The Taming of the Shrew Act 4 Scene 5

The Taming of the Shrew, act 4 scene 5, illustration by IbbetsonSynopsis of Act 4 Scene 5

As Petruchio and Katherina travel back to Padua Petruchio is still testing his wife to see if she will submit – he claims that the moon is the sun and when she resignedly agrees switches back, until she stops the debate by agreeing that whatever he says ‘shall be so for Katherine’. Hortensio is impressed.
 
They meet an old man (the real Lucentio’s real father, Vincentio) who is also travelling to Padua. Petruchio treats him as if he were a young woman and Katherina joins in with the ruse until Petruchio brings it to a close. The old man is confused and thinks they are both mad.
 
The old man is further confused when he hears that Lucentio is married to Katherina’s sister and wonders if it isn’t another ruse. He travels to Padua with them to find out what has been going on.
 
Having now discovered that Bianca is definitely unobtainable, Hortensio sets off to marry the rich widow.

Commentary on The Taming of the Shrew Act 4 Scene 5

what I list: Whatever I please.
 
Or e’er I journey: Before I set off.
 
cross’d: Contradicted.
 
rush-candle: A feeble light like a taper.
 
the moon changes even as your mind: The changing phases of the moon (Luna) were believed to affect people’s mental stability – whilst Katherina appears to be agreeing with her husband, she is also implying/joking that he is a ‘lunatic’.
 
the field is won: A military term, suggesting that the battle field has been vanquished – i.e. Katherina has been ‘tamed’.
 
Thus the bowl should run: Petruchio acts as if it were natural that Katherina would eventually tend towards his ways, just as the path of a bowling ball curves towards its weighted side.
 
Tell me .. beauty’s sake: Petruchio employs the same excessive love language which Lucentio used on seeing Bianca, yet it is just a game. It is also an echo of the ruse practised on the watching Sly, words creating an alternative ‘reality’. This time he invites Katherina to enjoy participating in the joke, rather than being the target of his verbal dexterity. 
 
old, wrinkled, faded, withered: The truth about Vincentio, put rather bluntly, is a humorous contrast to the way in which he has just been described.
 
strange encounter: Strange greeting.
 
Thy son .. hath married: This is a way of moving the action forwards in time, yet appears to be a plotting error by Shakespeare, as there has been no means for Petruchio, at his house in Verona, to become aware of Lucentio’s marriage in Padua which, in the previous scene, was yet to take place.
 
break a jest: Crack a joke.
 
froward: Disagreeable.
 
untoward: Stubborn and perverse. Hortensio aspires to copy Petruchio’s ‘taming’ technique.
 

Investigating The Taming of the Shrew Act 4 Scene 5

  • What tactics is Petruchio using in this scene to continue his plan to ‘tame’ Katherina?
    • Does he intend to brain-wash her or is he inviting her to join in his game?
    • How does their relationship develop in this scene?
  • What role does Hortensio play in this scene?
    • How do his comments contribute to the themes of the play?
  • Read Hortensio’s final rhyming couplet. What is he learning about relationships from watching Petruchio ‘tame’ Katherina?
    • What do you think his relationship with the widow will be like?
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