Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer, blogger and published author of The Book of Helen. She lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband and their ten children.
The students at the school where I work are studying “The Taming of the Shrew.”
Anyone who ever tackled Katherine’s final speech, and struggled with its meaning, knows how hard any of us find it to submit. Her 43-line monologue (whether you believe her tamed or not) is one of submission and obedience.
Most of the students in the class either wanted Katherine not to be tamed at the end, or argued (despite her speech), that she’d volley back at Petruchio, that it was all a put on or she was in on the bet.
Others thought she’d caught on and now by employing the same game techniques, cruelty and training done all in the name of love, break his spirit.
Ultimately, the students wanted to have the tennis match between the two of them go on, and yet be becoming ever more in love. They could not settle any more than scholars who pour over the Bard’s words, the outcome which would most satisfy, in part because there’s a component of that speech which rings true. Love requires the willing submission of my will to the other’s. It’s not tit-for-tat, and it’s not about power. It’s about giving.
Perhaps if we considered Kate’s speech in reference to Divine Love, we’d find her words more agreeable or at least, understandable.
Come, come, you froward and unable worms,
My mind hath been as big as one of yours,
My heart as great, my reason haply more,
To bandy word for word and frown for frown.
But now I see our lances are but straws,
Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare,
That seeming to be most which we indeed least are.
Compared to God, all our reason, all our will, all our minds are still infinitely smaller than that of our Lord. We cannot bandy words, nor can we demand equality. Our strength is nothing, and our existence entirely dependent.
Our lives are supposed to be outpourings of love and only love, in which case, Kate’s earlier part of the speech, talking about furrowed brows and all the anger and willfulness marring one’s true purpose, takes on a truer meaning than the perceived codifying of the societal role wherein the wife would be subservient to the husband.
If we are the Church and Christ the bridegroom, then all the words she says would be true. We’d owe all. We owe all, and do not yet fully embrace that reality joyfully. Who wants to surrender themselves to the point of willingly placing their hands below the foot of another for whatsoever is done by the other?
Someone who loves. While Shakespeare wrestles with the nature of marital love and the necessary servitude involved in willing the good of the other before one’s own, God reveals to us the perfect servant’s heart in the person of Mary. Mary consents, “Let it be done to me according to your will.” And “I am the Lord’s handmaiden.” She stipulates from the beginning of our knowing her, her role as a humble servant of the Lord always.
Christ placed his hands beneath the nails. Mary bowed her head and obeyed. If you want to understand love, it is service, it is trusting obedience to the other’s needs and desires.
Divine love is all about the taming of our souls. Would that we would recognize how much we are being wooed, and allow ourselves to joyfully receive that gift.