Just as Bianca is Katherine’s foil—her opposite—the intrepid, lovesick Lucentio serves as a foil for Petruchio throughout the play. Lucentio reflects the sort of idyllic, poetical view of love that Petruchio’s pragmatism dismisses: Lucentio is struck by love for Bianca at first sight, says that he will die if he cannot win her heart, and subsequently puts into motion a romantic and fanciful plan to do so. Whereas love in the play is often mitigated by economic and social concerns, Lucentio is swept up in a vision of courtly love that does not include the practical considerations of men like Petruchio. Throughout much of the play, then, Lucentio and Bianca’s relationship appears to be refreshing and pure in comparison to the relationship between Petruchio and Katherine. Petruchio’s decision to marry is based on his self-proclaimed desire to win a fortune, while Lucentio’s is based on romantic love. Moreover, while Petruchio devotes himself to taming his bride, Lucentio devotes himself to submitting to and ingratiating himself with his. While Petruchio stages his wedding as a public spectacle, Lucentio elopes with Bianca.
The contrast between Lucentio and Petruchio distinguishes The Taming of the Shrew from other Elizabethan plays. Through Lucentio and Bianca, the play looks beyond the moment when the romantic lovers are wed and depicts the consequences of the disguises and subterfuges they have charmingly employed to facilitate their romance. Once the practical business of being married begins, Lucentio’s preoccupation with courtly love seems somewhat outmoded and ridiculous. In the end, it is Petruchio’s disturbing, flamboyant pragmatism that produces a happy and functioning marriage, and Lucentio’s poeticized instincts leave him humiliated when Bianca refuses to answer his summons. Love certainly exists in the world of The Taming of the Shrew, but Lucentio’s theatrical love, attractive though it is, appears unable to cope with the full range of problems and considerations facing married couples in adult life.
More characters from The Taming of the Shrew