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The Taming of The Shrew. William Shakespeare An Introduction. The Taming of the Shrew. The idea of beating one’s wife to make her obey was acceptable behaviour in Medieval times. The Taming of the Shrew presents a different, more radical alternative. Sources of the play.

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the taming of the shrew

The Taming of The Shrew

William Shakespeare

An Introduction

the taming of the shrew1
The Taming of the Shrew
  • The idea of beating one’s wife to make her obey was acceptable behaviour in Medieval times.
  • The Taming of the Shrew presents a different, more radical alternative.
sources of the play
Sources of the play
  • Shakespeare appears to have got his ideas for the play from several sources popular in this time.
  • A Ballad: A Merry Jest of a Shrewd and Curst Wife Lapped in a Morel’s Skin for her Good Behaviour.
  • In this song the wife is beaten until she bleeds. Then wrapped in a skin of an old lame plough horse, Morel, killed and flayed for the occasion.
  • The husband threatens to keep her in the skin and treat her like the horse unless she obeys him.

The other episodes like:

  • The ranting a tailor for cutting the gown in an outrageous manner is from: Accidence of Amory (1562) by Leigh.
  • The wife agreeing with her husband in the assertion of what is obviously not is from: El Conde Laconor of Don Juan Manuel (1350)
  • Erasmus advocated, in A Merry Dialogue Declaring the Properties of Shrewd Shrews and Honest Wives (1557) a taming method more akin to that used by Petruchio. In this the husband uses the techniques of taming a bird or animal to “tame” his wife.

The wagering on the wives’ obedience occurs in The Book of the Knight of La Tourlandry (1484)

  • The sub-plot in which the characters play different roles to gain access to the young woman is from Gascoinge’s Supposes (1566)

The Plot of The Supposes:

A young man succeeds in possessing the girl he loves by outwitting the character who blocks his access to her - in this case Lucentio outwits Gremio to court and marry Bianca.

Lucentio achieves this by means of disguise and allowing Tranio to pretend that he is Lucentio.

Hortensio, Shakespeare’s invention, is introduced to add further complication.


Blockage Character



A Young Man


A beautiful Girl







The Scheming Servant - Tranio -knows all - to fool all.


Added to these characters and actions is the INDUCTION scene which orginated in the story:

The Sleeper Awakened from The Arabian Nights. A story popular in the 16th Century.

petruchio kate
Petruchio & Kate
  • Kate is a spoilt household bully who tyrannises her sister, defies her father, strikes her sister, tutor and suitor without provocation.
  • She is in a choleric ill humour and must be redirected.


The man born to tame Kate by curing her of her chronic bad temper. He realises that her choler is an ill humour and sets about restoring her to a balance with his sanguine humour.

He “drowns her” in her own ill humour and provides a mirror to show her what she could become.


Bianca’s actions contrast to Kate’s behaviour both earlier and at the end of the play. She has a will of her own which she uses to effect to provide her own entertainment.

Hortensio provides more complication for Act III sci. He is a link between Petruchio and Padua and is essential for the last scene where the betting needs suspense to be effective.

other characters
Other Characters


Ends up wifeless

Pantaloon – old foolish man, butt of all the jokes

Shameful for going after such a young girl


The page; pretends to be Sly’s wife . . . Very convincing


From Mantua; impersonates Vincentio

other characters1
Other Characters
  • Biondello
    • Lucentio’s servant; angers Vincentio when he denies he is Lucentio’s father
  • The widow
    • Marries Hortensio; tells him to come to her when he calls
  • Pedant/Merchant
    • From Mantua; impersonates Vincentio
framework story
Framework Story
  • A play within a play
  • The Induction (outer frame)
    • About the Lord (nobility) tricking and taking advantage of Christopher Sly (lower class)
      • How noblemen can use money, power, and resources to take advantage of lower class
      • Also foreshadows how Petruchio will force Kate to change from a shrew to an obedient wife

Framework Story Cont.

  • The page, Bart, playing the role of Sly’s wife
    • How female roles were played by “pretty” boys/gender on stage in Shakespeare’s time
    • Since a boy can play the role of an obedient wife, perhaps Kat is good at “acting” the part of a dutiful wife
  • The deception in the outer frame sets up the appearance vs. reality in the inner play
framework story cont
Framework Story Cont.
  • Inner frame (the inner play)
    • The play that Christopher Sly and the Lord are watching
    • About Petruchio taming Kate, the shrew
    • Contains key ideas introduced in the Induction
      • Women’s roles in society
      • Appearance vs. reality
      • Social order
shakespeare s dramaturgical skill
Shakespeare’s Dramaturgical skill
  • Lucentio is full of stock Elizabethan love poetry when he first sees Bianca.
  • A contrast to Petruchio’s bluntness.
women s roles
Women’s roles
  • A woman had no legal rights as a 16th century wife
    • She became her husband’s property
  • Once married, Kate lost all legal rights, had no identity of her own, and became Petruchio’s property
      • Petruchio wants to “wive it wealthily” in Padua
women s roles1
Women’s roles
    • Kate’s speech at the end of the play is about how a home is like a mini-kingdom
      • Unruly wives threaten the hierarchy of the family
  • Males treat marriage as a financial transaction
    • Women were commodities to be traded
      • Bianca and Kate’s marriages were business transactions for Baptista
women s roles2
Women’s roles
  • Males treat marriage as a financial transaction
    • Women were commodities to be traded
      • Bianca and Kate’s marriages were business transactions for Baptista
kate believes every word she says
Kate Believes every word She Says
  • By the end of the play, she is enlightened
  • Petruchio gave her a dose of her own medicine
  • By overcoming her shrewishness, she finds happiness
  • Petruchio uses torture devices to tame her
    • Sleep deprivation, starvation, manipulation, shaming)
kate is just acting the role of a dutiful wife
Kate Is Just Acting the Role of a Dutiful Wife
  • The scene where Kate breaks and goes along with Petruchio’s make believe world
    • She is just acting
  • The final speech is her ability to role play or act
    • She is acting for domestic peace
    • Kate has to give that speech because she has no legal rights as a 16th century wife
    • Learns how to play the game to get what she wants
  • Her speech is too over-the-top
bianca to kate foils
Bianca to Kate -- Foils

Foil – a character who provides a contrast for another character

Bianca’s innocence and obedience is a foil to Kate’s shrewish behavior

bianca to kate foils1
Bianca to Kate -- Foils
  • Tranio and Lucentio point out their differences at the beginning of the play
    • Kate is a crazy, loud-mouthed woman while Bianca is a submissive, silent daughter
bianca to kate foils2
Bianca to Kate -- Foils
  • By the end of the play, however, Bianca acts more like the shrew
    • Flirted with tutors, elopes, talks dirty to Petruchio, and disobeys her husband
appearance vs reality
Appearance vs. Reality

Outward appearances are not always an indication of a person’s true identity

The play is full of physical disguises, deception, changes in attitude and behavior, and psychological changes

appearance vs reality1
Appearance vs. Reality
  • The Lord’s “transformation” of Sly from a drunk to a nobleman
  • Lucentio disguising himself as a language teacher (Cambio) to woo Bianca
  • Hortensio disguising himself as a music teacher to get close to Bianca
  • The pedant impersonating Vincentio
  • Tranio impersonates his master Lucentio
appearance vs reality2
Appearance vs. Reality

Petruchio’s wedding outfit to embarrass and humiliate Kat

Kat accepting whatever Petruchio says is true

Bianca’s obedience (not as sweet as they thought)

Kat’s transition from a shrew to a trophy wife

family relationships
Family Relationships
  • Baptista treats Bianca like his treasure
    • Guards her, gets her tutors
    • Tries to find her the richest husband
family relationships1
Family Relationships
  • Wants to get rid of Kate
    • Tells the suitors she must marry first
    • Tries to get money for her
    • Doesn’t care that Petruchio forces her to leave her wedding feast (still has Bianca)
    • Offers Petruchio more money because he tamed her
climax the turning point
CLIMAX (The turning point)
  • Act IV, Scene v
    • When Katherine caves into Petruchio and agrees with everything he says (the sun is the moon, the moon is the sun, Vincentio is a beautiful woman)

A farce is a type of comedy in which ridiculous and often stereotyped characters are involved in farfetched, silly situations

farce and taming
Farce and Taming
  • The humor arises from crude physical action, slapstick, and clowning
    • Sly believing the page was his wife
    • Katherine breaking the lute over Hortensio’s head
    • Grumio and Petruchio’s argument over knock
farce and taming1
Farce and Taming
  • Petruchio’s wedding attire
  • Petruchio’s treatment of his servants
  • Gremio – pantaloon (foolish old man; the butt of the jokes; old man chasing after a much younger woman
  • The taming of Katherine is a farce
    • She is not only tamed; she becomes a willing model of the ideal woman