David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scene 3

 — 4.3 —

In a room of Petruchio’s house, a very hungry Katherina was attempting to get the servant Grumio to bring her food. This attempt was doomed to be unsuccessful because Grumio was obeying the instructions of Petruchio, part of whose plan to tame the shrewish Katherina was to keep food from her.

“No, I will not bring you food,” Grumio said. “If I were to get caught, Petruchio would kill me.”

“The greater the wrong he does to me, the more spiteful Petruchio becomes,” Katherina said. “Did he marry me in order to starve me? Beggars who come to my father’s door and ask for food are immediately given a meal. If they are not, they are given charity elsewhere. But I, who have never learned how to beg,and who have never needed to beg, am starved for lack of food and giddy for lack of sleep. I am kept awake by loud oaths and fed with brawling. And what vexes me more than all these things is that he says that he does these things because he loves me with a perfect love. It is as if he believes that if I should sleep or eat, then I would get a deadly sickness or die immediately. Please go and get me something to eat. I don’t care what you get me, as long as it is wholesome food.”

“What do you say to a cooked calf’s foot?” Grumio asked.

“It is very good. Please let me have it.”

“I fear that it is a food that causes ill temper,” Grumio said. “What do you say to a fat tripe finely broiled?”

“I like it well. Good Grumio, bring me one.”

“I don’t know. I am afraid that it would cause you to be ill tempered. What do you say to a piece of beef and mustard?”

“It is a dish that I love to eat.”

“True, but the mustard is a little too hot.”

“Then bring me the beef without the mustard.”

 “No, I will not,” Grumio said. “You shall have mustard, or else you get no beef from Grumio.”

“Then bring me both, or just one of them, or any kind of food at all.”

“Why then, I will bring you the mustard without the beef.”

“Get away from me,” Katherina said, hitting Grumio. “You are a false deluding slave who feeds me only with words and not with food. May God bring sorrow upon you and all the pack of you who triumph and feel glad because I am miserable. Get out!”

Petruchio and Hortensio, who was visiting Petruchio, came into the room. They were carrying food.

“How are you, my Kate?” Petruchio said. “What, sweetie, are you depressed?”

Hortensio asked, “How are you?”

“I am cold because I have met with cold cheer,” Katherina replied.

“Pluck up your spirits, and look cheerfully upon me,” Petruchio said. “Here, love. You can see how diligent I am to fix this food myself and bring it to you. I am sure, sweet Kate, that this kindness merits thanks. What, not a word of thanks? I can see that you do not want this food and therefore I went to all this trouble for nothing. I see that I need to have this food taken away.”

“Please, let the food stay here,” Katherina said.

“The smallest service is repaid with thanks, and so shall my service be repaid before you touch the food.”

“I thank you, sir,” Katherina said.

“Signior Petruchio, you are to blame for Kate’s poor spirits,” Hortensio said. “Come, mistress Kate, I’ll join you for your meal.”

Petruchio was willing for Kate and him to go hungry, but he was not willing for a guest to go hungry, especially when the guest could help him in his plan to tame Katherina.

He whispered, “Do me a favor,Hortensio, and eat all the food. Do not let Kate have any of it.”

Petruchio said loudly, “Hortensio, may your courtesy do your gentle heart good! Kate, eat quickly. My honey love, we will return to your father’s house and enjoy ourselves while dressed as splendidly as the others there. We will have silken coats and hats and golden rings, with ruffs and cuffs and hooped skirts and things, with scarfs and fans and double change of fine clothing, with amber bracelets, beads, and lots of other girly things.”

As Petruchio talked, Hortensio ate most of the food. Kate got very little — Petruchio and Hortensio made sure of that.

Petruchio said, “Are you finished eating? The tailor is waiting for you. He will adorn your body with his finery and ruffles.”

The tailor entered the room, and Petruchio said, “Come, tailor, let us see these ornaments. Let us see the dress that you have made. Lay it out so we can see it.”

A hat maker also entered the room, and Petruchio asked, “What business have you here?”

The hat maker replied, “Here is the hat your worship ordered.”

Petruchio looked at the hat and pretended to dislike it.

He said, “Why, this was molded on a porridge bowl! It is a velvet dish! It is cheap and nasty! Why, it is a mollusk shell or a walnut shell. It is a knick-knack, a trifle, a piece of nonsense, a baby’s hat. Take it away! Come, let me have a bigger hat!”

Katherina said, “I will have no bigger hat. This size is fashionable, and gentlewomen wear such hats as these.”

Petruchio replied, “When you are gentle, you shall have one, too — but not until then.”

Hortensio thought, That will not be any time soon.

Katherina said, “Why, sir, I trust I may have permission to speak, and speak I will. I am no child. I am no babe. Your betters have endured hearing me say my mind,and if you cannot endure it, it is best that you stop your ears. My tongue will tell the anger that is in my heart — if I keep that anger hidden, my heart will break. Rather than have it break, I will speak as freely as I want, even if what I have to say is extreme.”

Petruchio pretended that Katherina had agreed with him that the hat was bad: “Why, what you say is true. This is a paltry hat, a custard-coffin — a crust for a custard — a bauble, a meat pie. I love you and your taste in hats — you hate this hat.”

“Whether you love me or love me not, I like the hat. And I will have it, or I will have none.”

Petruchio motioned for the hat maker to leave, and the hat maker obeyed.

The tailor had laid out the dress for inspection.

Petruchio said, “Let us look at the dress. Tailor, show it to us.”

Petruchio looked at the dress and pretended not to like it: “Have mercy, God! What kind of fancy dress is this? What’s this? A sleeve? It is like a small cannon. I see that you have pricked it open all over like an apple-tart. Here’s a snip and a nip and a cut and a slish and a slash — these holes resemble an incense-burner with a perforated top in a barber’s shop. Why, what in the devil’s name, tailor, do you call this?”

Hortensio thought, I can see that Kate is also not likely to have a new dress.

“You wanted me to make the dress properly and well, according to the fashion of this time,” the tailor said.

“So I did,” Petruchio said, “but if you remembered, I did not order you to spoil it for all time. Leave here and pass every street gutter as you hop off to your home. For you shall hop off without any business from me, sir. I want none of the clothing you make. Go now! Take this dress and do whatever you want with it!”

Katherina said to Petruchio, “I have never seen a better-fashioned dress. I have never seen a dress that is more elegant, more pleasing, or more commendable. Are you trying to make a puppet — an easily manipulated doll — out of me?”

Petruchio pretended that she was talking about the tailor: “Why, that is true; the tailor is trying to make a puppet out of you.”

The tailor replied, “She says that youintend to make a puppet out of her.”

“Oh, monstrous arrogance!” Petruchio said. “You lie, you thread, you thimble — you are a yard, three-quarters of a yard, a half-yard, a quarter of a yard, one-sixteenth of a yard! You are a flea, a nit, a thin-legged insect! Am I to be defied in my own house by a spool of thread? Get out, you rag, you fragment, you remnant, or I shall so beat you with your yardstick that for the rest of your life you will think twice before prattling on this way. I tell you that you have ruined her dress.”

“You are deceived,” the tailor said. “The dress has been made according to the order given to my boss. Grumio gave us the order about how it should be done.”

“I gave him no order; I gave him the fabric,” Grumio said.

“But how did you want the dress to be made?” the tailor asked.

“Sir, with needle and thread,” Grumio replied.

“But did you not request that the fabric be cut?”

“You have bedecked many things, haven’t you?” Grumio asked.

“Yes, I have decorated many dresses with trimmings,” the tailor said.

“Well, do not try to bedeck me. I will not be decked in a fight,” Grumio said, “no matter how many men you have decked. I will not stand for it! I asked your boss to cut out the dress, but I did not ask him to cut it to pieces; therefore, you lie.”

“I have right here the written order for the dress,” the tailor said. “It tells in what fashion the dress should be made.”

“Read it out loud,” Petruchio ordered.

“The note lies if it says that I ordered the dress to be cut to pieces,” Grumio said.

The tailor read out loud, “First, a loose-bodied dress—”

Grumio objected, “A loose-bodied dress! That is a dress for a woman with a loose body — a loose woman! Master, if ever I said loose-bodied dress, sew me in the skirts of it, and beat me to death with a bobbin of brown thread. I said a dress, not a loose-bodied dress.”

“Proceed,” Petruchio ordered.

The tailor read, “With a small compassed cape.”

“I confess that I ordered the cape,” Grumio said.

With a wide sleeve,” the tailor read.

“I confess that I ordered two sleeves,” Grumio said.

“The sleeves elaborately cut,” the tailor read.

“There is the villainy — there is the problem,” Petruchio said.

“There is an error in the order, sir,” Grumio said. “I ordered that the sleeves should be cut out and then sewed up again. I will prove it in combat even though the tailor arms his little finger with a thimble.”

“Everything that I have read is true,” the tailor said. “If I had you in the right place — a court of law — the judge would agree with me, and not with you.”

“I am ready to fight you now,” Grumio said. “You take the order form, I will take your yardstick, and let us fight each other without mercy. You have no need to hold back when you fight me.”

“May God have mercy,” Hortensio said. “The tailor won’t have a chance if he is armed only with a piece of paper.”

“Well, sir, in brief, the dress is not for me,” Petruchio said to the tailor. “I do not want it.”

“You are in the right, sir,” Grumio said. “It is for my mistress — your wife.”

“Take the dress back to your boss and let him do what he wants with it,” Petruchio said to the tailor. “Take it away for your master’s use.”

“Isn’t that dirty?” Grumio asked.

“What do you mean?” Petruchio asked.

“You want this tailor to take away the dress for his master’s use. That sounds like you want him to take the dress off a woman so that his master can use her,” Grumio replied. “I am shocked!”

Petruchio ignored Grumio’s coarse jesting and whispered, “Hortensio, say that you will see that the tailor will be paid.”

To the tailor, Petruchio said, “Go and take the dress away. Be gone, and say no more.”

Hortensio whispered to the tailor, “Do not worry. I’ll pay you for the dress tomorrow. Do not be offended by Petruchio’s rash and inconsiderate words. Go now, and send my regards to your boss.”

The tailor exited.

Petruchio said, “Well, come, my Kate; we will go to your father’s house wearing these respectable everyday clothes. Our purses shall be rich because we have not spent our money, and our garments will be poor. Our minds are more important than our bodies, and a rich mind will adorn the body. Just like the Sun breaks through the darkest clouds, honor can be seen through the meanest clothing. Is the loudly chattering blue jay more precious than the beautifully singing but plainly adorned morning lark because its feathers are more beautiful? Or is the poisonous adder better than the tasty eel because its patterned skin pleases the eye? Of course not, good Kate. And you are not the worse for this poor and mean clothing. If you consider your clothing to be shameful, blame it on me. I believe that quality of character is all and quality of clothing is nothing. And therefore let us be merry. We will leave immediately and go to your father’s house to feast and be entertained.”

He ordered a servant, “Go, call my men, and let us go straight to Kate’s father. Bring our horses to the end of Long Lane. We will walk there and mount our horses. Let’s see, I think it is now around seven o’clock, and we will probably arrive at Kate’s father’s house by dinnertime.”

“I do assure you, sir, that it is almost two o’clock,” Katherina said. “And it will be suppertime before we arrive there.”

Petruchio replied, “It shall be seven or I will not mount my horse. Look, Kate, whatever I speak, or do, or think to do, you are always saying that I am wrong.”

He told his servants, “Forget it. I will not go to Kate’s father’s house today; and before I do, it shall be whatever o’clock I say it is.”

Hortensio thought, Why, Petruchio intends to command the Sun to be whatever o’clock he says it is.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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