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Catalog of the Shakespeare Art Collection  --  Watercolors of Shakespearean Characters 
~ Bastards, Frauds & Tellers of the Truth  ~


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BIANCA in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW
by Hannah Tompkins
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Bianca Watercolor by Hannah Tompkins

 

Bianca, the younger sister of Katherina (the so-called 'shrew' who needs taming,) comes off as a sweet, innocent victim of her sister's spiteful abuses. But, as many of us know, especially those who have lived in multiple families, that the 'sweet'innocents' are quite capable of maddening provocation.

In the play there is no mention of the mother or her fate; whether she died when the girls were very young or ran off with a traveling salesman. Whatever... she is not around and it is plausible to assume the father has been solicitous and over-protective of the 'baby' in the family. Maybe he is even a little jealous and threatened by Bianca's suitors; look how upset he got when she ran off and got married! Without telling him!

For all her studious pretenses, one thing she has learned well is how to manipulate her father by a seeming submission and infantile obedience. The sham worked on Lucentio too, whose falling in love at first sight was conditioned by her "maid's mild behavior and sobriety."

This deceit infuriates Kate. In Act I sc.i she exposes Bianca as the father's pet, which is true, for later he takes her part in a tussle between the two sisters and calls Kate some vile names to boot.

Bianca, the seductive coquette, is all coy and kittenish while the boys compete over her. She purrs:
"Good masters, take it not unkindly, pray,
That I have been thus pleasant with you both."
(Act III sc.i)
But once she is married, that's another story. There is no more need to play games. The hint of her real nature comes earlier when she confesses during the courting olympics:
"I'll not be tied to hours nor 'pointed times,
But learn my lessons as I please myself."
We already know what kind of wife she'll make and woe to her husband! Her 'innocence' suddenly vanishes as she shows herself capable of some racy, sexual banter with the men at the wedding feast. When her husband scolds her for his loss of a substantial wager on her compliance she answers:
"The more fool you for laying on my duty'".
This leaves him in a dunderment on whatever happened to all her sweet obedience? It is not Kate, but Bianca who is the real shrew, disguised under a deceptive sugar-coating.


Copyright © 1982 Hannah Tompkins. All rights reserved.

 

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