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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.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Taming of the Shrew!