Catharine's Harangue to her Sister and the Widow on the Duty of Wives to their Husbands, if the Ladies wou'd read it with a little Regard, might be of mighty use in this Age.
– Charles Gildon, 1710
The prelude is still more remarkable than the play itself ... Here, as well as everywhere else, Shakespeare has proved himself a great poet: the whole is merely a slight sketch, but in elegance and delicate propriety it will hardly ever be excelled.
– August Wilhelm Shlegel, 1811
An 1815 caricature inspired
by the play
The last scene is altogether disgusting to modern sensibility. No man with any decency of feeling can sit it out in the company of a woman without feeling extremely ashamed of the lord-of-creation moral implied in the wager and the speech put into the woman's own mouth. Therefore the play, though still worthy of a complete and efficient representation, would need, even at that, some apology.
– George Bernard Shaw, 1897
But Petruchio is hero of a farce, not of a romance ... A certain callousness will be induced to form in the sensibilities of the beholder, so that whereas in another case he would be outraged he will now laugh freely and steadily for two hours. The practitioner in farce ... must possess the art of insulating his audience's heart so that it cannot be shocked while the machinery hums.– Mark Van Doren, 1939
Petruchio could never have endured a tame wife. Katharine has not become a cipher; she has merged her brilliance and masked her strength. This is not the woman to deliver the final speech as a groveling creature, fatuously exalting the male sex in general. Her lines are filled with a delicious irony, by no means lost on Petruchio ... At the finish the two come together in a beautifully negotiated, not an imposed, peace.
– Margaret Webster, 1942
Petruchio's wilful suppositions as to the character of Katherine, though they are grounded at the start in no detectable reality, are the first mental acts that bring character into being. 'Love wrought these miracles.' There is something deeper than humor, however, in Petruchio's calling Katherine affable, modest, and mild: in the outcome, thinking makes it so.– Charles Brooks, 1960
We come to see, as the crude, slap-stick episodes which constitute the 'taming' follow one another, that Petruchio's treatment of Katherine implies a process of education, that it aims, among other things and rather surprisingly, precisely at teaching her to feel ... When the relationships of society run in accordance with and not against the rules of 'nature,' subjection and strife are replaced by free agreement and harmony. Against the spirit of much of its story, The Taming of the Shrew thus emerges as a civilizing effort on Shakespeare's part, one not essentially out of line with the spirit of his later comedies, which tend always to enhance human relationships, to provide for them a foundation of tenderness and mutual respect.– Derek Traversi, 1960
Petruchio wins in the end not because of superior force but because he succeeds in showing Katherina both the unloveliness of the false personality she has adopted and the emotional truth of the self she has submerged.– Anne Barton, 1974
Kate is not tamed by Petruchio's whip but by the discovery of her own imagination, for when she learns to recognize the sun for the moon and the moon for the dazzling sun she is discovering the liberating power of laughter and play. If shrewishness is a kind of rigidity, a behavioral pattern locked into closed, predictable responses, then the chaos of play is a liberating force, and Kate's initial bad temper is directly related to her failure to embrace it.
– John C. Bean, 1980
It seems to me that when people are as unhappy as Kate they are the voice of something that the whole community should be responsible for.
– Actress Fiona Shaw, who played Kate in a 1987 production of the Royal Shakespeare Company
Katherina is freed from habitual shrewishness by Petruchio's unrelenting travesty of such waywardness—a robust mode of farcical comedy which is tolerable because Petruchio is clearly acting a part, because he imposes the same privations on himself as on her, and because his underlying delight in her buried self becomes clear.
– John Creaser, 2002
Kate is much more complex, much more layered, much more reminiscent of the later women of Shakespeare than anyone else in the play. I also think it's important that she, too, has a plan.
– David H. Bell, 2002
I think these are two people fated to be together and they recognize it instantly. They are always inches away from falling madly in love and it is only Petruchio's strategy that twarts it. In his mind the shrew will be tamed by love rather than by abuse. I think it's important that she not be a victim, that she not simply surrender to what's happening to her.
– David H. Bell, 2002
Feminists' long-standing obsession with The Taming of the Shrew might have been brought switftly to an end if only they had known that John Fletcher had already replied to Shakespeare himself on their behalf. What is more, some 350 years ago the two plays used to be presented in a smug double bill—a dialectical take on the equality of sexes, whereby Petruchio eventually gets his comeuppance.
– Duska Radosavljevic, 2003
[At the end] there is no longer a question of "taming"; this is a marriage, one consummated in couplets as well as quips. Attention now shifts to the unresolved elements of the love plot, and thus to the story of Bianca, who has been joined by a nameless (but wealthy) widow, the new bride of Bianca's failed suitor Hortensio. And here we encounter the second reversal. For it is suddenly far from clear who is the real "shrew" of the play's title-and even who is appointed to do the "taming."
– Marjorie Garber, 2004
Part of the problem, if it is a problem, is that many modern readers do not want Shakespeare to hold, or to have held, views that are socially or politically incompatible with their own; this is "our Shakespeare" ... Evidence in the plays of"antifeminism" or of a hierarchical social model in which husbands rule and control their wives is not the evidence many contemporary appreciators would prefer to find.
– Marjorie Garber, 2004
Katherine in The Shrew is the most obvious Shakespeare example of an abused woman. Although New Criticism may interpret Petruchio's contradictions … as a game, a loving tease with the positive psychological aim of behavior modification, in the twenty-first century it is difficult to find the subjugation of a woman a suitable subject for comic treatment.
– Laurie E. Maguire, 2004
If Romeo and Juliet find selfhood to be independent of name, Katherine displays her selfhood by insisting on retaining her name.
– Laurie E. Maguire, 2004
What Katherine actually declares to the other wives is on par with arguments put forward by sixteenth-century Protestant reformers, who held that marriage should be a union of like-minded belief, not domestic tyranny.
– Andrew Dickson, 2005
– Contributed by the CST Education Department