The Taming of the Shrew Act 4 Scene 3

Synopsis of Act 4 Scene 3

Petruchio and the TailorAt Petruchio’s house Katherina is suffering for lack of food and Grumio seems to enjoy withholding it from her. When Petruchio arrives with Hortensio and invites her to have lunch with them, he secretly whispers to Hortensio to eat all the food. Meanwhile Petruchio distracts Katherina with the promise of fine clothes ready for her return to her father’s house. 
 
However, when a tailor and a haberdasher arrive with specially made new clothes and head gear, Petruchio takes issue with everything made, despite Katherina’s protestations, eventually sending them both away without buying any of the clothes (though he arranges that Hortensio will in fact pay the tailor). Katherina is understandably angry and frustrated.
 
Finally Petruchio decides he and his bride will return to her father dressed as they are, declaring the hour at which they will depart/arrive. When Katherina corrects his timings, he refuses to embark at all since she is ‘crossing’ him. 

Commentary on The Taming of the Shrew Act 4 Scene 3

spites: Irritates.
 
neat’s foot: Ox or calf’s foot, a part of the animal commonly eaten in the past.
 
choleric: Will produce a bad temper, because it was believed to increase bile, associated with anger. Elizabethans believed that the temperament was affected by the four humours, which needed to be kept in balance for good health. 
 
to dress thy meat myself: Petruchio uses food as a tool of behaviour management to ensure that Katherina, like a hawk that is being tamed, is controlled by the careful regulation of her hunger. Even when Hortensio arrives to have lunch with them, Petruchio devises plans to distract her from her food while at the same time trying to teach her to be less argumentative and aggressive. 
 
What, sweeting, all amort? What, my dear, are you depressed? Petruchio’s method of ‘taming’ deprives Katherina of her voice and even in the scenes in which she speaks, she is misunderstood or ignored. For Katherina, who is highly eloquent and proficient in verbal exchanges, there is no opportunity for engaging Petruchio in a battle of wits because he takes away this option. Read more about this in Themes: Speech and Silence.
 
all my pains is sorted to no proof: There is no reward for all my labour.
 
apace: Speedily.
 
bravely: Finely dressed.
 
all this knav’ry: All this nonsense. Petruchio entices Katherina to think of her outward status in rhyming couplets, yet this phrase hints at the ‘moral of the scene’ – that inward behaviour is more important than outward finery.
 
gentlewomen / gentle: Petruchio echoes the sermon on gentiless of Chaucer’s Old Woman in The Wife of Bath’s Tale, that elevated social status needs to be reflected in properly noble behaviour.
 
carved like an apple-tart: Petruchio is mocking the style of the new gown that Katherina likes – whilst Shakespeare has a joke at the expense of some of the richer members of his audience. Members of the Elizabethan court were renowned for their extravagant fashions, which were conspicuous displays of wealth.
 
censer: A pierced metal container in which incense was burnt to create pungent smoke. Although usually associated with church ceremonies, this would also have masked the body odour of those having their hair cut.
 
As thou shalt think on prating whilst thou liv’st: You will not tell such lies again.
 
faced: The word has two meanings which are punned on here: i) to put an additional layer of material/braid/embellishment on to cloth ii) to brazenly assert something which may not be true.
 
lies in’s throat: Is a complete liar. There is humour in the nimble evasiveness of Grumio compared to the stolid, factual worthiness of the Tailor with his evidence.
 
I am for thee straight: I am ready to fight right now.
 
take it up unto thy master’s use: Grumio is mock horrified at Petruchio’s words, suggesting that the tailor’s boss might enjoy carnal access to Katherina.

mean habiliments: Poor clothing.
 
purses proud .. garments poor: By taking the moral high ground, Petruchio makes it hard for Katherina to complain.
 
crossing: Disagreeing and contradicting.
 

Investigating The Taming of the Shrew Act 4 Scene 3

  • What is the effect of introducing Grumio into the ‘taming’ process?
    • Does he have the same intentions as Petruchio?
    • How does he compare to Petruchio?
  • Katherina is denied food, clothes and words. Why does Petruchio choose such an extreme way of relating to her and is there any evidence that his plan to ‘tame’ her is working?
  • Read Petruchio’s speech to Katherina on clothing at the end of the scene
    • Do you agree that it is ‘the mind that makes the body rich’?
    • How do you think Katherina responds to this speech after the way in which she has been treated in this scene?
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