67 pages 2 hours read

William Shakespeare

The Taming of the Shrew

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1593

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Character Analysis


The fiery, choleric Katherine has a reputation for her sharp tongue and violent temper. But the play hints that much of her anger is more than reasonable: She’s stuck with a two-faced sister whom the whole world seems to love and a father who obviously prefers that sister to her.

Katherine’s reactions to Petruchio’s performance of madness suggests that, deep down, she’s a pretty sensible and even kindhearted person. She’s horrified when Petruchio attacks servants and merchants, and she does her best to divert him. Critics, performers, and audiences have long argued over Katherine’s final transformation into the model of the “obedient wife.” Whether this “shrew” has been genuinely “tamed,” or whether she and Petruchio have achieved mutual understanding and respect, is open to debate.


Petruchio is just as abrasive and witty as Katherine, and much more calculating. A man of the world, he’s experienced and well traveled, and a better judge of character than most of the starry-eyed young men around him. While his plan to “tame” Katherine can seem downright sadistic, its execution is funny, often at Petruchio’s own expense; he’s more than willing to behave like a madman for days to get what he wants. When Katherine starts to play along with the joke, Petruchio is delighted: He’s truly found a match.