The academic article I found was titled “Kate’s Froward Humor: Historicizing Affect in The Taming of the Shrew,” written by Melinda Spencer Kingsbury. She argued that Petruchio’s attempt to tame Kate wasn’t just for humiliation; rather, he was trying to “rework her physiological constitution” (62). He wasn’t only trying to teach her how to be a good wife in a patriarchal society, but also trying to “rectify the balance of her humors and give her a more feminine complexion” (62) to match the biological assumptions that people had during that time period.
Kingsbury references a lot of sources that give more context about how people in the Renaissance time period viewed the relationship between the body and mind. People believed that “diseases of the mind sicken the body and that diseases of the body sicken the mind,” so an emotional calm state and “careful dietary manipulation of the body’s four humors” helped the body and mind take care of each other (65).
Kingsbury also cites information that specifies how people during this time understood gender differences in terms of their biological humors, so they thought men were superior. Going along with this, they believed “women did not have the strength of reason necessary to possess their will in order to control their passions” (66), so this could be a reason why Petruchio was so insistent on “taming” Kate; he didn’t think she could do it herself.
One of the specific scenes from the play that Kingsbury discusses is how the journey from Kate and Petruchio’s wedding to his home is freezing cold, and that she gets muddy when she gets out of the carriage. This coolness and being in mud would oppose her “hot, dry temper” (75) and bring her back to what a woman’s natural biological complexion was believed to be at that time. Similarly, Petruchio throws the mutton away when it’s burned, and people in this time believed that burned meat shouldn’t be eaten by “people with dry temperaments” (75) like Kate.
Rather than shaming Kate, which doesn’t change her, Kingsbury argues that Petruchio’s tactics “disable forward movement” (75), which ultimately forces Kate to comply. Kingsbury cites the definition of “taming” and shows that Kate doesn’t really match this; instead, she seems to be “mimicking” Petruchio’s position (76). Similarly, Kate’s long speech shows that she still hasn’t tamed her tongue, and her anger is instead directed at the women, so she’s never truly “tamed” (77). Kingsbury argues that Kate’s decision to comply has more to do with her anxiety about moving forward in life; she has to comply to get what she wants and fit in with society.
Overall, Kingsbury seems to be saying that Petruchio’s tactics were influenced by the understanding of the body’s biological and mental state during that time period, and he was trying to “tame” Kate to match the patriarchal hierarchy that was also influenced by the understanding of superiority due to biology. I’m still a little confused about the point that Kingsbury is trying to make about Kate’s compliance, but this is something I could explore more in-depth at another time.
Kingsbury, Melinda Spencer. “Kate’s Froward Humor: Historicizing Affect in The Taming of the Shrew.” South Atlantic Review, vol. 69, no. 1, 2004, pp. 61–84. MLA International Bibliography.
Source: Academic Article