“Treasure” is not necessarily a concentration of wealth but rather the interpretation of it. It could mean possessing something of materialistic value but it could also signify something that holds a great deal of preciousness, beyond the mundane of mere jewels. In ‘ The Taming of the Shrew’, many themes are closely linked to the idea of treasure which seems to carry a divergent perception for each character.
In all its literal glory, ‘treasure’ refers to riches in terms of money. Petruchio, a wealthy bachelor in the comedy, would definitely vouch for this definition of the word. He is easily the most money-minded character in this play, which can be seen in his very first conversation with Hortensio, his close friend, to whom he expresses his wish to “wive and thrive”. This announcement causes Hortensio to ‘casually’ joke that he knows of a rich woman, Katherina, and describes her as an “intolerable curst, And shrewd and froward so beyond all measure”. Despite the warnings of her scolding tongue and numerous comparisons to hell, Petruchio wants to marry her, for the sole purpose of receiving an enormous amount of dowry, “Thou know’st not gold’s effect”. He couldn’t care less about his possible wife’s other qualities, even as far as referring to mythological references, such as Socrates’ Xanthippe — a woman known to be a notorious shrew. He comes across as an egoistical and selfish chauvinist whose only purpose in life seems to be to uphold an apparent reputation in the town of Padua, “I come to wive it wealthily in Padua; If wealthily, then happily in Padua.”
Another character that seems to be quite invested in wealth is Baptista, the father of Bianca and Katherina. An affluent man with superficial values who wants the alliance of his daughters’ to be with the richest bachelor, even going as far as taking a bribe, showing that he cares more about his personal gain and gives wealth, an immense amount of significance.
However, even though the linkage of ‘treasure’ with its literal meaning is strong, The Taming of the Shrew, has more metaphorical connections with the term.
Whether it’s the prominent topic of love in Shakespearean plays, or the power and dominance of men in contrast to the female inferiority back in the sixteenth century, the comedy covers many aspects of figurative themes.
I’ll start off with the most common trait in a Shakespearean play — love. And the epitome of love in this play would be Lucentio. As he makes an entrance, he overhears a quarrel, where he sees a silent and obedient looking Bianca, immediately falling in love-at-first-sight., his reaction, “I burn! I pine, I perish”, shows his ideals about romantic love, which makes him take ridiculous measures. For example, he forgets all about attaining academic achievements, which was the very reason he came to Padua in the first place, in pursuit of wooing Bianca. Lucentio’s plan to chase Bianca carries a certain risk as he goes as far as pretending to be a tutor for her, even making the extra effort of bringing a book about love itself —- ‘The Art of Love”.
I think it’s safe to say that the definition of love is very composite and erratic alongside being closely linked with wealth. The relationship of love and marriage never severs ties with the concentration of money, putting a strong emphasizes on the economic institution of who marries whom, this substantial connection between the two proved that the foundation of a marriage is based on dowry or money and signifies the level of security in a marital relationship.
Being dominant was a typical temperament for men in the Shakespearean era, this element could be seen throughout the whole play. It seemed to have shown the miscellaneous embodiments of masculinity. The most widely used manifestation of manliness would be the male pride, which is actually kind of funny, as the ultimate result of their pride isn’t even related to their physical strength, but rather their ability to hold authority over someone else or woo women.
This would relate especially to Petruchio, whose need for supremacy can be seen in the very first scene that he appears in, where his servant, Grumio, makes an unintentional pun about knocking. This in turn angers Petruchio who wrings Grumio by the ears. The tyrannizing behavior shows us that Petruchio is a rather sharp-tongued person who expects to be obeyed. In fact, this very domineering persona, leads to the triumphant domestication of the shrew that is Katherina. “Have I not in my time heard lions roar? Have I not heard the sea, puff’d up with winds, rage like an angry boar chafed with sweat?” These previous bluffs seemed silly at the time, but it’s honestly surprisingly shocking to see that they may have carried an underlying truth, as his methods of taming Katherina after their marriage, proves to be somewhat successful. However, the techniques that he uses are considerably bestial. An example of his cruel behavior would be his treatment of her, such as not giving her food and not allowing her to sleep, claiming that nothing is good enough for her. He feels confident and smug that he can withstand and tame Katherina’s cynical personality.
This play also hints at the inferiority of women. The first sign is, when we see that any man who wants to marry a woman, talks to her father about the alliance directly. In this case, suitors approaching Baptista to seek Bianca’s hand for marriage, which would be based on his approval. Even the tutors for his daughters are based on his choice. The lack of their consent in their own marriage alliance suggests the ideal menial mind of a woman back then, an endless cycle of male superiority and female inferiority. Another example of this is the way that women had to behave. They had to carry a certain level of elegance, obedience, and attractiveness, all of which Bianca consisted of. She was often times described as a woman of a ”fair” face, “coral lips” and her being “sweeter than perfume itself” enticed many suitors. Since she was the one who fit the description and expectation of the ideal woman back then, everyone chased after her and not Katherina, who had a rather controversial personality.
Though the idea of ‘treasure’ in this essay has been discussed in terms of its literal and metaphorical meanings, there have also been some hidden definitions of the word, such as the use of language. It has the power to determine a person’s social standing, education, as well as their motivation or fear of a certain thing. It is therefore strongly connected to the presence of power. In the play, the characters that are the most proficient and concise in expressing themselves are also the most successful in getting what they want. Take Katherina for instance, she is witty, full of snarly remarks and the speed of her insults is swift. However, it’s safe to say that Petruchio is the one who wins this ultimate battle of acuity. Their battle of competitive wordplay can be seen in their first few encounters, where both of them share the equal need to dominate a conversation. Sadly, between the two of them, Petruchio is the one who overpowers, but that may just be because his range of references is wide, “Have I heard not great ordnance in the field, And heaven’s artillery thunder in the skies?” demonstrating his somewhat worldly knowledge, and also allowing him to have more to say than Katherina does, whose most common insult is a “stool”. This narrow knowledge generally received from education reminds us of the fact that Baptista keeps his daughters locked away at home.
Another example of a hidden treasure is acceptance. Though a complex character, all Katherina really craves is the approval from others, especially her father. Her jealousy toward Bianca, who gets all the love from Baptista, and whom Katherina perceives as fake, may really just be a cover for her need to feel loved. The way other people deem her as a devil and therefore behave dismissively towards her seems to get to her after all. An exemplar of her need to feel as a priority can be seen when Petruchio boasts about how she agreed to marry him in private, which she never did, and gives up trying to prove herself. This may also be an attempt to seek approbation from her father as well as trying to give being in a relationship with someone a chance, a chance a love.
These were the elements of literal, metaphorical and hidden meanings of treasure. Now, we can talk about how the idea of treasure for the characters in a relationship, changes through the influence or course of marriage.
Taking Lucentio and Bianca’s relationship for example. In the beginning, Bianca is a quiet, reserved and polite girl who behaves according to the society’s expectations and Lucentio is a young rich bachelor who gives love a lot of priority. However, towards the play’s end, both of them take a complete 180 turn in their personalities. Bianca ends up being a sort of witty rebel. She marries Lucentio in secret, knowing that it would jeopardize her father’s social standing. She even insults her husband with an underlying warning when she says “The more fool you for laying on my duty.” In fact, this may show that Katherina knew of her hidden personality all along. As for Lucentio, he shows us that male pride is indeed important to him in the end, when he takes on a challenge with Petruchio and Hortensio about whose wife is the most obedient one. He ends up losing and gloats about it.
Petruchio and Katherina’s relationship is the one that goes through a whole journey of change. Petruchio ends up being the shrew in the process of taming one, or perhaps that’s just an act to show Katherina how others regard her behavior. Nevertheless, the irrational need to be right all the time and disrespectful nature seems to increase. When Kate says “But sun it is not when you say it is not, And the moon changes even as your mind.”, it shows that Petruchio is successful in taming her, and changes her mindset into thinking that whatever he says is right. But I guess it wouldn’t be wrong to say that he feels something genuinely for Katherina. Her wittiness seems to attract him in terms of finding someone at his level of competitiveness. As for Katherina, she’s the one who goes through a drastic change. The once aggressive and strong-headed girl transforms into an obedient woman, her speech at the end shows how her previous feminism has also changed in the procedure of being tamed, it transforms into idolizing the so-called ‘heroism’ and ‘hard-work’ of men.
At the end of the day, the ultimate ‘victory’ was made by the flamboyant personality, symbolizing that any male that held dominance, knowledge and wealth were at the top of the social hierarchy. Petruchio carried all those treasures with him, even though it made him shrewd, people didn’t notice, as they were too busy being jealous in the end. Lucentio’s idyllic persona did land him the love of his life, but not the status. Bianca went from being a quiet girl to a woman with freedom. Katherina the shrew ended up being not so much of a shrew after all, surprising everyone with her final speech, where she gives men a flattering image and showcase women as people who are “weak” and need saving and protecting.
To conclude the idea of treasure in terms of its metaphorical meaning, here is a quote of Katherina Minola, “I am asham’d that women are so simple To offer war where they should kneel for peace, Or seek for rule, supremacy, and sway, When they are bound to serve, love, and obey.” Of course, she did not say that, just to ‘please’ her ‘beloved’ husband and the rest of the male pride present.