Summary and Analysis
Act III: Scene 1
Now that Katherine is to be married, our attention shifts to Bianca. Lucentio, disguised as the school teacher Cambio, and Hortensio, disguised as the musician Litio, both vie for Bianca's attention. Knowing nothing of the other man's love for Bianca, each suitor tries to get Bianca for his own. Lucentio and Hortensio quarrel over who should spend time alone with Bianca first. Bianca herself steps in and resolves the dispute, telling Hortensio that while he tunes his instrument, she shall study with Lucentio.
While pretending to study a Latin text, Lucentio confesses his love for Bianca. She gently rebukes him. When Hortensio gets his chance to be alone with Bianca, she is far less receptive to his advances than she was to Lucentio's. When Bianca is called away to help prepare for Kate's wedding, Lucentio accompanies her. Hortensio begins to realize Cambio is in love with Bianca. He vows that if, in fact, Bianca redirects her love to Cambio, he will get even with her by withdrawing his affection of her and placing it on another woman.
Shakespeare moves his audience from the frantic and furious wooing style of Petruchio and Kate to the more traditional (yet still somewhat unconventional) wooing practiced by Lucentio and Hortensio. Just as the two sisters contrast in personalities, so too do these two wooing scenes contrast each other.
As Lucentio (as Cambio) and Hortensio (as Litio) vie for Bianca's attention, they continually demonstrate their shallowness and petty jealousies. Because they cannot come to a compromise over who shall be alone with Bianca first, Bianca must step in and resolve the situation. When they do get time alone with her, each attempts to advance his case, only to find it is Bianca who really holds the reigns. In keeping with the notion of courtly love, the woman must reject her suitors' advances. Bianca does so, but for Lucentio, her rebuke is merely protocol, whereas her rebuke of Hortensio is more earnest in nature.
Whereas Lucentio and Hortensio come off as comic lovers in this scene, Bianca shows more signs of strength than we have seen up to this point. She resolves the dispute over whom she will work with first and, as she is having her lessons, appears to be entirely cognizant of the situation unfolding before her. Lucentio's advances, interspersed between Latin phrases, do not escape her attention. Although she clearly prefers Lucentio to Hortensio, she carefully instructs him to "presume not," but softens her admonition with the instruction "despair not" (44). When Hortensio makes his advances under the pretense of teaching her the "gamut," she quickly rebukes him. From this simple act, we see that she is decidedly capable of passing judgment and satisfying her own whims and desires — two traits which, although they give her personality dimension and make her more life-like, would not have been seen as favorable in women of the time.
At scene's end, Hortensio is beginning to realize he may not become Bianca's chosen suitor and vows revenge if she prove fickle. His declaration is interesting because it demonstrates that perhaps he is the fickle one — as evidenced by his willingness to seek revenge by transferring his affections to another woman. If his love were genuine, transference would not be so likely.
"Hic ibat Simois; hic est Sigeia tellus; / Hic steterat Priami regia celsa senis" (28-29) "Here flowed the river Simois; here is the Sigeian land; here stood the lofty palace of old Priam" (Ovid).
conster (30) construe.
Pedascule (49) a word of contempt coined by Hortensio based on the Latin "pedasculus," or "little pedant."
Aeacides (51) descendant of Aeacus, King of Aegina and grandfather of Ajax.
gamut (66) any complete musical scale, especially the major scale.
nice (79) ignorant; foolish.
stale (89) decoy, bait.