While reading The Taming of the Shrew dependence and love are evident themes. We can see how much the Lord depends and loves his hunting dogs, Sly and alcohol, and Petruccio with his money. Is Petruccio’s love borderline insanity and is Kate’s love dependence? Did Petruccio ever really love Katherine if he had to change and mold her into a new obedient person?
When Petruccio refuses the meat he believes is burnt, Kate tries to reason with him. Petruccio replies “Be patient, tommorow’t shall be mended/ And for this night we’ll fast for company” (4.1.157). While we know Petruccio has a plan to tame Kate, he is executing it with concern for her rather than anger and force. It would appear that he wants nothing but the best for her. Nineteen lines later though, he starts sounding insane, depriving Kate of food and sleep saying “She ate no meat today, nor none shall eat./Last night she slept not, nor tonight she shall not” (4.1.177-178). He explains his plan of taming her saying “his is a way to kill a wife with kindness,/ And this I’ll curb her mad and headstrong humour” (4.1.188-189). He could potentially kill Kate with the game he’s playing by severely deny her food and sleep. Is this the “concern” or “kindness” of a real lover, to neglect his new wife from the basic necessities of life in order to get her to behave a certain way?
Kate confused with the lack of comfort Petruccio has given her asks Grumio “What, did he marry me to famish me?” (4.3.3). She holds onto the belief that his love for her is real though saying “He does it under name of perfect love” (4.3.12). Petruccio’s need to change Kate into the perfect obedient housewife, in my eyes, is a way to say he doesn’t really love her. Petruccio further pesters Kate by dangling a beautiful dress in front of her and then taking it away. He tells her “When you are gentle you shall have one, too,/ And not till then” (4.3.71-72). Kate unaware of Petruccio’s intentions fights back holding onto her original beliefs saying “Why, sir, I trust I may have leave to speak,/And speak I will. I am no child, no babe.” (4.4.73-24).
If Petruccio truly loved her he wouldn’t want to change her as a whole but would celebrate her strong will. Kate also appears to love Petruccio but is her love more dependence? Being a married woman, she has no choice but to support her husband’s actions and choices for her. She surrenders her freedom to him. By torturing her, Petruccio has shown her just how much control he has over her. Perhaps Kate has learned not to love but compliance in order to simply survive her life with him. In this case of social conditioning, Kate quickly learns that when she behaves, Petruccio rewards her. When quarreling over the moon and sun, even though Kate knows she is right she gives up her stance saying “I know it is the moon” (4.6.17). Kate’s ending speech, I see, as a submission to her life with Petruccio and what she must endure. She accepts the fact that she has no control explaining to Bianca and the Widow that she too was once headstrong like them but “Now I see our lances are but straws, Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare” (5.2.177-178).