Shakespeare/Taming Of The Shrew Humor term paper 12640

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In The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare creates humour through his characters by

creating false realities (as demonstrated by Petruchio’s behaviour and attire

in the scene of his wedding) and by the use of subterfuge and mistaken identity

(shown in the final scenes with the transformation of Kate and Bianca’s

respective personas). He also uses irony quite extensively, especially towards

the end of the play (as can be seen in the final ‘wager’ scene). The concept

that ‘things are not always as they seem’ is quite evident in the events

surrounding, and including, Petruchio’s wedding ceremony. This particular

scene in the play demonstrates how the use of false realities (a real situation

falsely presented in order to deliberately deceive) can be used to create humour.

Biondello describes Petruchio’s appearance to Baptista, and by doing so sets

up the expectations of the audience. He says that Petruchio comes wearing: New

hat and old jerkin; a pair of old breeches thrice turned; a pair of boots that

have been candle-cases, one buckled another laced; an old rusty sworde…with a

broken hilt and chapeless; his horse hipped…with an old mothy saddle (Act III

Scene II) This depiction of Petruchio conforms to Shakespeare’s technique of

using false realities, in order to create humour. This can also be seen in the

false identity that Petruchio puts forth in his quest for dominion over Kate

(that of the eccentric egomaniac). However, these false realities are not enough

by themselves, as the audience has nothing to go by but what they see before

them, and so they are not to know that this is not Petruchio’s true

personality, and so Shakespeare employs another essential element of humour: he

lets the audience know what is truly transpiring, while the characters

themselves remain oblivious to the truth. He does this using a soliloquy, in

which Petruchio states the strategies he shall use in order to tame Kate: She

ate no meat today nor none shall she eat…and as with the meat some undeserved

fault I’ll find about the making of the bed… This is the way to kill a wife

with kindness…he that knows better how to tame a shrew, not let him speak (Act

IV Scene I) This soliloquy serves to reinforce the fact that ‘things are not

always as they seem’. So the knowledge gleaned from this soliloquy means that

we find the other events involving Kate and Petruchio even more amusing, as we

can see that it is nothing more than an elaborate game of chess, instigated by

Petruchio. Another example of where we find humour being generated by the fact

that ‘things are not always as they seem’ is the relationship between Kate

and Bianca. Here Shakespeare uses the device of mistaken identity and combines

it with a strong sense of irony. On the outside, Kate appears harsh, cruel and

frightening to all of the characters. Even her father is scared of her monstrous

temper, begging anyone to marry her. Yet as her relationship with Petruchio

grows, her true identity emerges and our perception of her changes. She becomes

much less of a shrew, her mistaken identity, and begins to become more

obsequious and agreeable, her true identity. Despite all of her outward

appearances, she is truly a good person in her heart. Yet Bianca’s scenario is

different. She is perceived as a sweet and gentle person, a false conception,

devoting herself to her studies and never wanting anything else out of life. Yet

once she achieves her goal, to be married, her true self appears. She becomes

quarrelsome and apathetic. She becomes almost what her sister was. It is here

that Shakespeare once again creates humour through the concept that ‘things

are not always as they seem’. The irony that comes from seeing the reversal of

characteristics and the drastic change in our perceptions of Kate and Bianca

provide a sense of amusement, and self-righteous satisfaction at the way the

tides have turned. An example of this is in the final scene where Petruchio and

Lucentio place a wager on the obedience of their wives (Kate and Bianca

respectively). Of course Lucentio loses due to Bianca’s disobedience and

near-contempt for her husband, while Petruchio and his newly transformed Kate,

proceed to win a wager that according to the plot of the play to date, Bianca

and Lucentio should have won without question. These scenes were all significant

in that they used a wide variety of techniques, such as creating false realities

and mistaken identities, as well as the use of irony, to manipulate the

audience’s perceptions of people and events in a way that brings

entertainment. This play successfully presents the fact that ‘things are not

always as they seem’, and it is this concept that is used in order to convey

humour to the audience.


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