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Intro

Kill with kindness

I'm Petruchio. I'm a wealthy bachelor on the prowl for a rich wife. I'm up for anything—even if the girl isn't the easiest to get along with. And you know what I think?

Thus have I politicly begun my reign,
And 'tis my hope to end successfully.
My falcon now is sharp and passing empty;
And till she stoop she must not be full-gorged,
For then she never looks upon her lure.
Another way I have to man my haggard,
To make her come and know her keeper's call,
That is, to watch her, as we watch these kites
That bate and beat and will not be obedient.
She eat no meat to-day, nor none shall eat;
Last night she slept not, nor to-night she shall not;
As with the meat, some undeserved fault
I'll find about the making of the bed;
And here I'll fling the pillow, there the bolster,
This way the coverlet, another way the sheets:
Ay, and amid this hurly I intend
That all is done in reverend care of her;
And in conclusion she shall watch all night:
And if she chance to nod I'll rail and brawl
And with the clamor keep her still awake.
This is a way to kill a wife with kindness;
And thus I'll curb her mad and headstrong humor.
He that knows better how to tame a shrew,
Now let him speak: 'tis charity to show. (4.1.174-197)

Who Said It and Where

In Padua, Italy, a father named Baptista lays down the law about his daughters. He says that Bianca's admirers should scram—Bianca's not getting married until Baptista can get Kate off his hands. The suitors whine that this is no fair because Kate is a total you-know-what (a.k.a. shrew) and nobody wants to marry her.

Petruchio, a rich bachelor from out of town, arrives at his pal Hortensio's house with his servant Grumio. Hortensio is in lust with Bianca and convinces Petruchio that he needs to marry Kate so Bianca will be available. Petruchio is all over this plan. Baptista has lots of money so Kate will come with a big ol' dowry. Petruchio also sees himself as a "shrew tamer," so he's not worried about Kate's attitude.

Step 1: Confuse her. Petruchio acts all wild. One moment he's calling his servants bastards and lackeys while kicking them around and the next minute he's telling Kate to relax and make herself at home. He claims that the servants burned dinner and flings some food and dishes around. Kate tries to talk him down (she doesn't yet know that he's messing with her head and, besides, the poor girl's hungry—she didn't even get a piece of wedding cake.)

Step 2: Deprive her of food. Petruchio announces that they're going to bed without dinner and trots her off to her room.

Then Petruchio comes back and delivers a long speech about how his plan to tame Kate has begun. He compares himself to a falcon tamer and compares Kate to a wild bird that must be broken. He'll starve her and deprive her of sleep and food until she breaks. This, he says, is the best way to tame a shrew. Shmoop wonders about that.

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