When Petruchio first presents himself as a suitor to Kate it is the first time in the play that anyone is paying some attention to Kate and not Bianca. When referring to Kate, Petruchio seeks to find Kate’s good side, ignoring her obvious flaws that everyone else is so quick to pick up on, and ostentatiously ignoring her bad reputation. When Gremio inquires if Hortensio has warned Petruchio of Kate’s renowned qualities before their first meeting Petruchio replies calmly without agitation, ‘ I know she is an irksome brawling scold.
If that be all, masters, I hear no harm. ‘ When the other men continue to heap indignity on Kate and persecute Petruchio for his interest in Kate he replies indignantly with a long speech detailing his past experiences; ‘Why came I hither but to that intent? Think you a little din can daunt my ears? … And do you tell me of a woman’s tongue, That gives not half so great a blow to hear As will a chestnut in a farmer’s fire? Tush, tush, fear boys with bugs! ‘ In this speech Petruchio is showing the other men how undaunted by Kate’s fearful reputation he is.
He puts things into perspective, detailing his past hardships and experiences and asserting that compared to that mentioned, Kate’s bold nature and scolding tongue arenothing to him, and he will succeed in taming her. By this speech we begin to understand Petruchio’s bold and flamboyant nature, his independent thought and that he is not one to believe idle gossip or to judge on first impressions. What also becomes apparent is the speed at which events move. Even when Hortensio has only just told him of Kate when he first arrives in Padua he wants to meet her:-
‘ I will not sleep, Hortensio, till I see her, And therefore let me be thus bold with you, To give you over at this first encounter, Unless you will accompany me thither. ‘ Petruchio is prepared to act very fast. He in this way disorientates Kate by working in such a rapid hurry that she does not have time to plot, back out or put him off. Kate is wooed and betrothed in one scene and married no less than one week later. When Petruchio first meets Baptista the dowry and marriage are agreed at great speed, Petruchio proposes this, ‘Signor Baptista, my business asketh haste …
‘ and Baptista being all too ready to get Kate off his hands is only to happy to obilge with the pace set by Petuchio. However, despite Petruchio’s sense of urgency and his fast pace even at this early stage of wooing where he has not even met Kate yet he is considering her welfare. No matter how badly he treats her, his long term aim is concern for her. ‘And for that dowry I’ll assure her of Her widowhood, be it that she survive me, In all my lands and leases whatsoever. Let specialities be therefore drawn between us, That covenants may be kept on either hand. ‘
Before Petruchio even meets Kate and begins wooing he declares how he is going to win Kate over; ‘woo her with some spirit’. Petruchio plans to turn everything that Kate says and does upside down, an attitude very difficult for even a shrew to fight with. He is going to pick a fight; having refused to judge Kate he wants to really find out about her character. Petruchio is himself considerably outrageous in his society and therefore not put off by her appearance or her curst tongue. In the ‘Great Wooing Scene’ Petruchio proves that whatever Kate does to be unpleasant he can do it twice as well, he will ‘out-Kate’ Kate.
If she is curst and rude, he will be ruder still. If she is shocking, he will shock her more. In every sense Petruchio is more than prepared to be more obscene and more outrageous than Kate. In this behaviour Petruchio proves he is a more than a worthy opponent for Kate. He is very strong-willed and strong-minded and can keep up with her witticisms and repartee. When considered those who are not able to keep up with Kate criticise, such as Hortensio and Gremio. Petruchio has a wicked sense of wit and humour the same as Kate, a sweet and obliging wife such as Bianca would not challenge or satisfy Petruchio.
Petruchio is also convinced from the beginning that once wooed Kate’s rage will subside and as it clears her better side will shine through. As Petruchio says to Baptista, ‘And when two raging fires meet together They do consume the thing that feeds their fury. ‘ During the wooing Petruchio also asserts his authority over Kate; he is happy to play along with her little game to a certain extent though not where physical violence is concerned. When she strikes him he makes it clear he will not tolerate any kind of physical violence:- ‘ I swear I’ll cuff you if you strike again. ‘ Petruchio is saying, ‘you hit me again and I’ll hit you back’.
In this way he proves that he is not afraid of her and that he will only use physical violence if provoked. The wedding scene is also used by Petruchio to further the taming. He turns up late to weaken and disorientate Kate putting himself in a position of power. Petruchio also shows complete contempt for social expectations by arriving in inappropriate clothes as Baptista expresses:- ‘Now sadder that you come so unprovided. Fie, doff this habit, shame to you estate, An eyesore to our solemn festival! ‘ He is an eccentric, a show-off and an extrovert. He goes over the top to declare that whatever she will do he will do it worse.
He is insulting the etiquette of the wedding tradition. Baptista and Tranio are especially disgusted by his appearance; they feel that he is insulting the decorum of the wedding ceremony and is making a mockery of the occasion. An interesting point in Shakespeare’s portrayal of the wedding is that it is not shown on stage. This is because in Elizabethan times it could not be shown on stage to make a complete mockery of the sincerity and religious nature of the wedding ceremony. The scene would have also been very long. Instead, we learn of the events at second hand from Gremio. Gremio tells us of Petruchio’s completely outrageous behaviour.
Petruchio has turned up appallingly late, in ridiculous dress, cuffed the priest, sworn in church, given Kate a huge smacking kiss and thrown the cup of wine in the sexton’s face with the frandulant justification that his beard needed feeding. Petruchio behaves in this unpredictable, scandalous way to pre-empt Kate and forestall her objections by being ruder then she can possibly be and not giving her the chance to object. Some may criticise that his behaviour is excessive however if Kate had refused to accept the vows it would have been very awkward even for Petruchio’s bold character to work around.