Petruccio’s Wooing Strategy

The relationship between Petruccio and Katherine takes a dramatic shift after their wedding takes place.  Before the marriage, Petruccio is extremely strategic and meticulous by means of wooing Katherine in order for her to accept his marriage “proposal.”  He treats wooing like a sort of formula as if there are certain tricks, skills, and rules that if performed correctly, he will not fail at persuading her to marry him:

“Say that she rail, why then I’ll tell her plain / she sings as sweetly as a nightingale. / Say that she frown, I’ll say she looks as clear / as morning roses newly washed with dew. / Say she be mute and will not speak a word, / Then I’ll commend her volubility, / and say she uttereth piercing eloquence.  If she did bid me pack, I’ll give her thanks / As though she bid me stay by her a week” (2.1.168-176).

Petruccio’s “game” or strategy in order to woo Katherine is by telling her the opposite of what ever she says, does, or feels.  He plans to play a specific role of hard-to-getness in order to “tame” or swindle Katherine into adhering to her proper gender role as a wife (passive, easily manipulative, vulnerable.)

The reader sees this strategy as the play proceeds in terms of Petruccio’s unintelligence and use of malapropism.  When Katherine catches him misinterpreting what time it is, stating that it is two o’clock and not seven, he rebuttals her attempt at exposing his unintelligence by stating, “Look what I speak, or do, or think to do, / You are still crossing it.  Sirs, let’t alone. / I will not go today, and ere I do / It shall be what o’clock I say it is” (4.4.185-189).  Regardless of the fact that Petruccio is wrong, he tells Katherine she must believe and obey whatever he says in no regards to its validity.  He is dominating her and putting her in her place; as if he is putting himself on a pedestal above Katherine which symbolizes that she will always be wrong.  Although it is ambiguous whether Katherine thinks this is silly or not (because she does not reply,) one can assume her silence symbolizes her passivity and acceptance of her role as an easily manipulated wife.

Similarly, Katherine catches Petruccio in a state of malapropism when he mistakes the brightness of the sun for the moon.  They debate for a moment and once again, Petruccio states that regardless of how wrong he is, he is always right, “Petruccio:  I say it is the moon / Katherine:  I know it is the moon” (4.6. 9-10).  He imposes confinement and control over Katherine by his use of assertive, aggressive, and pretentious diction.  He states that no matter the dispute, he is always right and Katherine must adhere to that.  When Katherine states, “I know this is the moon” is a textual and overt example of how easily manipulative she is and how intensely she is oppressed by Petruccio.

Petruccio follows his strategy very specifically.  He gives Katherine the opposite of what she believes in order to oppress and put her in her proper gender role.  Even when she catches him in a state of stupidity and obliviousness, he turns it around and uses it as a means of oppression and social domination.



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