The 16th century play, The Taming of the Shrew, uses a public wager amongst three men regarding the obedience of their wives to display how commitment and persistence are key values to a successful marriage. At a dinner party, three noblemen, Lucentio, Hortensio, and Petrucchio, one at a time call upon each their wives in front of the crowd. Lucentio begins the wager by calling for his wife Bianca, who immediately refuses him. Hortensio follows next, by asking the widow to come to his presence, and he is also rejected. Finally, Petrucchio commands for Katherina to come see him; she is pleased to acquiesce his request and returns at once.
The wager begins when Lucentio sends a message to his fair and beautfiul Bianca bidding her to come to him in the main room. His servant returns however, near embarrassed, and says to Lucentio, "Sir, my mistress is busy, and she cannot come." Lucentio is near humiliated in front of the crowd, and Baptista Minola is shocked at his daughters disrespect. Lucentio, however, stares to Hortensio and Petrucchio, and challenges them to have their wives do better.
Hortensio is next in this waging war. He entreats for his new wife, the widow, to come to his presence in the main room at the dinner party. "Go and entreat my wife to come to me at once," he tells the servant. The servant returns moments later, stuttering, She says you are playing some jest, she will not come." The crowd snickers and Hortensio is blushing mad. He too has been rejected by his wife and is unable to reflect his male status in his marriage.
Lastly, it is Petrucchios turn to try to have Katherina obey him. The crowd laughs immediately, saying they know what her answer will be, and that she will not come to him. He says to his servant, Go to your mistress and say I command her to come to me." Katherinas responds almost immediately and with great pleasure, "What do you wish, sir?" The entire crowd is in shock to see that the notoriously wild and rebellious Katherina is now being subservient to her new husband. He then commands her to return with the other wives at once, "Fetch them here." Not only does Katherina respond to Petrucchio aptly, but she drags both Bianca and the widow back in with her, holding them each by the ear. She gives a small speech in front of the crowd on "What duty we do owe to our lords and husbands," and makes these women appear both foolish and defiant. Baptista adds another twenty thousand crowns to her dowry, Another dowry for another daughter, because Petrucchio has managed to make Katherina a newly changed happy woman. Petrucchio wins the 4000 crowns and the additional dowry and he and Katherina exit the party leaving everyone astonished as to what they just saw.
Society often praises certain physical and ideal characteristics of its individuals, and links those attributes with the foundations of a successful life and marriage. We see here in this play that a lasting and working marriage is one which fulfills the needs and desires of both of its counterparts. It designates a role to both persons involved, making both male and female feel of importance and value to their mate. Katherinas proud and eager response to Petrucchios request demonstrates for us a woman whose needs are being satisfied by her husband. Her entire life she has played second fiddle to her sister, the fair and mild Bianca, and now that she was fulfilled in happiness by her husband, she became a duteous and obedient wife. In this time in history, it was not typical of a lady to be demanding or intellectually independent like Katherina. Shakespeares farce displays of Kate and Petrucchio as a warring couple who then gradually become successfully married make a happy ending to this satiric Italian tale.