Act Three: Worst. Wedding. Ever. (even if it’s offstage)

Act Three, Scene One of The Taming of the Shrew takes place a day before Petruchio and Kate’s nuptials.  In the Minola household, we find the two faux schoolmasters, Lucentio (disguised as “Cambio”) and Hortensio (disguised as “Litio”), tutoring Bianca.  And here we find that though Bianca may be the more pursued of the sisters, Kate doesn’t have a monopoly on forwardness: “I’ll not be tied to hours nor ‘pointed times, // But learn my lessons as I please myself” (III.i.19-20).  She is in charge and leaves no doubt about it.  She allows Lucentio/Cambio to tutor her in Latin while Hortensio/Litio spends much of the scene tuning his lute and biding his time (to comic effect).  Even more comical is the Latin lesson itself, where Lucentio/Cambio translates a passage from Ovid to Bianca:

'Hic ibat' as I told you before- 'Simois' I am Lucentio- 'hic est' son unto Vincentio of Pisa- 'Sigeia tellus' disguised thus to get your love- 'Hic steterat' and that Lucentio that comes a-wooing- 'Priami' is my man Tranio- 'regia' bearing my port- 'celsa senis' that we might beguile the old pantaloon.

— III.i.31-36

Bianca “translates” back: “‘Hic ibat Simois’ I know you not- ‘hic est Sigeia tellus’ I trust you not-” (III.i.41-42), and at this point, it doesn’t look good for Cabio, er Lucentio; however, Bianca enjoys his company, but she may enjoy tormenting him, toying with him more: “‘Hic steterat Priami’ take heed he hear us not- ” and the rollercoaster of love rises again, but then “‘regia’ presume not- ” (uh, oh, back down), and finally, “‘celsa senis’ despair not” and back up again (III.i.42-44, combined).  When his lesson is done, Hortensio/Litio also attempts to plead his case through his lesson, the “gamut of Hortensio” (III.i.71); things don’t go as well for him, however, as Bianca tells him, “Tut, I like it not” (III.i.78).

Act Three, Scene Two brings us to Sunday, the wedding day… and all is ready and waiting, except for Petruchio, who is late for his own nuptials.  Kate, natch, is unhappy, and exits crying, and her father is sympathetic:

I cannot blame thee now to weep,
For such an injury would vex a very saint;
Much more a shrew of thy impatient humor.

— III.ii.27-29

Biondello arrives, almost in reporter mode, and gives an account of Petruchio’s approach.  If he had gone to Venice to purchase “rings and things and fine array” (II.i.324), then he might have just gone to Venice Beach rather than Venice, Italy: he is dressed as poorly and outrageously as possible, and riding a horse that looks as if it’s on its last legs.  Her father and Tranio/Lucentio are appalled.  Tranio/Lucentio even asks that Petruchio go to his own room and put on some proper clothes, but Petruchio will have none of it:  “To me she’s married, not unto my clothes” (III.ii.115)… and leaves to the church off-stage.

Tranio/Lucentio and Lucentio/Cambio are left alone on-stage to discuss their “daddy” issues (they’ve got to find a man to play Vincentio, Lucentio’s father, in order to seal the deal for Bianca’s hand).  Once that is out of the way, Gremio returns to recount the details of the wedding itself, which has made him re-evaluate Kate’s shrewishness: “Tut, she’s a lamb, a dove, a fool (compared) to him” (III.ii.115).  According to Gremio’s report, Petruchio swears during the ceremony, knocks down the priest, calls for a drink, downs it at the altar, and ends the kiss with “such a clamorous smack // That at the parting all the church did echo” (III.ii.175-176).  Like the news of Petruchio’s arrival, this depiction of the wedding ceremony is wild, over-the-top, but nothing compared to the reality that follows.

Petruchio brings Kate and the wedding party on-stage, and calls for the celebration to begin, though neither he nor she will participate; he intends to take her back to his country home.  The guests are stunned.  Kate is angry.  She even attempts to take control of the situation, and send Petruchio off on his own:

Do what thou canst, I will not go today;
No, nor tomorrow, not till I please myself.
The door is open, sir; there lies your way;
You may be jogging whiles your boots are green;
For me, I'll not be gone till I please myself.

— III.i.208-212

note her use of “I please myself,” reminiscent of Bianca’s use earlier in the Act…

But Petruchio will not leave without what is his:

I will be master of what is mine own.
She is my goods, my chattels, she is my house,
My household stuff, my field, my barn,
My horse, my ox, my ass, my any thing,
And here she stands

— III.ii.229-233

And he carries her off, leaving the wedding guests and Act Three in his wake.

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