In the Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, the conveyed theme
is to never judge a book by it's cover, or rather a person by their appearance. This theme
is demonstrated through relationships. Shakespeare first shows the relationship between
Bianca and Katherine, next the relationship between Petruchio and Kate, and finally
between Lucentio and Bianca. Through these relationships Shakespeare shows the reader
how first impressions do not necessarily mean a permanent character flaw.
Bianca and Katherine are at each other's throat because a rule imposed by
their father that the young beautiful Bianca could not marry until her older shrew sister
Kate did. In the beginning of this play Katherine literally loathes Bianca, she even goes to
the extreme of physical abuse. "I prithee, sister Kate, untie my hands. [Katherine] strikes
her" (The Taming of the Shrew pg 75). It would seem to the reader that Bianca should be
the perfect example for Kate to follow.
Why not? She's beautiful, sweet, but most
importantly, obedient. A quality every perfect wife should strive to attain. The irony
comes when later at the end of the play the most obedient wife is Katherine. Not only
that, Kate teaches Bianca to be as obedient as her. "Katherine, I charge thee tell these
headstrong women what duty they owe their lords and husbands" (Shrew 217). And like
the Kate we knew in the beginning of the play, Bianca refuses to hear it.
The second relationship Shakespeare introduces to us is that of Petruchio
and Katherine. Petruchio hears of Kate's foul reputation, yet he still sets out to win her.
"[Hortensio] Here is a gentleman whom by chance I met, upon agreement from us to
his liking, has set out to woo curst Katherine, yea, and to marry her, if her dowry please"
(Shrew 61). After meeting Katherine, and seeing that the talk was true, Kate really was
shrew and perverse, Petruchio still proposes marriage. Although the offer is denied
Petruchio still convinces Kate's father that she accepted gladly. Everyone believed that
Kate would be a terrible disobedient wife, but on the contrary, when put to the test, she
proves to be the perfect wife. Petruchio molded her into the epitome of perfection and
The third and final relationship we see is Lucentio and Bianca's. Lucentio
believes that Bianca would be best suited for his wife. "But see, while idly I stood
looking on, I found the effect of love-in-idleness" (Shrew 41). Although by first meeting
and looks, Bianca seems to be the girl of every guy's dreams, she shows everyone she is
not. Bianca disobeys her father and elopes rather than being open about her relationship.
Bianca also, once married, disobeys her husband. In the final scene of the play Lucentio,
Hortensio, and Petruchio all send for their wives in a bet to see which one will come first.
The only obedient wife who comes to the call is Katherine. "Nay, I will win my wager
better yet, and show more sign of her obedience, her new-built virtue and obedience"
(Shrew 217). The reader's views of perfection and shrew have now changed.
In the play The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare accurately demonstrates
how by first impressions you can not judge a persons character because their personality
will not always be what you perceive it to be. This lesson can be applied to today in many
ways. This is a theme teens and adults all over can relate to. This can teach people to look
deeper and you may find something you like rather than being turned off by a first