Shakespeare’s play, The Taming of the Shrew, contains many themes that raise questions within the audience’s mind. The theme that I will focus on is the theme of falconry. The image of falconry is used in the play as a metaphor for the characters Petruchio and Katherina, who are the two characters that are focused on the most in the play. This shows us as the audience that the image of falconry is an important aspect in the play. The theme of falconry is first introduced in the induction scenes. In these scenes, the character Christopher Sly is being made to believe that he is a lord when he is in fact just a pitiable, drunken man.
This relates to the rest of the play as Sly is being tamed just as Katherina is. The way in which the other characters convince Sly that he is lord is to dress him like a lord and treat him like a lord. They ask him, ‘Dost thou love hawking? ‘ which shows us as the audience that hawking would be a sport of a wealthy and noble gentleman. The character Sly is successfully convinced that he is a Lord, we can see this from the quotation, ‘Upon my life, I am a lord indeed,’ which foreshadows to the result of the taming of Katherina’s character.
As we have been shown in the induction scene, falconry is seen as being the sport of kings and noble men. It is a fascinating co-operation between man and bird. This describes well what happens in the play as we the audience find it fascinating as to how Petruchio will tame Katherina and how she will react towards his actions and how it turns out to be a cooperation between the two of them. The falconer was seen as a figure of authority, we can see that this is true of Petruchio as he commands the obedience of Katherina.
We can see this in the play in Act 4 Scene 5 when Petruchio demands that Katherina agree with whatever he says, ‘Now by my mother’s son, and that’s myself, It shall be moon, or star, or what I list’. The falcon has long been seen as the symbol of high birth and luxury, and its care and training have always been given particular importance. This is true of Katherina as her father is an important figure so she has been of high birth and her taming is important in the play as it is the main event that takes place.
The falcon is seen to be a highly skilled hunter, we can see this in Katherina as all the way through the play, her character has been aggressive and witty and the way in which she treats people is almost as if she is hunting or attacking them. For example, in Act 2 Scene 1 when Hortensio enters with a lute broken over his head after being attacked by Katherina when he has tried to give her a music lesson, he says, ‘for she hath broke the lute to me. ‘ In falconry, the falcon requires much human contact and careful attention on a daily basis, or it will quickly grow wild and therefore unreliable.
This relates to Katherina and Petruchio as Petruchio never breaks out of his ways of taming Katherina, we can see this as even when Katherina is starving, Petruchio will not let her eat until he believes that he has gained her complete obedience. For example in Act 4 Scene 1 when Petruchio’s servants bring out a meal for the couple, but Petruchio proclaims that the meat is not up to his satisfaction even though it is fine, he says, ‘Tis burnt, and so is all the meat. ‘ He says this so that the servants take back the food and Katherina can not eat anything, even though they have just arrived from a long and arduous journey.
The most significant reference to falconry in the play is in Petruchio’s soliloquy in Act 4 Scene 1. He says, ‘My falcon now is sharp and passing empty,’ this means that his falcon, Katherina, is extremely hungry as he has been depriving her of food. He then says, ‘And till stoop she must not be full-gorged,’ Stoop is used to describe the lure which is what the falcon must fly back to when its keeper calls. This is a metaphor for saying that until Katherina is ready to do as he tells her to, she shall not eat.
Petruchio continues to tell the audience of the ways in which he will tame Katherina, ‘Another way I have to man my haggard,’ A haggard is described as a wild hawk. He tells the audience that he also plans to deprive her of sleep until she will do as he tells her, ‘Last night she slept not, nor tonight she shall not. ‘ Deprivation is another way in which a falcon is trained. We know that Petruchio’s actions are with good intent as he says, ‘That all is done in reverend care of her. ‘ We as the audience are also told that Petruchio does not expect his plan to run smoothly as he says; ‘…
as we watch these kites That bate and beat and will not be obedient. ‘ Petruchio knows that Katherina will not be tamed without a fight but that he is prepared for all that she can throw at him. We as the audience also expect with full confidence that Katherina will not be tamed easily from what we have seen of her behavior previously in the play. For example, in act 2 Scene 1 we see Katherina striking her sister Bianca as Bianca will not tell Katherina which man she likes the most. We hear Katherina say, ‘Minion, thou liest. ‘ Minion in this context is taken to mean a lower person.
This example shows us Katherina’s violence and anger at the beginning of the play, before she meets Petruchio. Before a falcon is trained, it is lacking in any kind of quality that would enable it to contribute to anything. The characters Katherina and Sly are like an untrained falcon in this way at the beginning of the play. As their wild behaviour means that they do not contribute to society. For example, in the induction scenes, we first see Sly causing trouble to a hostess who says, ‘I know my remedy, I must go fetch the third borough.
‘ By this she means that she must fetch a policeman to deal with Sly. This shows us that not only does the character Sly not contribute to society, but he is also a trouble maker. The character lacks etiquette, decency and other such qualities that a man at the time would need to embody to be considered a true gentleman. We are also shown the character Katherina causing trouble and displaying her rude nature. For example in Act 2 Scene 1, we see Katherina talking to Petruchio for the first time and she says to him, ‘Moved, in good time!
Let him that moved you hither remove you hence. ‘ This shows us as the audience that Katherina, like Sly, is also lacking in decency and etiquette as well as politeness and silence that was seen to be attractive in a woman at the time that the play was written. We know that these were the desired features in a woman as it is these features exactly that first attracts Lucentio to Bianca, ‘But in the other’s silence do I see maid’s mild behaviour and sobriety. ‘ This is said in Act 1 Scene 1 by Lucentio when he first sees Bianca.