Act Five: Graduation Day

Act Five, Scene One of The Taming of the Shrew depicts much wackiness ensuing.

First, Biondello tells Lucentio that the priest is ready for the secret wedding, and off Lucentio goes.  The Mantua party arrives with Vincentio, only to find “Vincentio” (the Pedant) already there with “Lucentio” (Tranio).  Vincentio is seen as an imposter (irony alert), and Vincentio believes that Tranio has killed his son and taken his place.  Only with the arrival of the newly-wedded Lucentio and Bianca are the relationships worked out and resolved. Of course, Baptista is a little put out over being made a fool, and Vincentio wants revenge on Tranio (whom he believes has made him a fool) but the two fathers re-assure each other, and all is made well.  And all that is left now is the wedding banquet…

which takes place in the second scene, the last one of the play.  Here, we see the two most recently wed woman (the widow and Bianca) make shrewish comments to Kate and the men (“Your husband, being troubled with a shrew” [V.ii.28] and “An hasty-witted body // Would say your head and butt were head and horn” [V.ii.40-41], respectively; only Kate seems remotely kind and polite.  And now we see the graduation of “taming school” (IV.ii.54), of which “Petruchio is the master” (IV.ii.56).  After the wives go off to talk, the three newly married men all bet to see whose wife is the most obedient. They call for their wives: Bianca refuses, so does the widow.  Only Kate responds and returns, then she goes on to call the wives and gives them a 45-line speech in which she seemingly declares and upholds the husband’s superiority.

Petruchio has won.  He has tamed the shrew.  And the fairy tale is over.

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