Think You a Little Din Can Daunt Mine Ears?

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Why came I hither but to that intent?
Think you a little din can daunt mine ears?
Have I not in my time heard lions roar?
Have I not heard the sea, puffed up with winds,
Rage like an angry boar chafèd with sweat?
Have I not heard great ordnance in the field
And heaven’s artillery thunder in the skies?
Have I not in a pitchèd battle heard
Loud ‘larums, neighing steeds, and trumpets clang?
And do you tell me of a woman’s tongue,
That gives not half so great a blow to hear
As will a chestnut in a farmer’s fire?
Tush, tush, fear boys with bugs!

— Petruchio, The Taming of the Shrew, I.2.201-213

I’m working through six of Shakespeare’s major plays with the help of Peter Leithart (via his excellent Brightest Invention of Heaven: A Christian Guide to Six Shakespeare Plays). I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading through the histories (Henry V and Julius Caesar) and the tragedies (Macbeth and Hamlet), and now I’ve come to the comedies, The Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing.

Leithart makes an interesting interpretive point in the introduction to Shrew when he writes,

It does not go too far to suggest that, making allowances for the comic setting, Petruchio’s training of Katherina is similar to Christ’s training and discipline of His unruly Bride, the Church (211).

With that in mind, I read the above passage and was struck anew by the wonder of grace. Petruchio’s fellows are waxing eloquent about how awful Katherine is and how idiotic a man must be to woo and wed her. Petruchio is astounded; should he be afraid of her? Should he cower in fear at her tongue-lashings and tempers? He’s been on the battlefield with artillery barrages exploding everywhere. He’s sailed the seas in the midst of raging storms. He has personally heard the roar of lions. Is she more fearsome than these?

Leithart’s point rings true with the greater Suitor and Beloved. Jesus has spoken the world into existence. He has looked the Devil and Death in the eyes and crushed them both. He has defanged the prowling lion and turned his roar into a whimper. He has sailed on stormy seas, too, and they shut up precisely when He told them to. Are the sins of His Bride more fearsome than these? Can the little din of her blemishes daunt His ears?

Jesus is not frightened by the spots and warts of His Beloved. He has overcome the world, and now He washes her clean with the water of the Word. We the Bride are the Beloved, whom He woos with kindness and forgiveness. We need not flee from Him in fear of His disappointment or disapproval or disavowal; we should run to Him who is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

When we are tempted by the Liar’s whisper that Jesus can’t or won’t forgive us this time, think of our Lover saying:

Why came I hither but to that intent?

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