The Taming of the Shrew: Appearance Versus Reality
Have you ever been hit in the groin and had someone there laughing at you? This essay is not about that. It is about how Shakespeare uses many different indications to develop appearance versus reality. Three of them are characters, symbolism, and plot. I will explain how he uses these things to introduce and maintain the appearance versus reality theme.
One way Shakespeare does this is with the characters. He does this by having them constantly deceiving one another. Everyone switches places or disguises themselves to achieve a goal. In act one, scene one, Lucentio is going to disguise himself as a school teacher in order to win the love of Bianca while his servant Tranio takes his place. “I am content to be Lucentio, because I love so well Lucentio”(1.1.222-223). Tranio replied to Lucentio when told to go along with the scheme. Shakespeare then uses Tranio (as Lucentio), to pull a fast one on an innocent merchant. He then uses him for the real Lucentio’s personal gain. He concocts a false tale of how the merchant will surely be put to death if anyone knows where he is from. His false tale is the following:
“‘Tis death for anyone in Mantua to come to Padua.
Know you not the cause?
Your ships are stayed at Venice, and the Duke,
For private quarrel ‘twixt your duke and him.
Hath published and proclaimed it openly.
Tis marvel, but that you are but newly come,
You might have heard it else proclaimed about
Tranio later argues how he can save the man’s life:
“To save your life in this extremity,
This favor I will do for his Vincentio, Lucentio’s father sake
(And think it not the worst of all your fortunes
that you are like Sir Vincentio):
His name and credit shall you undertake,
And in my house you shall be friendly lodged (4,2,107-113,).”
Shakespeare uses this to show that the characters will go to any lengths to get what they want.
Symbolism, in The Taming of the Shrew, is frequently used. Shakespeare uses a variety of things that symbolize one thing or another.In act three, scene two, Petruchio is late for his own wedding to Katherine. The clothes that he wears are very inappropriate and his horse is that of a pauper. “To me she’s married, not unto my clothes (3.2.119).” Petruchio does this to prove a point. The clothing that he wears is live proof that you should not judge a book by its cover.
The plot of The Taming of the Shrew is, is the best way that Shakespeare displays appearance versus reality. He fills the play with deception and trickery, humor, and a dash of drama. Petruchio is compelled to marry Kate. In doing so, he lies to her father Babtista so that Kate will indeed become his
wife and he, in turn, will become rich. “‘Tis bargained ‘twixt us ‘twain, being alone, that she shall still be curst in company (2.1.323-324).” Petruchio does so as that his plan will not backfire in his face, and reveals his true intentions.
Shakespeare somewhat changes Katherine’s character a little after she marries Petruchio. She seems to have lost whatever it was she had that made her such a curse. Her attitude greatly changes towards Petruchio when she falls in love with him. After Petruchio invites her to a kiss she questions him. Afterward, she has this to say. “Nay, I will give thee a kiss. Now pray thee, love, stay (5.2.153-154).” When she realizes what a true gentleman Petruchio is, she falls in love with the idea that he asked her for the kiss, as they live in a society where men do as they wish and the woman does not matter.
In consummation, Shakespeare is a genius. He creatively and elaborately weaves the appearance versus reality theme with his characters, symbolism, and plot. To quote Barrie Keeffe, “I write plays for people who wouldn’t be seen dead in the theater.”
I think that Shakespeare did the same thing. He wrote plays in ways that the average person would understand, although written in old English. I have great respect for a man, that despite his fame, still writes for everyone and not just the intellectual.