David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: A Retelling in Prose — Act 3, Scene 2

 — 3.2 —

It was the Sunday during which Petruchio and Katherina were supposed to be married, but Petruchio had not shown up. Baptista, Gremio, Tranio, Katherina, Bianca, Lucentio, and others were waiting for Petruchio to show up, and they were beginning to think that he had jilted the bride on her wedding day.

Baptista said to the disguised Tranio, whom of course he thought was Lucentio, “Signior Lucentio, this is the appointed day during which Katherina and Petruchio should be married, and yet we have not heard from our supposed-to-be son-in-law. What will people say? What mockery and gossip will occur because no bridegroom is here although the priest is ready to ask him if he takes Katherina to be his lawfully wedded wife? Lucentio, do you have anything to say about this shame of ours?”

Katherina interrupted and said, “It is no shame of ours because it is nobody’s shame but mine. I have been, truly, forced to promise to marry — although my heart opposes it — a mad-brain rude lout who lacks all control. He deliberately wooed in haste and means to wed at leisure. I told you that he was a frantic fool, hiding his bitter jests in blunt behavior. He wants a reputation as a merry fellow, and so he woos a thousand women, appoints the day of marriage, makes feasts, invites friends, and announces the engagement — and he does not intend ever to wed those women whom he has wooed. Now the world will point at poor Katherina, and say, ‘Look, there is mad Petruchio’s wife — if he ever comes and marries her!’”

Tranio tried to comfort them: “Be patient, good Katherina, and Baptista, too. I swear by my life that Petruchio means only the best for you, despite whatever ill fortune is keeping him from keeping his word. Although Petruchio is blunt, I know that he is very wise. Although Petruchio is fond of merry jokes, I know that he is honorable.”

Katherina said, “I wish that I had never seen him!”

Crying, she left. Bianca and some other women followed her.

Baptista said, “Go, girl. I cannot blame you for crying now for such an injury would vex even a saint, so no wonder it vexes a shrew of your hot temper.”

Biondello ran up to Baptista and the others, shouting, “Baptista, I have news. I have old news that you have never heard before!”

“If I have never heard it before, it is new news,” Baptista said. “How is it possible that you have new news and old news?”

“Why, is it not new news to hear of Petruchio’s coming?” Biondello replied.

“Has he come?”

“Why, no, sir.”

“What are you saying, then?”

“He is coming.”

“When will he be here?”

“When he stands where I am and sees you there.”

Tranio interrupted and said, “That is your new news. Now what is your old news?”

“Did I say oldnews? I meant to say oddnews. Know that Petruchio is wearing lots of old and odd clothes, although he has a new hat. He is wearing an old jacket. He is wearing an old pair of pants that have been turned inside out because they have been worn so much. His boots are so old that they have been used to store pieces of candles — one boot is buckled, and the other boot is laced. He is carrying an old rusty sword taken out of the town-armory — the sword has a broken hilt and lacks a sheath. His garters are broken and do not hold up his stockings.

“His horse has an old moth-eaten saddle and stirrups that do not match. The horse’s bit is broken, and the halter is made out of low-quality sheepskin instead of leather — the sheepskin has often been broken and then repaired with knots. The horse’s girth strap has been repaired six times, and the horse’s crupper — the strap that goes under the horse’s tail and helps to steady the saddle — is made of velvet and bears studs that form the two initials of the woman who used to own it. Here and there packthread has been used to keep the whole setup from falling to pieces.

“As for Petruchio’s horse, it has a dislocated hip, a swollen jaw, and diseases of the mouth. It has a runny nose. It staggers and has tumors on its fetlocks. It has swollen leg-joints and is yellow with jaundice. It has swellings behind the ears and is food for parasites. Its back sags, and a shoulder is dislocated. Finally, it is knock-kneed.”

“Who is coming with Petruchio?” Baptista asked.

“Sir, his lackey, Grumio,” Biondello said. “He is dressed up like the horse. He has a linen stocking on one leg and a woolen stocking on the other. He is using red and blue strips of cloth as his garters. His hat is old, and he has a weird ornament pinned on it instead of the usual feather. He is a monster, a true monster, in his choice of apparel — he is not like a Christian footboy or a gentleman’s lackey.”

Tranio said, “Some odd mood is making Petruchio act and dress like this, although he often dresses badly.”

Baptista said, “I am glad that he has come, howsoever he comes.”

Biondello said, “Why, sir, he comes not.”

“Didn’t you say that he is coming?”

“What? That Petruchio has come?”

“Yes, that Petruchio has come.”

“No, sir,” Biondello said. “I said that his horse is coming, with him on his back.”

“Isn’t that the same thing?” Baptista said.

Biondello sang, “Nay, by Saint Jamy,

I hold you a penny,

A horse and a man

Are more than one,

And yet not many.”

Petruchio and Grumio arrived, dressed as Biondello had described them.

“Come, where are these lads?” Petruchio shouted. “Who’s at home?”

“You are welcome, sir,” Baptista said.

“And yet I come not well,” Petruchio replied.

“And yet you do not limp, so you have been well enough to come,” Baptista said.

Tranio said to Petruchio, “If by come not well, you mean that you came here not well dressed, I agree with you. You are not dressed as well as I wish you were.”

“Even if I were better dressed, I would still rush to be here,” Petruchio said. “But where is Kate? Where is my lovely bride? How is my father? Gentlemen, it seems to me that you frown and are displeased. Why is everyone in this worthy group staring at me as if they saw some wondrous omen, some comet bringing a warning of upcoming disaster, or some unusual portent?”

Baptista replied, “Why, sir, you know this is your wedding-day. You have arrived late for your wedding. At first we were sad, fearing you would not come. Now we are sadder because you have come so unprepared for your wedding. Change your clothing. What you are wearing is shameful and a disgrace to someone of your social class. What you are wearing is an eyesore, especially at a wedding!”

Tranio said, “Please tell us what important reason has made you arrive so late for your wedding and made you come here dressed like this? This is unlike yourself.”

“The important reason is tedious to tell and harsh to hear,” Petruchio said.

This is true, he thought. I am late and badly dressed in order to out-shrew the shrew who will be my wife. She has made others uncomfortable with her shrewishness, and I will make her uncomfortable with my shrewishness. I intend to teach her how she has made other people feel so that she will reform her behavior. Once she has thoroughly learned that lesson, I will cast off my assumed behavior and be a husband whom she can be proud of.

Petruchio added, “Let it be enough for now that I have come to keep my word to marry Kate even though I have been forced to change part of my plan — as you can see, I did not buy the new clothing I told you that I was planning to buy. When we have more leisure, I will explain myself and excuse my actions so well that you will be happy and satisfied with my explanation. But where is Kate? I have been too long away from her. The morning is passing, and it is time we were at church.”

Tranio said, “Do not see your bride while you are wearing these disrespectable clothes. Go to my bedchamber, and put on some of my clothes.”

“No,” Petruchio said. “Believe me when I tell you that I will visit Kate while I am dressed like this.”

Baptista said, “I trust that you will not marry her while you are dressed in these clothes.”

“Indeed, I will marry her while I am dressed in these clothes,” Petruchio said, “so talk no more about my clothing. She will be married to me — not to my clothes. I can change my clothing easily and make it better. Kate will soon wear out a certain part of my body in bed and if I could soon revive that part of my body — as soon as I can revive your opinion of my clothes by putting on different clothing — it will be good for Kate and better for me. But I am a fool to chat with you when I should bid good morning to my bride, and seal the title with a loving kiss! Very soon, she will bear the title of my wife.”

Petruchio and Grumio exited.

Tranio said, “Petruchio has a reason to be dressed so madly. We will persuade him, if possible, to put on better clothing before he goes to church.”

“I will follow him and see what happens,” Baptista said.

Baptista, Gremio, and everyone except Tranio and Lucentio exited.

Tranio said, “You already have Bianca’s love, but now we need her father’s approval. To get her father’s approval, as I explained previously to you, I must get a man — what kind of man does not matter because we can teach him to act the way he needs to act — to pretend to be your father, Vincentio of Pisa. He will promise Baptista that the dower for Bianca will consist of even greater sums than I have already promised. That way, you will get your wish and marry sweet Bianca with her father’s consent.”

Lucentio replied, “If my fellow tutor, Litio, were not watching Bianca’s steps so closely, it would be a good idea, I think, for she and I to steal our marriage by eloping. Once the marriage has been performed, let all the world say no. I will keep the wife who is mine, no matter what all the world says.”

“I will look into the possibility of your eloping,” Tranio said. “We will outwit the greybeard Gremio; Bianca’s watchful father, Baptista; and the crafty and amorous musician Litio. All of this we will do for your sake.”

Gremio walked over to Tranio and Lucentio.

Tranio asked, “Signior Gremio, have you come from the church?”

“Yes, and as willingly as I ever came from school.”

“Are the bride and bridegroom returning soon?”

“A bridegroom, you say? He is a groom indeed — he is like the groom who cleans a stable. He is a grumbling groom, and that is something that Katherina is quickly learning. He is even more ill tempered than she is.”

“Even more ill tempered than Katherina?” Tranio said. “That is impossible.”

“Why, he’s a devil, a devil, a very fiend.”

“Why, she’s a devil, a devil, the devil’s dam. She is the mother of the devil.”

“Ha! She’s a lamb, a dove, a harmless innocent compared to him!” Gremio said. “Let tell you, Sir Lucentio, about the wedding. When the priest asked him if he took Katherina as his wife, he replied, ‘Yes, damn it!’ He swore so loudly that the shocked priest dropped the Holy Bible. When he stooped to pick it up, Petruchio — that mad-brained bridegroom — hit him and made the priest and the Holy Bible fall again. Petruchio then said, ‘Now help pick them up, if anyone wants to.’”

“What did Katherina say when the priest rose again?”

“She said nothing,” Gremio replied. “All she did was tremble and shake because Petruchio stamped his feet and swore as if he thought that the vicar meant to cheat him in some way. But after all the religious rites were done, Petruchio called for wine: ‘A toast!’ He acted as if he were on board a ship, carousing with his mates after a storm. He chugged the wine and then threw the dregs in the sexton’s face, giving as his reason that the sexton’s beard grew thinly and seemed to require nourishment to grow thicker. This done, he took his bride, Katherina, about the neck and kissed her lips with such a loud smack that the church echoed. Seeing this, I left because I was embarrassed for Katherina. Coming after me, I know, the whole crowd of guests will soon arrive. Such a mad marriage as this has never been seen before.”

At their church marriage, Petruchio and Katherina had made their vows before God. The vows had come from the 1559 Book of Common Prayer.

Petruchio had vowed before God, “I, Petruchio,take you, Katherina,to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health, to love and to cherish, until death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance, and I give you my true and faithful word to keep this vow.”

Katherina had vowed before God, “I, Katherina,take you, Petruchio, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health, to love, cherish, and obey, until death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance, and I give you my true and faithful word to keep this vow.”

Katherina had seemed to respect the wedding ceremony, and she had made the vow, but she did not seriously take the vow that she had made, as her actions would soon show. She had promised to love, honor, and obey her husband, but very quickly, she would refuse to do those things.

Petruchio had seemed to make a mockery of the wedding ceremony, but he had made the vow, and he seriously took the vows that he and Katherina had made, as his actions would soon show. If he did not love and cherish his wife, he would ignore her and allow her to continue to be a shrew, but he instead would take great pains to improve her character — she would become a wife who seriously took the vow she had made before God.

Gremio said, “Listen! I hear the minstrels playing. The bride, groom, and guests are coming.”

As music played,Petruchio, Katherina, Bianca, Baptista, Hortensio, Grumio, and many other people, including guests, arrived.

Petruchio said, “Gentlemen and friends, I thank you for your pains in preparing this wedding. I know that you think to dine with me today, and I know that you have prepared a great wedding feast, but I need to leave quickly and so now I mean to take my leave.”

“Is it possible you will go away tonight?” Baptista asked.

“I must go away today, before night comes,” Petruchio said. “Don’t be surprised; if you knew my business, you would beg me to go rather than to stay.”

This is true, he thought. My business is to tame my shrew of a wife and make her a good wife who will respect the vow she made before God.

He added, “And, honest company, I thank you all. You have seen me give myself away to this most patient, sweet, and virtuous wife. Dine with my father, and drink a toast to me. I must leave, and so I say farewell to you all.”

“Let us entreat you to stay until after dinner,” Tranio said.

“I still must leave,” Petruchio said.

“Let me entreat you,” Gremio said.

“I still must leave,” Petruchio said.

“Let me entreat you,” Katherina said.

“I am content,” Petruchio said.

“Are you content to stay?”

“I am content that you have entreated me to stay, but yet I will not stay, no matter how much you entreat me.”

“If you love me, stay,” Katherina said.

“Grumio, bring my horses,” Petruchio said.

“Yes, sir, they are ready. The oats have eaten the horses.”

“No,” Katherina, who had just minutes ago vowed to obey her husband, said. “Do whatever you will, I will not go today. In fact, I will not go tomorrow. In fact, I will not go until it pleases me. The door is open, sir; there lies your way. Leave now, and you will start your journey with clean boots. As for me, I will not leave until it pleases me to leave. It is likely that you will prove to be an overbearing, surly bridegroom, since you are throwing your weight around so boldly.”

Petruchio said, “Kate, be content. Please, do not be angry.”

“I will be angry,” Katherina said. “What business is it of yours?”

Anticipating an interruption, she said, “Father, be quiet. My husband will wait until I say it is time to leave.”

Gremio anticipated a scene: “Now she’ll get it!”

Katherina said, “Gentlemen, go to the bridal dinner. I see that a woman may be made a fool, if she lacks the spirit to resist.”

Petruchio said, “They shall go to the bridal dinner, Kate, at your command.”

He said to the guests, “Obey the bride, all of you who are celebrating her marriage. Go to the feast, revel and riot, carouse in full measure to celebrate the passing of her virginity. Be mad and be merry, or go hang yourselves. But as for my lovely Kate, she must go with me.”

He added to the guests, and to Katherina, as he pretended that the guests were going to come between his wife and him, “No, do not defy me. Do not look offended; do not stamp your feet, or stare, or fret. I will be master of what is my own. She is my goods, my moveable possessions; she is my house, my household stuff, my field, my barn, my horse, my ox, my ass, my anything.”

Petruchio knew the Bible well, including the Tenth Commandment: “You shalt not covet your neighbor’s house, you shalt not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Petruchio said, “Here my wife stands. If anyone dares to touch her, I will bring a legal action against even the proudest man who tries to stop me from leaving Padua and taking my wife with me. Grumio, draw your weapon, for we are beset by thieves. Rescue your mistress, if you be a man.”

He pretended that his wife was afraid that the wedding guests were going to keep her from joining her husband: “Fear not, sweet wench. They shall not touch you, Kate. I will shield you against a million like them.”

He carried her away as Grumio “protected” them with his drawn but broken sword.

Baptista watched them leave, realized that his daughter had already broken her promise to obey her husband, remembered that he hoped that Petruchio would be the right husband — a husband who could tame her and whom she could respect — for his shrewish daughter, and said, “Let them go. They are certainly a ‘quiet’ and ‘peaceful’ couple.”

Gremio said, “If they had not left so quickly, I would have died from laughing so much.”

“Of all mad matches, this is the maddest,” Tranio said.

Lucentio asked Bianca, “What is your opinion of your sister and her marriage?”

“I believe that, being mad herself, she is madly mated.”

Gremio said, “In my opinion, Petruchio is Kated. Either they are equally matched, or one of them has met his match. Either way, Petruchio is mated with Kate.”

Baptista said, “Neighbors and friends, although the bride and bridegroom will not be eating with us, you know that we have no lack of delicacies at the feast.”

He added, “Lucentio, you shall sit in the bridegroom’s seat and Bianca shall take her sister’s seat.”

Tranio asked, “Shall sweet Bianca practice how to bride it?”

“She shall, Lucentio,” Baptista replied. “Come, gentlemen, let’s go.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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