Petruchio
Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Petruchio

The Taming of the Shrew

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About Him

Living… in Padua, by way of Verona. After the death of his father, Petruchio is intent on enjoying life, and he soon sets his eyes on marrying rich. Once he secures Katherina’s hand, he sets about making his household the site of her “taming” – by making her life a living hell. Cloaking his domination in words of love, Petruchio refuses her food and clothing while criticizing her cooking and clothes. 

Profession… a suitor intent on marrying, primarily for money. For Petruchio, Katherina's personality is completely incidental to her wealth, as he’s convinced he could change her to his liking. As he tells her friend Hortensio, it would not matter if his wife was "as foul as was Florentius’ love/As old as Sibyl, and as curst and shrewd/As Socrates’ Xanthippe or worse" – as long as she was rich.

Interests... being wealthy and taming Kate. Because he sees himself as an upstanding member of society, Petruchio insists that his lady conform to the same standards. Not only is Petruchio confident he can change Katherina, he’s so sure of it that he bets the other suitors that she will be the most obedient of all their wives – a wager that he is prepared to win.

Relationship Status... married to Katherina, whom he sees as a shrew who must be tamed. A manipulative and conniving suitor, Petruchio uses reverse psychology to change Katherina, wooing her by pretending every harsh thing she says is kind and pleasant, then disagreeing with and mercilessly criticizing her once they're married. While Petruchio initially got into the marriage for money, he’s now in it to prove a point.

Challenge… making Kate a model wife and getting his way. Petruchio takes a one-minded approach to marrying Katherina and securing her father’s fortune, letting her know that she will be his whether she likes it or not.  As he tells her, "I am he am born to tame you, Kate/And bring you from a wild Kate to a Kate/Conformable as other household Kates."

Personality… selfish and cunning, but completely honest about it. Petruchio is materialistic and domineering, but he is completely open about his motivations for marrying Katherina. There may also be some altruism in Petruchio’s determination to tame Katherina, as he realizes a domestic life would at least release her from a vicious cycle of anger and alienation, but any kindness of the sort is buried underneath his sexism and mental abuse.

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