.”

“The dowry is acceptable,” Petruchio said. “Now for the dower. As her husband, I must provide for my wife if I should die first. If Katherina should survive me, she will receive all of my lands and all of my leases. My widow — should my wife outlive me — will receive a large income. Therefore, let us have legal contracts drawn up between us, so that each of us is legally obligated to do what we have promised to do.”

“We will do so,” Baptista said, “once you have gotten something that is very special: Katherina’s love. That is the most special thing of all — it is much more important than wealth, property, and income.”

Baptista thought, Katherina is special. I want her to be happy, and she will be happily married only if she marries a man whom she can respect. Bianca, on the other hand, will — I am sure — marry whatever man I want her to. She will be happy with that man. In her case, I can have her marry her wealthiest suitor. After all, wealth is in fact important, although it is not the most important thing.

“I will get her love. I promise you that, father — and you will be my father,” Petruchio said. “I am as fiercely determined as she is proud-minded. When and where two raging fires meet together, they consume the things that feed their fury. Although a small fire grows big with a little wind, extreme gusts of wind will blow out all the fire. That is the way that it will be with Katherina and me. I will be the great gust of wind that blows out her fire. She may be shrewish, but I am rough and I do not woo like a boy.”

Petruchio thought, This metaphor, properly understood, states that both Katherina and I will change our behavior. Like the two fires, we will blow each other out. She will yield to me, and then I will yield to her. I will persuade her to change her behavior from a shrew to a wife who will love, honor, and obey me. “Persuade” is the right word; “force” is not the right word. The kind of change I want is the kind that cannot be forced, although a lot of persuasion is appropriate. To do that, I will assume a behavior that is different from my usual behavior, but I will cast off that behavior once I have the wife that she will promise before God — in the marriage ceremony — that she will be: a wife who loves, honors, and obeys her husband. And I will do what I will promise before God — in the marriage ceremony — that I will do: I will love and cherish my wife.

Petruchio had impressed Baptista, who thought, Petruchio may be exactly the right man to woo and marry Katherina. Make no mistake, Katherina needs to be tamed. Just a few minutes ago, she tied up and beat her sister. No one deserves to be so badly treated — especially a relative. I think that Katherina is intelligent. I would not be surprised if Katherina knows that she needs to be tamed. Neither I nor Katherina — I think — wants her to keep on acting the way she has been acting.

Baptista said to Petruchio, “I hope that you woo Katherina well, and good luck to you! But be prepared for some unhappy words that she will call you.”

“When it comes to harsh words, I am wearing tested steel armor,” Petruchio said. “I can withstand harsh language the way that mountains withstand winds. Mountains do not shake no matter how hard the wind blows.”

The disguised Hortensio now entered the room. The lute that Tranio had given to Baptista was now broken — and so was Hortensio’s head.

“Hello, my friend,” Baptista said. “Why do you look so pale?”

“I am pale from fear,” Hortensio said. “You can be sure of that.”

“Will my daughter Katherina become a good musician?” Baptista asked.

“I think she will sooner become a good soldier,” Hortensio said. “Pistols and bullets may withstand her treatment, but never lutes.”

“So you are saying that you cannot teach her to play the lute? You cannot break down the steps of playing a lute?”

“No, I cannot,” Hortensio said, “because she has broken the lute on my head. All I did was to tell her that her hands were not placed correctly on the frets of the lute. She got angry and said, ‘Do you think that I am fretting? I will show you that I am fuming!’ With that word, she struck me on the head with the lute and both my head and the lute broke. There I stood amazed for a while with the lute around my neck like a wooden collar. She called me names — rascal fiddler and twangling Jack, and twenty more such vile terms. It was if she had memorized the names just to be prepared to insult me with them.”

“By God, Katherina is a spirited wench,” Petruchio said. “She is full of life, and now I love her ten times more than ever I did. How I long to talk to her!”

Baptista said to Hortensio, “Come with me and do not be so discouraged. Go and tutor my younger daughter. She is eager to learn and thankful for good tutoring.”

He added, “Signior Petruchio, will you go with us, or shall I send my daughter Kate to you?”

“Please send Kate to me,” Petruchio said.

Everyone left except for Petruchio.

Alone, Petruchio planned his course of action in dealing with the shrew whom he wanted to marry: “I will wait for her here and woo her with some spirit when she comes. If she shouts at me, why then I’ll tell her plainly that she sings as sweetly as a nightingale. If she frowns, I’ll say she looks as cheerful as morning roses newly washed with dew. If she is mute and will not speak a word, then I will compliment her talkativeness and say that she is speaking with moving eloquence. If she orders me to leave, I will give her thanks as though she asked me to stay by her for a week. If she refuses to wed me, I will ask her to name the day when our engagement will be announced and when we will be married. I will treat her as if she were already the good woman I want her to be. I will give her a good image of herself.”

He saw Katherina enter the room and said to himself, “Here she comes now. Petruchio, speak to her.”

To Katherina, he said, “Good day, Kate, for that is your name, I hear.”

“You are somewhat hard of hearing. People who talk about me call me Katherina.”

“Truly, you lie,” Petruchio said. “You are called plain Kate, and you are called pretty Kate and sometimes Kate the curst, but you are Kate, the prettiest Kate in the Christian world. You are Kate of Kate Hall, and you are my super-dainty Kate. Dainty cakes are delicacies, and you are a delicacy. Therefore, Kate, listen to my comforting words. Hearing your mildness praised in every town, your virtues spoken of, and your beauty complimented, yet not to the degree you deserve, I am moved to woo you to be my wife.”

“Moved, are you?” Katherina said. “Let whoever moved you here now remove you from here. The moment I saw you I knew that you were a moveable.”

“Why, what’s a moveable?” Petruchio asked.

“A wooden stool — something that is hard like your head.”

“A stool has hard wood to be sat on, so come, Kate, and sit on me.”

“Asses are made to bear, and so are you. Bear a load, you ass.”

“Women are made to bear, and so are you. Women bear children, and in order to become pregnant, they bear the weight of a man in the missionary position.”

“I have no intention of bearing your children or your weight. You are a jade, a horse without stamina, and I doubt that you have stamina in bed.”

Petruchio thought, I am not a rapist. I want to marry Kate, but I do not want to consummate the marriage with a meeting of bodies until after Kate and I have had a meeting of minds.

“Not yet will I have you bear the burden of my weight,” Petruchio said, “because you are young and light —”

“I am too light for such a country bumpkin as you to catch, and yet I am as heavy as my weight should be. I am not like a gold coin whose edge has been shaved and so is worth less than it ought to be.”

“Be! Bee! Buzz! I hope that you can avoid the buzzing that would surround you if you became the subject of gossip,” Petruchio said. “Light women are often the subject of gossip because it is easy to move them into a position for sexual intercourse.”

Katherina said, “‘Buzz’ is what I would expect you to say — you are like a buzzard.”

“You are like a slow-winged turtledove — the symbol of faithful love! Shall a buzzard take you?”

“If a buzzard should take me for a turtle-dove, the buzzard is mistaken.”

“Come, come, you wasp; truly, you are too angry.”

“If I am waspish, you had best beware my sting,” Katherina said.

“My remedy is to pluck your sting out. That way, I need not fear it.”

“That is a good remedy — if you, a fool, could find out where my sting is.”

“Who does not know where a wasp keeps its sting? In its tail.”

“No, the sting is in the tongue.”

“Whose tongue?”

“Yours, if you talk of tales, and so I say farewell to you.”

“What, with my tongue in your tail?” Petruchio said.

He said to Katherina, “Good Kate, I am a gentleman.”

“I will see whether you are a gentleman,” Katherina said, and she hit him.

Petruchio looked her in the eyes and said, seriously, “I swear that I will hit you, if you hit me again.”

Katherina decided not to hit him again.

She said, “If you do, you will lose your arms. If you hit me, you are no gentleman, and if you are no gentleman, why then, you will have no coat of arms.”

“Are you a herald, Kate? If you are, then put me in your heraldic book that lists gentlemen! Let me be on good terms with you.”

“If you are a gentleman, then what is your crest? What heraldic device do you have? What is on your heraldic badge? Is it the feathers on a bird’s head? Is it the crest of a cock? Is it a coxcomb? My guess is that it is a coxcomb — the hat worn by a court fool.”

“If you, Kate, will be my hen, then I will be a combless cock. A cock without a comb is nonthreatening and non-aggressive, and a husband should not threaten his wife.”

“You will never be a cock of mine — you have the crow of a craven, defeated fighting-cock.”

“Come, Kate, come; you must not look so sour.”

“I always look sour when I see a sour crabapple.”

“No crabapple is here, and so therefore do not look sour.”

“A crabapple is here!”

“Then show it to me.”

“If I had a mirror, I would.”

“Are you saying that my face looks crabby?”

“I am surprised that such a young and inexperienced person as yourself realized that,” Katherina said.

“By Saint George, I am too young and too strong for you.”

“Yet you are withered.”

“It is with cares.”

“I don’t care.”

“Kate, listen carefully. You will not escape me.”

“I will irritate you, if I stay here. Let me go.”

“You will not irritate me, Kate. I find you quite gentle. I was told that you are rough and withdrawn and sullen, but the people who told me that lied because you are pleasant, full of fun, very courteous, and slow in speech — you think before you speak. You are as sweet as springtime flowers. You are unable to frown, to glare, and to bite your lip, as angry women do. You do not take pleasure in arguments, but instead you entertain your wooers with gentle, quiet, and friendly conversation.”

He added, “Why does all the world say that you, Kate, metaphorically limp? The world is filled with slanderers! Kate, you are like the hazel tree. You are straight and slender and as brown in hue as hazel nuts, and you are sweeter than the nuts’ kernels. I know you. You do not limp.”

“Go away, fool, and give commands to your servants.”

“Did ever the beautiful Diana, goddess of chastity, so become a grove of trees as you, Kate, become this chamber with your princess-like gait? You be Diana, and let her be Kate. Then let Kate be chaste and Diana be playful and amorous!”

“Where did you study all this fancy speech?”

“It is extempore. I have made it up on the spur of the moment, using my mother-wit.”

“It is good that you had a witty mother! Otherwise, her son would have been witless.”

“Am I not wise?”

“You are barely wise enough to keep yourself warm in cold weather.”

“I have every intention of marrying you, Kate, and of keeping myself warm in your bed. Therefore, let us set all this chitchat aside, and I will speak plainly. Your father has consented that you shall be my wife; we have agreed upon your dowry. Whether you are willing to marry or not, I will marry you. Kate, I am the husband who is just right for you. I swear by this light, by means of which I see your beauty — your beauty that makes me love you — you must be married to no man but me. Because, Kate, I am the man — the husband — who was born to tame you, Kate, and bring you from a wild Kate to a Kate who is a loving, honoring, and obedient Christian wife like other housewife Kates.”

Seeing Baptista, Gremio, and Tranio coming toward them, Petruchio added, “Here comes your father. Do not deny me. I must and will have Katherina as my wife.”

Baptista said, “Signior Petruchio, how are you and my daughter getting along?”

“How should we get along but well, sir? How but well? It is impossible that I should not get along well with your daughter.”

“How are you, my daughter Katherina?” Baptista said. “You look in the dumps — miserable.”

“Are you calling me your daughter? Ha! You are showing quite a tender fatherly regard for me when you wish me to wed this one-half lunatic, this madcap ruffian, this swearing Jack, this man who thinks to get his own way by bluffing with words!”

“Father,” Petruchio said, “the truth is that you and everyone else in the world who have talked about Kate have misunderstood her. If she seems shrewish, it is only an act. Katherina is not obstinate; she is as gentle as a dove. She is not hot; she is as temperate as the morning. Griselda was a medieval wife who was patient and submissive no matter how her husband provoked her; Kate will prove herself to be a second Griselda. The Roman wife Lucrece vowed — and meant that vow — to be faithful to her husband; Kate will prove herself to be a second Lucrece. Kate and I get along so well that we have agreed to be married on Sunday.”

“I will see you hanged on Sunday before I will marry you,” Katherina said.

Gremio said, “Did you hear that, Petruchio? She said that she will see you hanged on Sunday before she will marry you.”

Tranio said, “Do you call that getting along well with her? We can say goodbye to our hopes of marrying Bianca.”

Petruchio replied, “Relax, gentlemen. I choose her for myself. I am the one who is marrying her. As long as she and I are pleased with each other, you have nothing to worry about. She and I have decided, in private, when we were alone, that she will still be ill tempered and shrewish when she is around other people, although she is not when she and I are alone. I tell you, it is incredible to believe how much she loves me: She is the kindest and most darling Kate! She hugged and plied me with kiss after kiss and made promise after promise to love me forever. In the time it takes to blink an eye, she made me fall in love with her. You are newcomers to love! It is amazing to see, when a man and a woman are left alone and fall in love, how tame a timid man can make the most ill-tempered shrew.”

He added, “Give me your hand, Kate.”

He took her hand; she did not resist.

He said, “I will go to Venice to buy clothing for our wedding. Prepare and provide the feast, father, and invite the guests. I will be sure my Katherina shall be finely dressed.”

Everyone except Katherina looked at Baptista, who was puzzled. What was going on? Did his daughter want to marry this man or not? Baptista looked at Katherina, who was looking at Petruchio. She had a small smile on her face.

Baptista thought, Petruchio may be just the husband my daughter Katherina needs — and wants. He may be just the man to tame her bad behavior and make her a good Christian wife. If my daughter does not want to marry him, she will let me know. Petruchio is leaving to go to Venice, and so she and I will be able to be alone.

He said, “I do not know what to say, Petruchio, but let us shake hands. God send you joy, Petruchio! You and Katherina will be married on Sunday.”

Katherina thought, I am intrigued by Petruchio, but am I intrigued enough to marry him although we have just met and we have spent all our time together engaging in a verbal combat — a battle of wits? Hell, yes!

Gremio and Tranio said, “Amen! We will be witnesses to the wedding.”

“Father, and wife, and gentlemen, adieu,” Petruchio said. I am going now to Venice; Sunday will come very soon. We will have rings and things and a fine array of clothing. And kiss me, Kate — we will be married on Sunday.”

Petruchio kissed Katherina, who did not kiss him back.

Petruchio and Katherina exited in different directions.

Gremio said, “Have two people ever decided to wed each other so quickly?”

“Indeed, gentlemen,” Baptista said, “this is a risky venture. I am like a businessman who is making a desperate gamble in hopes of thereby profiting.”

“Your daughter Katherina is like a commodity that was not being used,” Tranio said. “Now she will either bring you happiness by making a good and happy marriage, or she will metaphorically perish on the seas.”

“The profit that I seek is a quiet and peaceful marriage for Katherina,” Baptista said.

Not meaning it, Gremio said, “I have no doubt that Petruchio has gotten a quiet catch.”

He added, “But now, Baptista, let’s talk about your younger daughter, Bianca. Now is the day we long have looked for: the day that you will choose a husband for her. I am your neighbor, and I am the man who wooed her first.”

Tranio, who was still disguised as Lucentio and was trying to get Bianca as a wife for Lucentio, made his own pitch: “And I am one who loves Bianca more than words can witness, or your thoughts can guess.”

Gremio replied, “Youngster, you cannot love so dearly as I.”

“Graybeard, your love is ice cold,” Tranio said.

“And your love is too hot. Skipping boy, back off. It is age that nourishes.”

“But in ladies’ eyes it is youth that flourishes.”

“Calm down, gentlemen,” Baptista said. “I will settle this quarrel. I believe that Bianca will be happy with whomever of you two I chose for her to marry, and therefore it is deeds — action and legal deeds, not talk — that must win the prize. Whoever of you two can give my daughter the greatest dower shall be her husband. So, Signior Gremio, what dower can you assure me she will get? If you die before she does, with what can she support herself?”

Baptista thought, Hortensio was another of Bianca’s suitors, but he has not been around for a while. Perhaps he has lost interest.

Gremio replied, “First, as you know, my house within this city is richly furnished with silver and gold dishes and utensils. Bianca will have basins and ewers to wash her dainty hands. My wall hangings are all of expensive purple tapestry. I have stuffed my crowns in ivory strongboxes. My bedspreads are made of tapestry from Arras, France; these I store in chests made of cypress wood. I own expensive clothing, bed curtains and hangings and canopies, fine linen, cushions made in Turkey that are embroidered with pearls, valances made in Venice and decorated with gold needlework, pewter and brass and all things that belong to house or housekeeping. At my farm I have a hundred milk cows, sixty fat oxen standing in my stalls, and all things necessary for their maintenance. I myself am advanced in years, I confess, and if I die tomorrow, all of this is hers, provided that while I live Bianca will be only mine.”

“That word ‘only’ is well chosen,” Tranio said. “You have only a few possessions in comparison to me. Baptista, listen to me. I am my father’s heir and only son; I need not share my father’s estate with brothers when he dies. If I may have your daughter as my wife, I will leave her houses three or four as good — within the walls of rich Pisa — as the one house that Signior Gremio has in Padua. In addition, she will receive two thousand ducats each year in income from my fruitful land. All of this shall she receive as her dower.”

Gremio looked shocked at such wealth.

Tranio said to him, “Are you shocked, Signior Gremio?”

Gremio said, “Two thousand ducats of annual income from the land!”

He thought, The value of all my land does not reach two thousand ducats!

Gremio said, “Bianca shall have everything that I mentioned previously, plus an argosy — a large merchant ship — that now is anchored in the harbor at Marseilles.”

Tranio said, “Gremio, it is well known that my father has no less than three great argosies. In addition, he has two galliases — ships that are larger than galleys, and that use both sails and oars. He also has twelve watertight galleys in good repair. I will give all of this to Bianca, and I will give twice as much as whatever you offer next.”

Gremio replied, “That is not necessary. I have already offered all that I have, and I have no more possessions to offer.”

He said to Baptista, “If you like me and my offer, Bianca shall have me and all that is mine.”

Tranio interrupted, “Why, then the maiden is mine. Out of all the men in the world, I have won her. You, Baptista, firmly promised that Bianca would be the wife of the man who offered her the most. Gremio has been outbid.”

Baptista replied, “I must confess that your offer is the best. Now, your father must make this offer a legal obligation. If he does so, Bianca will be your wife. But if your father does not make your offer a legal obligation, then — pardon me — if you should die before your father, then what would happen to her dower?”

“That is a small point,” Tranio said. “My father is old. I am young. I will outlive him.”

Gremio asked, “And may not young men die, as well as old?”

“Well, gentlemen, I have made up my mind,” Baptista said. “On this coming Sunday you know that my daughter Katherina is to be married. On the Sunday following that, Bianca will become your bride, Lucentio, as long as your father takes on this legal obligation. If your father will not, then Bianca will become the bride of Signior Gremio. And so, I take my leave of you, and I thank you both.”

“Adieu, good neighbor,” Gremio said as Baptista left.

Alone with Tranio, whom he understood to be Lucentio, Gremio said, “I do not believe that Bianca will marry you because I do not believe that your father will make this legal obligation. You have gambled by promising so much as your dower, and you will lose your bet. Your father would be a fool to give you everything, and in his old age to set his feet under your table and be totally dependent on you. Your promised dower is ridiculous. Old Italian fathers are foxes, my boy, and they are not so kind as to give away everything they have and be penniless.”

Gremio exited.

Tranio said, “May vengeance be wreaked on your crafty withered hide! You are right. I have promised more than I can deliver. I have bluffed with a card that is a ten-spot — a card of lesser value than a Jack! It is my intention to do my master Lucentio good. The only thing that can be done now is for the pretend Lucentio — me — to get a pretend father. I will have to find someone to pretend to be Lucentio’s father, Vincentio. That will be a wonder. Fathers commonly do get — that is, beget — their children; but in this case of wooing, a child shall get a father, if my cunning helps me to succeed in this plan.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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