Charles and Mary Lamb. Tales from Shakespeare. 1878.
12. The Taming of the Shrew
KATHARINE, the Shrew, was the eldest daughter of Baptista, a rich gentleman of Padua. She was a lady of such an ungovernable spirit and fiery temper, such a loud-tongued scold, that she was known in Padua by no other name than Katharine the Shrew. It seemed very unlikely, indeed impossible, that any gentleman would ever be found who would venture to marry this lady, and therefore Baptista was much blamed for deferring his consent to many excellent offers that were made to her gentle sister Bianca, putting off all Biancas suitors with this excuse, that when the eldest sister was fairly off his hands, they should have free leave to address young Bianca.
It happened, however, that a gentleman, named Petruchio, came to Padua, purposely to look out for a wife, who, nothing discouraged by these reports of Katharines temper, and hearing she was rich and handsome, resolved upon marrying this famous termagant, and taming her into a meek and manageable wife. And truly none was so fit to set about this herculean labour as Petruchio, whose spirit was as high as Katharines, and he was a witty and most happy-tempered humourist, and withal so wise, and of such a true judgment, that he well knew how to feign a passionate and furious deportment, when his spirits were so calm that himself could have laughed merrily at his own angry feigning, for his natural temper was careless and easy; the boisterous airs he assumed when he became the husband of Katharine being but in sport, or more properly speaking, affected by his excellent discernment, as the only means to overcome, in her own way, the passionate ways of the furious Katharine.
A-courting then Petruchio went to Katharine the Shrew; and first of all he applied to Baptista her father, for leave to woo his gentle daughter Katharine, as Petruchio called her, saying archly, that having heard of her bashful modesty and mild behaviour, he had come from Verona to solicit her love. Her father, though he wished her married, was forced to confess Katharine would ill answer this character, it being soon apparent of what manner of gentleness she was composed, for her music-master rushed into the room to complain that the gentle Katharine, his pupil, had broken his head with her lute, for presuming to find fault with her performance; which, when Petruchio heard, he said, It is a brave wench; I love her more than ever, and long to have some chat with her; and hurrying the old gentleman for a positive answer, he said, My business is in haste, Signior Baptista, I cannot come every day to woo. You knew my father: he is dead, and has left me heir to all his lands and goods. Then tell me, if I get your daughters love, what dowry you will give with her. Baptista thought his manner was somewhat blunt for a lover; but being glad to get Katharine married, he answered that he would give her twenty thousand crowns for her dowry, and half his estate at his death: so this odd match was quickly agreed on, and Baptista went to apprise his shrewish daughter of her lovers addresses, and sent her in to Petruchio to listen to his suit.
In the mean time Petruchio was settling with himself the mode of courtship he should pursue; and he said, I will woo her with some spirit when she comes. If she rails at me, why then I will tell her she sings as sweetly as a nightingale; and if she frowns. I will say she looks as clear as roses newly washed with dew. If she will not speak a word, I will praise the eloquence of her language; and if she bids me leave her. I will give her thanks as if she bid me stay with her a week. Now the stately Katharine entered, and Petruchio first addressed her with Good morrow, Kate, for that is your name, I hear. Katharine, not liking this plain salutation, said disdainfully, They call me Katharine who do speak to me.You lie, replied the lover; for you are called plain Kate, and bonny Kate, and sometimes Kate the Shrew: but, Kate, you are the prettiest Kate in Christendom, and therefore, Kate, hearing your mildness praised in every town, I am come to woo you for my wife.
A strange courtship they made of it. She in loud and angry terms showing him how justly she had gained the name of Shrew, while he still praised her sweet and courteous words, till at length, hearing her father coming, he said (intending to make as quick a wooing as possible), Sweet Katharine, let us set this idle chat aside, for your father has consented that you shall be my wife, your dowry is agreed on, and whether you will or no, I will marry you.
And now Baptista entering, Petruchio told him his daughter had received him kindly, and that she had promised to be married the next Sunday. This Katharine denied, saying she would rather see him hanged on Sunday, and reproached her father for wishing to wed her to such a mad-cap ruffian as Petruchio. Petruchio desired her father not to regard her angry words, for they had agreed she should seem reluctant before him, but that when they were alone he had found her very fond and loving; and he said to her, Give me your hand, Kate; I will go to Venice to buy you fine apparel against our wedding-day. Provide the feast, father, and bid the wedding guests. I will be sure to bring rings, fine array, and rich clothes, that my Katharine may be fine; and kiss me, Kate, for we will be married on Sunday.
On the Sunday all the wedding guests were assembled, but they waited long before Petruchio came, and Katharine wept for vexation to think that Petruchio had only been making a jest of her. At last, however, he appeared; but he brought none of the bridal finery he had promised Katharine, nor was he dressed himself like a bridegroom, but in strange disordered attire, as if he meant to make a sport of the serious business he came about; and his servant and the very horses on which they rode were in like manner in mean and fantastic fashion habited.
Petruchio could not be persuaded to change his dress; he said Katharine was to be married to him, and not to his clothes; and finding it was in vain to argue with him, to the church they went, he still behaving in the same mad way, for when the priest asked Petruchio if Katharine should be his wife, he swore so loud that she should, that, all amazed, the priest let fall his book, and as he stooped to take it up, this mad-brained bridegroom gave him such a cuff, that down fell the priest and his book again. And all the while they were being married he stamped and swore so, that the high-spirited Katharine trembled and shook with fear. After the ceremony was over, while they were yet in the church, he called for wine, and drank a loud health to the company, and threw a sop which was at the bottom of the glass full in the sextons face, giving no other reason for this strange act, than that the sextons beard grew thin and hungerly, and seemed to ask the sop as he was drinking. Never sure was there such a mad marriage; but Petruchio did but put this wildness on, the better to succeed in the plot he had formed to tame his shrewish wife.
Baptista had provided a sumptuous marriage feast, but when they returned from church, Petruchio, taking hold of Katharine, declared his intention of carrying his wife home instantly: and no remonstrance of his father-in-law, or angry words of the enraged Katharine, could make him change his purpose. He claimed a husbands right to dispose of his wife as he pleased, and away he hurried Katharine off: he seeming so daring and resolute that no one dared attempt to stop him.
Petruchio mounted his wife upon a miserable horse, lean and lank, which he had picked out for the purpose, and himself and his servant no better mounted; they journeyed on through rough and miry ways, and ever when this horse of Katharines stumbled, he would storm and swear at the poor jaded beast, who could scarce crawl under his burthen, as if he had been the most passionate man alive.
At length, after a weary journey, during which Katharine had heard nothing but the wild ravings of Petruchio at the servant and the horses, they arrived at his house. Petruchio welcomed her kindly to her home, but he resolved she should have neither rest nor food that night. The tables were spread, and supper soon served; but Petruchio, pretending to find fault with every dish, threw the meat about the floor, and ordered the servants to remove it away; and all this he did, as he said, in love for his Katharine, that she might not eat meat that was not well dressed. And when Katharine, weary and supperless, retired to rest, he found the same fault with the bed, throwing the pillows and bedclothes about the room, so that she was forced to sit down in a chair, where if she chanced to drop asleep, she was presently awakened by the loud voice of her husband, storming at the servants for the ill-making of his wifes bridal-bed.
The next day Petruchio pursued the same course, still speaking kind words to Katharine, but when she attempted to eat, finding fault with everything that was set before her throwing the breakfast on the floor as he had done the supper; and Katharine, the haughty Katherine, was fain to beg the servants would bring her secretly a morsel of food; but they being instructed by Petruchio, replied, they dared not give her anything unknown to their master. Ah, said she, did he marry me to famish me? Beggars that come to my fathers door have food given them. But I, who never knew what it was to entreat for anything, am starved for want of food, giddy for want of sleep, with oaths kept waking, and with brawling fed; and that which vexes me more than all, he does it under the name of perfect love, pretending that if I sleep or eat, it were present death to me. Here the soliloquy was interrupted by the entrance of Petruchio: he, not meaning she should be quite starved, had brought her a small portion of meat, and he said to her, How fares my sweet Kate? Here, love, you see how diligent I am, I have dressed your meat myself. I am sure this kindness merits thanks. What, not a word? Nay, then you love not the meat, and all the pains I have taken is to no purpose. He then ordered the servant to take the dish away. Extreme hunger, which had abated the pride of Katharine, made her say, though angered to the heart, I pray you let it stand. But this was not all Petruchio intended to bring her to, and he replied, The poorest service is repaid with thanks, and so shall mine before you touch the meat. On this Katharine brought out a reluctant I thank you, sir. And now he suffered her to make a slender meal, saying, Much good may it do your gentle heart, Kate; eat apace! And now, my honey love, we will return to your fathers house, and revel it as bravely as the best, with silken coats and caps and golden rings, with ruffs and scares and fans and double change of finery; and to make her believe he really intended to give her these gay things, he called in a tailor and a haberdasher, who brought some new clothes he had ordered for her, and then giving her plate to the servant to take away, before she had half satisfied her hunger, he said, What, have you dined? The haberdasher presented a cap, saying, Here is the cap your worship bespoke; on which Petruchio began to storm afresh, saying the cap was moulded in a porringer, and that it was no bigger than a cockle or walnut shell, desiring the haberdasher to take it away and make it bigger. Katharine said, I will have this; all gentlewomen wear such caps as these.When you are gentle, replied Petruchio, you shall have one too, and not till then. The meat Katharine had eaten had a little revived her fallen spirits, and she said, Why, sir, I trust I may have leave to speak, and speak I will: I am no child, no babe; your betters have endured to hear me say my mind; and if you cannot, you had better stop your ears. Petruchio would not hear these angry words, for he had happily discovered a better way of managing his wife than keeping up a jangling argument with her; therefore his answer was, Why, you say true; it is a paltry cap, and I love you for not liking it.Love me, or love me not, said Katharine, I like the cap, and I will have this cap or none.You say you wish to see the gown, said Petruchio, still affecting to misunderstand her. The tailor then came forward and showed her a fine gown he had made for her. Petruchio, whose intent was that she should have neither cap nor gown, found as much fault with that. O mercy, Heaven! said he, what stuff is here! What, do you call this a sleeve? it is like a demi-cannon, carved up and down like an apple tart. The tailor said, You bid me make it according to the fashion of the times; and Katharine said, she never saw a better fashioned gown. This was enough for Petruchio, and privately desiring these people might be paid for their goods, and excuses made to them for the seemingly strange treatment he bestowed upon them, he with fierce words and furious gestures drove the tailor and the haberdasher out of the room; and then, turning to Katharine, he said, Well, come, my Kate, we will go to your fathers even in these mean garments we now wear. And then he ordered his horses, affirming they should reach Baptistas house by dinner-time, for that it was but seven oclock. Now it was not early morning but the very middle of the day, when he spoke this, therefore Katharine ventured to say, though modestly, being almost overcome by the vehemence of his manner, I dare assure you, sir, it is two oclock. and will be supper-time before we get there. But Petruchio meant that she should be so completely subdued, that she should assent to everything he said, before he carried her to her father; and therefore, as if he were lord even of the sun, and could command the hours, he said it should be what time he pleased to have it, before he set forward; For, he said, whatever I say or do, you still are crossing it. I will not go to-day, and when I go, it shall be what oclock I say it is. Another day Katherine was forced to practice her newly found obedience, and not till he had brought her proud spirit to such a perfect subjection, that she dared not remember there was such a word as contradiction, would Petruchio allow her to go to her fathers house; and even while they were upon their journey thither, she was in danger of being turned back again, only because she happened to hint it was the sun, when he affirmed the moon shone brightly at noonday. Now, by my mothers son, said he, and that is myself, it shall be the moon, or stars, or what I list, before I journey to your fathers house. He then made as if he were going back again; but Katherine, no longer Katherine the Shrew, but the obedient wife, said, Let us go forward, I pray, now we have come so far, and it shall be the sun, or moon, or what you please, and if you please to call it a rush candle henceforth, I vowed it shall be so for me. This he was resolved to prove, therefore he said again, I say, it is the moon.I know it is the moon, replied Katherine. You lie, it is the blessed sun, said Petruchio. Then it is the blessed sun, replied Katherine; but sun it is not, when you say it is not. What you will have it named, even so it is, and so it ever shall be for Katherine. Now then he suffered her to proceed on her journey; but further to try if this yielding humour would last, he addressed an old gentleman they met on the road as if he had been a young woman, saying to him, Good morrow, gentle mistress; and asked Katherine if she had ever beheld a fairer gentlewoman, praising the red and white of the old mans cheeks, and comparing his eyes to two bright stars; and again he addressed him, saying, Fair lovely maid, once more good day to you! and said to his wife, Sweet Kate, embrace her for her beautys sake. The now completely vanquished Katharine quickly adopted her husbands opinion, and made her speech in like sort to the old gentleman, saying to him, Young budding virgin, you are fair, and fresh, and sweet: whither are you going, and where is your dwelling? Happy are the parents of so fair a child.Why, how now, Kate, said Petruchio; I hope you are not mad. This is a man, old and wrinkled, faded and withered, and not a maiden, as you say he is. On this Katharine said, Pardon me, old gentleman; the sun has so dazzled my eyes, that everything I look on seemeth green. Now I perceive you are a reverend father: I hope you will pardon me for my sad mistake.Do, good old grand-sire, said Petruchio, and tell us which way you are travelling. We shall be glad of your good company, if you are going our way. The old gentleman replied, Fair sir, and you my merry mistress, your strange encounter has much amazed me. My name is Vincentio, and I am going to visit a son of mine who lives at Padua. Then Petruchio knew the old gentleman to be the father of Lucentio, a young gentleman who was to be married to Baptistas younger daughter, Bianca, and he made Vincentio very happy, by telling him the rich marriage his son was about to make: and they all journeyed on pleasantly together till they came to Baptistas house, where there was a large company assembled to celebrate the wedding of Bianca and Lucentio, Baptista having willingly consented to the marriage of Bianca when he had got Katharine off his hands.
Lucentio, Biancas husband, and Hortensio, the other new married man, could not forbear sly jests, which seemed to hint at the shrewish disposition of Petruchios wife, and these fond bridegrooms seemed high pleased with the mild tempers of the ladies they had chosen, laughing at Petruchio for his less fortunate choice. Petruchio took little notice of their jokes till the ladies were retired after dinner, and then he perceived Baptista himself joined in the laugh against him: for when Petruchio affirmed that his wife would prove more obedient than theirs, the father of Katharine said, Now, in good sadness, son Petruchio, I fear you have got the veriest shrew of all.Well, said Petruchio, I say no, and therefore for assurance that I speak the truth, let us each one send for his wife, and he whose wife is most obedient to come at first when she is sent for, shall win a wager which we will propose. To this the other two husbands willingly consented, for they were quite confident that their gentle wives would prove more obedient than the headstrong Katharine; and they proposed a wager of twenty crowns, but Petruchio merrily said, he would lay as much as that upon his hawk or hound, but twenty times as much upon his wife. Lucentio and Hortensio raised the wager to a hundred crowns, and Lucentio first sent his servant to desire Bianca would come to him. But the servant returned, and said, Sir, my mistress sends you word she is busy and cannot come.How, said Petruchio, does she say she is busy and cannot come? Is that an answer for a wife? Then they laughed at him, and said, it would be well if Katharine did not send him a worse answer. And now it was Hortensios turn to send for his wife; and he said to his servant, Go, and entreat my wife to come to me.Oh ho! entreat her! said Petruchio. Nay, then, she needs must come.I am afraid, sir, said Hortensio, your wife will not be entreated. But presently this civil husband looked a little blank, when the servant returned without his mistress; and he said to him, How now! Where is my wife?Sir, said the servant, my mistress says, you have some goodly jest in hand, and therefore she will not come. She bids you come to her.Worse and worse! said Petruchio; and then he sent his servant, saying, Sirrah, go to your mistress, and tell her I command her to come to me. The company had scarcely time to think she would not obey this summons, when Baptista, all in amaze, exclaimed, Now, by my halidame, here comes Katharine! and she entered, saying meekly to Petruchio, What is your will, sir, that you send for me?Where is your sister and Hortensios wife? said he. Katharine replied, They sit conferring by the parlour fire.Go, fetch them hither! said Petruchio. Away went Katharine without reply to perform her husbands command. Here is a wonder, said Lucentio, if you talk of a wonder.And so it is, said Hortensio; I marvel what it bodes.Marry, peace it bodes, said Petruchio, and love, and quiet life, and right supremacy; and, to be short, everything that is sweet and happy. Katharines father, overjoyed to see this reformation in his daughter, said, Now, fair befall thee, son Petruchio! you have won the wager, and I will add another twenty thousand crowns to her dowry, as if she were another daughter, for she is changed as if she had never been,Nay, said Petruchio, I will win the wager better yet, and show more signs of her new-built virtue and obedience. Katharine now entering with the two ladies, he continued, See where she comes, and brings your froward wives as prisoners to her womanly persuasion. Katharine, that cap of yours does not become you; off with that bauble, and throw it under foot. Katharine instantly took off her cap, and threw it down. Lord! said Hortensios wife, may I never have a cause to sigh till I am brought to such a silly pass! And Bianca, she too said, Fie, what foolish duty call you this? On this Biancas husband said to her, I wish your duty were as foolish too! The wisdom of your duty, fair Bianca, has cost me a hundred crowns since dinner-time.The more fool you, said Bianca, for laying on my duty.Katharine, said Petruchio, I charge you tell these headstrong women what duty they owe their lords and husbands. And to the wonder of all present, the reformed shrewish lady spoke as eloquently in praise of the wifelike duty of obedience, as she had practiced it implicitly in a ready submission to Petruchios will. And Katharine once more became famous in Padua, not as heretofore, as Katharine the Shrew, but as Katharine the most obedient and duteous wife in Padua.