Queen of Crowns - Katharina

Dramatis Personae: Katharina Minola.

Text & Context: If asked: Which of Shakespeare's characters ties up a woman, strikes her, and makes her cry? chances are most people would answer Petruchio. The correct answer is Katharina. 

 One thing no one in Renaissance Padua seems to ask is: What accounts for Kate's pathological anger? What is the source of her pain?  She 's "a shrew", and that's about all there is to it. Kate's own father hardly helps matters by leveraging her illness, making marriage to her submissive sister Bianca contingent on Kate's getting married first. Vapid Bianca, using her wiles to get her way with men, not least of all her father - the roots of Kate's anger begin to take shape. In 16th Century Italy and England, a woman was at man's disposal, little more than quarry for him to obtain and master. Yet real love exists, and it is less that Kate is incapable of real love than it is others are incapable of thinking she's capable. Not Petruchio; he recognizes her spirit and energy and desires her for it, as he desires a wife worth keeping.

 

 When Kate slaps Petruchio, ostensibly for his lewdness, it is in reality a kind of paroxysm, coming at the moment she first realizes her profound attraction to him. After they are married, but before the marriage is consummated, Petruchio announces he is to leave town. Katharina, if any doubts as to her feelings for Petruchio remained, they are silenced when she speaks from the heart: "Let me entreat you." When he persists in leaving she is furious, and perplexed when he explains she is to go with him. Although Kate doesn't realize it is what she wants, it is what she needs - to leave the family and townsfolk who feared and disdained her and begin her life anew with the husband who loves her.

 

 Kate's big speech in support of wifely submission at play's end is, in the words of Germane Greer, "the greatest defense of Christian monogamy ever written." Although one may not acquit it on this account, she goes on to attest nonetheless that it rests "on the whole role of the husband as protector and friend, and it is valid because Kate has a man who is capable of being both gentle and strong." Short of ripping up the whole legal basis of marriage itself, this argument of stewardship - with its onus on both parties having obligations to fulfill - is surely the strongest and soundest possible in 16th Century wedlock's favour.

 

 Crowns are the suit of material, earthly success. Happy families and connubial bliss may at first glance seem closer to the emotional world of Cups, but marital and familial emotions can be happy, angry, sad, or even indifferent, and sometimes all at once. The best things in life may indeed be free, but for them to grow and flourish takes patience, practice, compromise, and hard work.

Intertext: King of Crowns Petruchio