Kyle Walker (Petruchio / Page) on Character Interpretation

‘Tis the Mind…

There always seems to be one line that comes to define my interpretation of a character. For Petruchio this one line has come to define not only the character but my view on the play itself:

For ‘tis the mind that makes the body rich,
And as the sun breaks through the darkest clouds,
So honor peereth in the meanest habit.

While The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy full of slapstick humor and mistaken identities, I also think it asks the question “What is it that defines who you are?” The Induction scenes are a clear demonstration of this notion. Does Christopher Sly, in his mind, truly become a lord? Or is it just a dream? Or has he dreamt till now?

Petruchio constantly plays with this idea. He bends the truth, lies, and manipulates people to his own enjoyment. He knows exactly who he is and enjoys coaxing people into questioning themselves. He believes marriage is a complete sham and love is just an excuse. He comes to Padua not to find love but to “wive it wealthily.” He is only in it for the money; the wife is merely a place holder, a technicality.

All of this changes when he meets Kate.

The plan was simple. Attain the father’s consent. Cunningly keep Kate off-guard. Trick her into marrying him. Collect the dowry. Live happily ever after with his money. But as it turns out, he mistakenly falls in love with her. His entire reality is thrown into chaos. The way in which he defined himself has been questioned. He has caught himself in his own game.

But it’s ok.

His honor, his mind, his true self, can peer through the darkest clouds, right? Or perhaps the character that he has been playing is now playing him. If a kind, thoughtful, and caring man pretends to be a womanizing, arrogant, and chauvinistic man and if he plays that character long enough, does he become that man? Can someone become lost in a character? Are we defined by what we do? Or who we think we are?

Strangely enough I think this makes Petruchio love Kate even more. His game has always been to confuse, startle, and shock people. Kate joins him in his game and she does exactly what he’s been doing to her and everyone else. She understands him; even though now, he might not fully understand himself. A woman who can do that to Petruchio has truly won “the burden of his wooing dance.”