I say it is the moon

Act 4 Scene 3 – Key Scene

In this scene, Katherina is extremely tired, hungry and confused. Petruchio has denied her sleep and food, as well as behaved oddly in front of her family, his servants and other visitors. They are meant to be travelling to Bianca’s wedding, however Petruchio threatens that they will return to his house if Katherina does not agree with him and say that the sun is the moon. She relents.

Take a look at an extract from this scene and watch it in performance here. Using the following steps, remember to look at it line by line and if you’re looking at the scene for the first time don’t worry if you don’t understand everything at once.

  • Look
    Take a look at the scene. Who has the most lines? Are they using prose or verse? Actors at the RSC often put the language into their own words to help them understand what they are saying. We’ve added some definitions (in black), questions (in red) and paraphrased some sections (in blue) to help with this. You can click on the text that is highlighted for extra guidance.
    Petruchio
    Come on, a God’s name, once more toward our mother’s. Good Lord, how bright and goodly shines the moon!
    Katherina
    The moon? The sun: it is not moonlight now.
    Petruchio
    I say it is the moon that shines so bright.
    Katherina
    I know it is the sun that shines so bright.

    This sentence and Petruchio's above are very similar, but compare the verbs that Petruchio and Katherina use here. Why do they differ?

    Petruchio
    Now, by my mother's son, and that's myself,
    It shall be moon, or star, or what I list,
    Or ere I journey to your father's house.
    Go on, and fetch our horses back again.
    Evermore cross'd and cross'd; nothing but cross'd!

    To be crossed means to be contradicted or disagreed with.

    Hortensio
    Say as he says, or we shall never go
    Katherina
    Forward, I pray, since we have come so far,
    And be it moon, or sun, or what you please:
    An if you please to call it a rush-candle,
    Henceforth I vow it shall be so for me.

    Katherina says that she will call what she sees as the moon anything that Petruchio anything he desires, even a cheaply-made candle, because she cannot bear to go back on their journey.

    Petruchio
    I say it is the moon.
    Katherina
    I know it is the moon.

    Katherina and Petruchio mirror each other’s sentences again. Why do you think this is?

    Petruchio
    Nay, then you lie: it is the blessed sun
    Katherina
    Then, God be bless'd, it is the blessed sun:
    But sun it is not, when you say it is not;
    And the moon changes even as your mind.
    What you will have it named, even that it is;
    And so it shall be so for Katherina.

    Is there anything in the language that suggests tells us Katherina's opinion of Petruchio’s strange demands?

    Hortensio
    (Aside) Petruchio, go thy ways; the field is won.

    The battle and the fighting has been won, and you have beaten Katherina.

  • Listen
    Read the scene aloud, then watch the actors trying it in different ways. Which way feels right? What, in the language makes you think that? Are there any words or lines that really stand out?
  • Imagine
    Explore some images from past versions of The Taming of the Shrew at the RSC. Which sets and staging choices for the scene feel right to you?