I am beginning to think that Shakespeare’s comedies are just not for me. In fairness to the Bard, however, I will admit my issues with his comedies seem rooted in what Elizabethan culture would have found funny. The Taming of the Shrew ends with a hilarious scene of Petruchio demonstrating for his bros how he was able to gaslight and bully Katharina into absolute submission to him. And when I say “hilarious”, I mean disturbing and gross. I guess the whole point of the play being how to break a woman’s spirit just hits this modern reader the wrong way.
Act V begins with a quick scene in which the real Vincentio has a confrontation with the impostor Lucentio, then the real Lucentio comes along and apologizes to his father, says he’s done it all for love, and let’s all go feast now. That little storyline is now wrapped up with a neat little bow. I guess.
The final scene of the play is at the feast honoring Lucentio and Bianca’s wedding. Hortensio and Lucentio get into a pissing contest with Petruchio, who says his wife, the titular shrew, is now the most obedient of the three new wives here tonight. They make a large bet with each other that each man can get his wife to attend to him the quickest and Petruchio shows that Katharina has been so cowed by his domineering ways that she comes to him readily and willingly. She then goes on to lecture Bianca and Hortensio’s wife for not being attentive to their respective men. Petruchio is happy and won the bet, and the play ends with him taking Katharina off to bed. Blech.
There is a bit of a dramatic postscript here, with an explanation that the drunkard watching the play has passed out again and is left back by the side of the road where he was found at the induction. The innkeeper wakes him and tells him to go home, and the drunk says he had the most amazing dream, and he is going to go home and teach his own wife to be better by using his just-learned skills. The innkeeper says he would like to hear more about this dream and leaves with him. End of play.
Throughout the play, I was not a fan of the Petruchio storyline, but I was able to ignore it in favor of the stories that seemed a bit more entertaining and much sillier. The ridiculous charade surrounding Lucentio so he could woo Bianca was goofy and fun and easy to digest. The final act of the play made it clear that Petruchio’s story really was the main thrust all along and the moral of the story is that men can and should bend independent women to their will. Why? Well, that’s not really answered here.
Stay tuned for my final thoughts on The Taming of the Shrew!