David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scene 2 and Afterword

— 5.2 —

In Lucentio’s house, everyone was celebrating the marriage of Lucentio and Bianca. Many people were present, including Baptista, Vincentio, Gremio, Petruchio and Katherina, Hortensio and the widow he had married, Lucentio and Bianca, Biondello, and Grumio. Vincentio had decided not to severely punish Tranio, who was now bringing in dessert.

Lucentio said, “At last, though after a long time, our jarring notes are in harmony, and it is time, now that the raging war is done, to smile at escapes and dangers that have passed.

“My fair Bianca, bid my father welcome, while I with the same courtesy welcome your father.

“Brother Petruchio, sister Katherina, and you, Hortensio, with your loving widow, feast with your best appetite, and welcome to my house.

“This dessert will finish the meal that began with our great good reception at Baptista’s house. Please, everyone, sit down. We now sit to chat as well as eat.”

Petruchio, who had been stuffing himself — so had Katherina — said, “We do nothing but sit and sit, and eat and eat!”

Baptista said, “Padua is famous for this kind of hospitality, son Petruchio.”

“Padua contains everything that is kind,” Petruchio replied.

Hortensio said, “For both our sakes, I wish that word ‘kind’ were true.”

“Now, by my life,” Petruchio said, “Hortensio fears his widow. He wishes that his widow were kind.”

Not quite hearing, the widow replied, “Did you say that my husband frightens me? Believe me when I say that I am not afraid of him.”

“That is sensible,” Petruchio said, “but you did not hear me correctly. I meant that Hortensio is afraid of you.”

The widow replied, “He who is giddy thinks the world turns round.”

Petruchio joked, “Roundly — that is, smartly — replied.”

Katherina, however, did not like what the widow had said. If a giddy man thinks that the world turns round, then a man who is afraid of his wife thinks that other men are afraid of their wives.Why would a man be afraid of his wife? Because his wife is a shrew.

She asked the widow, “What do you mean by your comment that ‘he who is giddy thinks the world turns round’?”

The widow replied, “I mean what I conceive by your husband and his comment about Hortensio.”

“Conceive by Kate’s husband?” Petruchio said. “Why, that is me! How do you, Hortensio, like your wife’s conceiving by me? Shall you soon hear the pitter-patter of little feet?”

“My wife means that she conceived what she believes by hearing your comment,” Hortensio said.

“Very well interpreted, Hortensio,” Petruchio said. “Kiss him for that, good widow.”

Katherina repeated, “‘He who is giddy thinks the world turns round.’ Please, tell me what you meant by that.”

The widow, who well knew Katherina’s reputation as a shrew, replied, “Your husband, being troubled with a shrew, projects his own trouble onto my husband, and now you know my meaning.”

“It is a very mean — a very contemptible — meaning,” Katherina said.

“Yes, it is mean,” the widow said. “I mean you.”

“I am mean indeed — when it comes to you,” Katherina said.

“Catfight! You tell her, Kate!” Petruchio said.

“You tell her, widow!” Hortensio said.

“I bet a hundred marks that my Kate defeats the widow,” Petruchio said. “My Kate will put her down.”

“That’s my job,” Hortensio said. “I will put the widow down on her back and do what husbands do.”

“That is your office, and so you are an officer,” Petruchio said. “Let me drink to you.”

He drank.

Baptista asked Gremio, “How do you like these quick-witted folks?”

“Believe me, sir, they like to butt their heads together.”

“Head and butt!” Bianca said. “A quick-witted person would say that those butt-heads are likely to have heads with horns — cuckolds’ horns.

“Ah, mistress bride,” Vincentio said, “Has that awakened you?”

“Yes, it has awakened me, but it has not frightened me,” Bianca replied. “Therefore, I’ll go to sleep again.”

“No,” Petruchio said. “Don’t go back to sleep. Since you have awakened and made a jest, I will target you with a shrewd jest or two of my own.”

“Am I your target? Am I a bird that you are hunting?” Bianca asked. “I will move my bush and go to another bush; if you want, you can follow me and draw your bow. Please pardon me.”

Bianca, Katherina, and the widow went into another room, leaving the men behind.

“She has forestalled me,” Petruchio said. “Signior Tranio, Bianca is the bird you aimed at, although you did not hit her, and therefore let us drink to all who shot at her and missed.”

Tranio replied, “I acted like a greyhound that Lucentio had freed from the leash. I ran after Bianca but made sure that Lucentio got the catch.”

“That is a good swift simile,” Petruchio said, “but something currish — pun definitely intended.”

Tranio said, “It is good, sir, that you did your own hunting, but it is thought that your deer — that is, dear — holds you at bay. Does she wear the pants in your family?”

“Petruchio!” Baptista said. “Tranio got you!”

Lucentio said, “Thank you for that jest, good Tranio.”

“Confess,” Hortensio said. “Hasn’t Tranio hit his target?”

“It is a notable quip, I agree,” Petruchio said. “However, although it hit its target, it bounced off me and ten to one it hit one of you and stuck there.”

“Seriously,” Baptista said, “I know my daughter Katherina, and good Petruchio, I think you have the most thoroughgoing shrew of anyone here.”

“Well, I say that I don’t,” Petruchio said. “But let’s put it to the test. Let each of us send for his wife, and he whose wife is the most obedient and comes quickest when he sends for her shall win the wager that we will propose.”

“Good idea,” Hortensio said. “What wager will we make?”

Lucentio said, “Twenty crowns.”

“Twenty crowns!” Petruchio said. “I’ll venture that much on my hawk or hound, but twenty times that much on my wife.”

“Make it a hundred crowns,” Lucentio said.

“Agreed,” Hortensio said.

“Agreed,” Petruchio said. “We have made our bet.”

“Who will go first?” Hortensio asked.

“I will,” Lucentio replied.

He ordered, “Biondello, go to Bianca and ask her to come to me.”

“I will,” Biondello said, exiting.

“Son, I will assume half of your bet,” Baptista said to Lucentio.

“No, I will take all the risk and all the profit for myself,” Lucentio said. “I am sure that Bianca will come.”

Biondello came back, alone.

“What happened?” Lucentio asked.

“Sir, my mistress sends you word that she is busy and she cannot come,” Biondello replied.

Petruchio laughed and said, “What! She is busy and she cannot come! Is that the answer you were expecting?”

Gremio said, “At least it is a polite answer. You better pray to God that your own wife will not send you a worse one.”

“I expect to receive a better answer,” Petruchio said.

Hortensio said, “Biondello, go and entreat my wife to come to me immediately.”

Petruchio said, “‘Entreat’? Once she hears that, your widow must come, I suppose.”

Hortensio said, “I am afraid, sir, that no matter what you do, your own wife will not come to you when asked.”

Biondello came back, alone.

“Now, where’s my wife?” Hortensio said.

“She says that you have some kind of practical joke in mind, and so she will not come. She told me to tell you to come to her,” Biondello said.

“Worse and worse; she will not come! Oh, such a reply is vile, intolerable, and not to be endured!” Petruchio said. “Grumio, go to your mistress and tell her that I command her to come to me.”

Grumio exited.

Hortensio said, “I know what your wife’s answer will be.”

“What?”

“She will not come.”

“Then the fouler fortune is mine, and that’s all there is to it.”

Baptista looked up and said, “I don’t believe it! Katherina is coming!”

Katherina asked Petruchio, “What may I do for you?”

“Where are your sister and Hortensio’s wife?”

“They are sitting and talking by the parlor fire.”

“Bring them here,” Petruchio said. “If they say that they will not come, force them to come here to their husbands. Go and bring them here right away.”

Katherina exited to get Bianca and the widow.

Lucentio said, “This is a wonder, if anyone wants to talk about a wonder.”

“And so it is,” Hortensio said. “I wonder what will be the result of it.”

Petruchio said, “The result will be a peaceful and loving and quiet life. We will have a Christian marriage, based on the rightful and proper authority of and love by a husband who earns respect and obedience and honor and love from his wife. To be short, our marriage will be all that is sweet and happy. Both she and I will take our marriage vows — the same marriage vows that all Christian husbands and wives make — seriously.”

“Good fortune has fallen on you, Petruchio,” Baptista said. “You have won the wager, and in addition to the money that you have won from Lucentio and Hortensio, I will give you twenty thousand crowns. This is an additional dowry for an additional daughter. The old Katherina is gone. Katherina is still a spirited Katherina, but she is a better Katherina.”

“I am not done yet,” Petruchio said. “I will demonstrate even better than I have that I have won the wager by displaying to better advantage Katherina’s new virtue and obedience. Look. She is coming now and is bringing the disobedient wives. She has made them come although they did not want to.”

Katherina had Bianca and the widow each by an arm, and she led them over to their husbands.

Petruchio said, “Katherina, your hat does not flatter you. It is a mere bauble. Throw it on the floor.”

Katherina threw her hat on the floor.

The widow said, “God, I hope that I never see any troubles until afterI act silly like that!”

“Do you men call this sillyaction a wife’s duty?” Bianca asked.

“I wish that your duty was as ‘silly,’” Lucentio said. “Your conception of a wife’s duty to her husband, fair Bianca, has cost me a hundred crowns since suppertime.”

“The more fool you, for betting on my duty,” Bianca said.

Petruchio said, “Katherina, please tell these headstrong women what duty they owe to their Lords and husbands.”

“You’re joking,” the widow said. “We will listen to no lectures.”

“Speak, Katherina,” Petruchio said, “and begin with the widow. Tell her what is her duty to her husband.”

“She shall not,” the widow said.

“I say that she shall,” Petruchio said, “and I insist that my wife begin by telling you your duty to your husband.”

Katherina thought about what the Bible says about a wife’s duty to her husband:

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” — Ephesians 5:22

“For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body.” — Ephesians 5:23

“Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be [that is, submit] to their own husbands in everything.” — Ephesians 5:24

She also thought about what the Bible says about a husband’s duty to his wife:

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;” — Ephesians 5:25

“Likewise, you husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” — 1 Peter 3:7

“But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” — 1 Timothy 5:8

And, of course, she thought about this verse:

“Nevertheless let everyone of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” — Ephesians 5:33

Katherina then gave a spirited defense of Christian marriage. She said to the widow, “Shame on you! Stop scowling! Unknit that threatening unkind brow,and stop darting scornful glances from those eyes to wound your Lord, your King, your Governor — your husband!Your scowls and frowns blot your beauty as frosts do stain the meadows. They destroy your reputation the way that whirlwinds shake fair buds,and in no sense are your scowls and frownsappropriate or amiable.”

Then Katherina began to talk to both the widow and Bianca:

“An ill-tempered woman is like a troubled and agitated fountain: muddy, ill-seeming, thick, and robbed of beauty. And while the fountain is like that, no one — no matter how dry or thirsty he is — will deign to sip or touch one drop of it.

“Your husband is your Lord, your life, your keeper, your head, your King; he is the one who cares for you, and to be able to take good care of you he commits his body to painful labor both by sea and land. He stays awake during storms at sea and during cold weather by day while you are lying warm at home, secure and safe. Your husband craves no other tribute at your hands but love, fair looks, and true obedience; this is too little payment for so great a debt.

“Such duty as the subject owes the Prince is what a wife owes to her husband, and when she is perverse, peevish, sullen, sour, and not obedient to his honest and honorable will, what is she but a foul and willful rebel and graceless traitor to her loving Lord?

“I am ashamed that women are so simple-minded as to offer war when and where they should kneel for peace — or to seek for rule, supremacy, and sway, when they are bound to serve, love, and obey.

“Why are our bodies made so soft and weak and smooth, unfitted to toil and trouble in the world, except for the reason that our soft conditions and our hearts should well agree with our external parts?

“Come, you perverse and incapable worms — you disobedient wives! My mind has been as big and proud as one of yours. My courage has been as great, and my intelligence and character perhaps even more suited than yours to shoot forth insulting words and shoot forth frowns. But now I see that our lances are only straws. Our strength is weak, and our weakness is past comparison. When wives wear the pants in the family, wives are at their worst and weakest.

“So suppress your pride, which is of no use to you. Metaphorically place your hands below your husband’s foot. To show my husband that I am loyal to him, I am willing to do that literally as well as metaphorically, if he should ever want me to.”

“Why, there’s a wife!” Petruchio said. “Come on, and kiss me, Kate.”

They kissed for real, lips on lips.

Lucentio said, “Well done and congratulations, old pal. You have won the bet, and you have won a good wife.”

Vincentio said, “It is good news when one’s children are well behaved and obedient.”

Lucentio said glumly, “But it is bad news when women and wives are badly behaved and disobedient.”

“Come, Kate, we will go to bed,” Petruchio said. “We three couples are all married, but I predict that two of the marriages will have problems.”

He said to Lucentio, who had married Bianca, whose name means white, “It was I who won the wager, though you won the white. Now that I am a winner, may God give you a good night!”

Petruchio and Katherina left to consummate their marriage.

Hortensio said, “Well, Petruchio, run along. You have tamed a curst shrew.”

Lucentio said, “It is a wonder, if you don’t mind my saying so, that she allowed herself to be tamed.”

 

AFTERWORD

As he took his bows at the end of the play, the actor playing Christopher Sly thought, I am glad that this is a play. Obviously, we can learn about Christian marriage from this play, but anyone who wants to do in real life what Petruchio does in this play is a complete and utter idiot.

In writing the above paragraph, I do not think that I am going against Shakespeare. I believe that the major purpose of the Christopher Sly introduction is to strongly tell the audience that The Taming of the Shrewis a play. What better way to emphasize that than to make The Taming of the Shrew a play within a play? The appearance of the actor playing Christopher Sly during the curtain call is another strong reminder that The Taming of the Shrew is a play. When the actor playing Christopher Sly appears during the curtain call, the male audience members should be thinking, “I have just seen a theatrical comedy. I better not try to imitate Petruchio at home!”

By the way, according to Wikipedia (“Marriage Vows”), “On September 12, 1922, the Episcopal Church voted to remove the word ‘obey’ from the bride’s section of wedding vows.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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