Synopsis

Petruchio finally fights his way out, but in Act Four he discovers that his wife has "gone mad"—she has begun to dress like a common whore (in a perfect counterpart to Petruchio's entrance in fantastic attire in the earlier play) and is busy flirting with his friends. When Petruchio announces that he has had enough of marriage and is abandoning Maria for foreign travel, she encourages him to depart on the pretext that his journeys may broaden his vision and turn him into a better human being.

Almost totally defeated as Act Five opens, Petruchio tries one final stratagem in an attempt to awaken some spark of compassion in Maria. He decides to play dead, and in one of the Elizabethan theater's celebrated scenes he is borne onstage in a coffin before his wife and friends. Maria is indeed moved to tears, but they are inspired, as she tells us in a famous speech, not by his person but by his "unmanly, wretched, foolish life......how far below a man, how far from reason" Petruchio has remained.

This last salvo of abuse brings Petruchio back from the dead: he sits up in his coffin, prompting in Maria a state of final bafflement if not total respect. The two pledge that they will start life anew together amidst the richly comic and ironic mood that ends the play.

In the play's subplot, Livia joins in the protest of the married women, though her primary motive is to avoid an arranged marriage with the old and unpleasant Moroso and marry her own choice of husband, Roland. Both Maria and Livia succeed in attaining their wishes by the play's end.