It’s quite obvious that deception is a major theme in The Taming of The Shrew, as well as many other Shakespeare plays. But what was equally, if not more appealing to me, was the subplot within this theme: deception in marriage.
After the original rouse – playing a prank on Sly, the beggar who now believes he’s a Lord -readers learn that the sanctity of marriage may not be as holy as it’s typically thought to be. Sly was told that he was asleep for fifteen years and that he is actually a Lord who has, under some “strange lunacy,” said he was not and never was of such high social-status. (Induction 2, 27). He wouldn’t fall for the trick until his “wife” was brought into the picture. His wife – well, Bartholomew dressed as a woman – basically entered the room and said “I’m your wife” and Sly immediately commanded everyone to leave the room so she could undress. No exaggerations, he literally commanded her: “‘Tis much. Servants, leave me and her alone. Madam, undress you and come now to bed.” (Induction 2, 112-113). Surprisingly, his wife denied his request. However, it wasn’t too surprising considering she wasn’t really a woman. Sly responded with a very entertaining response, however. “Ay, it stands so that I may hardly tarry so long.” (Induction 2, 121). Despite the extremely witty pun and Sly’s way too obvious lust, the inner-wirings of relationships began to show light. Women aren’t supposed to stand up to their husbands; they are supposed to mindlessly obey orders. Women were possessions. This is somewhat of a reason why Katherine is such an unbearable character in the minds of the other male characters. However, I digress.
Later on in the play, we meet Petruccio, a man who was depicted as very eager to get married. However, he seemed to, again, spoil the sanctity of marriage: he was only interested in the wealth of his future spouse. “I come to wive it wealthily in Padua; If wealthily, then happily in Padua.” (1.2.10). Petruccio was told how awful Katherine was.
“Petruccio, shall I then come roundly to thee
And wish thee to a shrewd, ill-favoured wife?
Thou’dst thank me but a little for my counsel,
And yet I’ll promise thee she shall be rich,
And very rich.” (1.2.56-60).
However, his warning conveniently ended with “but she’s super rich, I promise.”
After reading this, I started to question whether Shakespeare was commenting on the relations and customs regarding marriage – even further, criticizing all of these customs. Even Hortensio and Lucentio are lusting after a spouse, and they’re not pursuing in the most honorable ways. When continuing The Taming of The Shrew, I’m interested in seeing how Shakespeare continues his commentary through deception. I’m sure there will be much more in store.