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Type of Work
The Taming of the Shrew
is a stage play in the form of a comedy that
satirizes silly or unfair social customs and
courting practices, often through farce. Farce
is a type of comedy that relies on
exaggeration, horseplay, and unrealistic or
improbable situations to provoke laughter. In a
farce, plotting takes precedence over
Induction and the Main Story
play begins with an introductory element called
“The Induction.” It tells a brief story about a
drunkard who, in an elaborate practical joke, is
deceived into believing that he is a wealthy
nobleman. An acting troupe then performs a
five-act play for him about how a gentleman from
Verona tames and marries the shrewish daughter of
a nobleman in Padua, Italy.
and First Performance
Taming of the Shrew may have been written as
early as 1589, according to a British Library web
site (Treasures in Full: Shakespeare in Quarto
But that source and others say the play was most
likely written in the early 1590s, probably
between 1590 and 1592. Conclusive evidence
does not exist to establish the date of the first
performance of the play. However, the diary of
Philip Henslowe (1550-1616), a manager and
producer of stage productions, suggests that the
play was first performed at Newington Butts, a
theater across the River Thames from central
1623, The Taming of the Shrew and
thirty-five other Shakespeare plays were published
by two of the late author's friends, John Heminges
and Henry Condell, in a book entitled Mr. William
Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies.
This book has become known as the First Folio, so
called because it was printed on folios. A folio
was a large sheet of paper folded once to form
four pages, or two leaves. Other Shakespeare plays
were published in later folio editions. Most
versions of Shakespeare's plays published today
are based on the First Folio.
specific source for the main plot of The Taming of
the Shrew has been established, although literary
works existed in Shakespeare's time that centered
on episodes and themes similar to those in
Shakespeare's play. However, no documentation
exists to suggest that Shakespeare used any of
these literary works.
It has been suggested that Shakespeare drew upon a
work entitled A Pleasant and Conceited
History, Called the Taming of the Shrew, by
an unidentified author. This play, published in
1594, is set in Greece with a different cast of
characters. It has a plot similar to that of
Shakespeare's play. But no evidence exists that
Shakespeare used this play as a source. No
evidence exists, either, that this play was
nothing more than an altered or corrupt version of
It can be stated with confidence, however, that
Shakespeare based a subplot of The Taming of the
Shrew on I Suppositi (The Suppositions),
by Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533). Ariosto’s work
was translated into English as The Supposes,
by George Gascoigne (1525-1577).
The action in the
Induction takes place in the English
countryside, first on a heath in front
of an alehouse and then in a bedroom in
the house of a lord. The action in the
five-act play takes place in various
locations in Padua, Italy, and at a
house in the nearby countryside. Padua
is in northern Italy on the Bacchiglione
River. Padua is about thirty miles west
The tone of
the play is lighthearted, playful, and comic.
However, it has a serious undertone focusing on
the inferior status of women in Renaissance
Christopher Sly: Tinker found drunk by a
Lord: Nobleman who finds Sly.
Players, Huntsmen, Servants
Soto: One of the players.
The Five Acts
Katharina Minola: Temperamental,
strong-willed daughter of Baptista Minola. She
has a sharp tongue with which she can carve men
into insignificance. Katharina is sometimes
referred to in dialogue as Katherine and Kate.
Petruchio: Boisterous and domineering
gentleman of Verona who woos and wins Katharina
against all odds. Petruchio and Katharina are
the main characters, or protagonists.
Baptista Minola: Wealthy gentleman of
Padua who bears the burden of being Katharina's
Bianca: Gentle but somewhat spoiled
daughter of Baptista and sister of Katharina.
She has many suitors who vie for her hand with
the power of wealth and position.
Vincentio: Elderly, well-to-do gentleman
Lucentio: Vincentio's son, who loves
Bianca. To woo her, he assumes another identity,
calling himself Cambio.
Another suitor of Bianca.
Hortensio: Another suitor of
of Lucentio: Tranio,
of Petruchio: Grumio, Curtis, Nathaniel,
Nicholas, Gregory, Adam, Ralph, Joseph, Philip,
Walter, Sugarsop, Peter.
Antonio: Father of Petruchio. Antonio
does not appear in the play, but Petruchio—to
commend himself to Baptista—says his father is
famous throughout all of Italy.
Ferdinand: Cousin of
Widow: Woman Hortensio marries after he
fails to win Bianca.
Pedant: Elderly schoolmaster who pretends
to be Lucentio's father, Vincentio.
Minor Characters: Tailor, Haberdasher,
An introductory event called the Induction precedes
Act I. In the Induction, a nobleman returning
from a hunt finds a sleeping drunkard named
Christopher Sly. Deciding to play a trick on
him, the nobleman directs his servants to carry
Sly to the best bedroom in his home, dress him
in finery, and anoint him with perfumes. When
Sly awakens, the servants are to pretend that he
is a great lord who has just come to his senses
after fifteen years of insanity. Sly awakens,
and the nobleman then has a traveling acting
troupe perform a play for Sly called The
Taming of the Shrew.
Lovely Bianca Minola has no
shortage of admirers in Padua, a prosperous city
in northern Italy. In fact, three young
Gremio, and Lucentio—are suing for her hand in
marriage. However, Bianca’s father, wealthy
Baptista Minola, decrees that she may receive no
suitors until her beautiful but shrewish sister,
Katharina, receives a proposal of marriage and
goes to the altar. The three young men then
begin plotting to marry off hellcat Katharina.
It so happens that a likely candidate for her
rough-hewn gentleman from Verona—is visiting at Hortensio’s
Petruchio, whose father has
recently died, has come to Padua to seek his
fortune and find a wife. While the three rivals
for Bianca are at Hortensio’s house, Hortensio
tells Petruchio of a beautiful woman with a
large dowry whose only drawback is her scolding
tongue. If he will woo her, they vow, they will
help pay the cost of courting her. Petruchio,
relishing the challenge (and no doubt the
dowry), agrees to court Katharina.
When Petruchio comes calling at
the Minola household, Katharina is chasing
Bianca, whom Katharina has just slapped after an
argument. After Bianca runs out of the room,
Katharina complains to her father that he favors
Bianca over her: “She is your treasure, she must
have a husband; / I must dance bare-foot on her
wedding day” (2. 1. 35-36). Katharina exits just
as Petruchio enters with Gremio, Lucentio,
Hortensio, and two servants. Lucentio and
Hortensio are in disguise—the former as a Greek and Latin
tutor and the latter as a music and mathematics
teacher—as part of
a scheme to gain access to Bianca, upon whom
Baptista keeps a close watch. Baptista thinks
they have come in response to his
earlier-expressed desire to hire schoolmasters
to educate his daughters.
When Petruchio and Katharina
meet the first time, Petruchio boldly announces
that he plans to woo her. She reacts with a
volley of insults, and he rejoins with playful
taunts, then tries to calm her:
Come, come, you wasp; i’ faith, you are
Katharina slaps him. He threatens
to strike back if she slaps him again. Later,
after more verbal fireworks, Petruchio uses
reverse psychology on her, telling her
KATHARINA: If I be
waspish, best beware my sting.
PETRUCHIO: My remedy is
then, to pluck it out.
KATHARINA: Ay, if the fool
could find it where it lies.
PETRUCHIO: Who knows not
where a wasp does wear his sting? In his tail.
KATHARINA: In his tongue.
PETRUCHIO: Whose tongue?
KATHARINA: Yours, if you
talk of tails: and so farewell.
PETRUCHIO: What, with my
tongue in your tail? nay, come again. Good
Kate; I am a gentleman. (2.1.209-219)
I find you
When Baptista enters the room
and asks how the two are getting along,
Katharina denounces Petruchio with more insults.
But Petruchio, bold as ever, says Kate has
declared her love for him, showered him with
kisses, and wooed him with such swiftness that
they have agreed to marry on the following
Sunday. Baptista, extremely pleased, says the
matter is settled: Katharina will marry
’Twas told me you were rough and
coy and sullen,
And now I find report a very
For thou are pleasant, gamesome,
passing courteous. (2.1.243-246)
Baptista then turns his
attention to Bianca, decreeing that, on the
Sunday following Katharina’s wedding, Bianca
will marry the man who provides the largest
dowry. Gremio boasts that his house has the
ivory, pewter, brass—and that his farm has one
hundred twenty oxen. Because Lucentio and
Hortensio remain in disguise as schoolmasters,
they cannot speak for themselves; rather, their
to be their masters—do
it for them. In the end, Baptista accepts the
proposal made on behalf of Lucentio, because his
father is said to own three large argosies
(merchant ships), two galliasses (fast warships
with three masts), and twelve tight galleys
(ships using oars and/or sails).
On the day of Katharina’s
wedding. Petruchio arrives late on a decrepit
horse. He is wearing common clothes and is
accompanied by an untidy servant, Grumio. During
the wedding, he behaves badly. First, he curses.
Then he kisses the bride with “a clamorous
smack” (3.2.155). Snubbing the wedding feast, he
carries Katharina off to his country house.
Grumio accompanies them. It is a long, cold,
miserable ride made worse when Katharina falls
from her horse into mud. Petruchio blames Grumio
for Katharina’s fall and beats him until
Katharina comes to Grumio’s rescue. Once at the
country house, Petruchio means to please his new
wife in every way, and woe unto anyone who
thwarts his efforts.
So he browbeats and nitpicks
the servants for every shortcoming, real or
imagined. When meat arrives, he pretends that it
is burnt and hurls it to the floor; so, too,
cups, saucers, everything. When he scolds the
servants, Katharina attempts to pacify him,
saying the meat was well prepared. But Petruchio
insists that it was burnt and declares it would
be better if both of them ate nothing at all.
Katharina goes to bed on an empty stomach. All
night long, Petruchio complains about the
arrangement of the bed covers, and Katharina
cannot sleep. Through it all, he sings the
praises of Katharina, thus leaving her little
room to complain about his conduct.
After Petruchio and
Katharina travel to Padua for a visit, Petruchio
orders new clothes for his wife. When the
outfitter arrives and displays her new apparel,
Petruchio finds fault with every garment even
though Katharina dearly loves a cap.
Exasperated, she declares, “Love me or love me
not, I like the cap, / And I will have it, or I
will have none” (4.3.93-94). She gets no cap, no
gown, no anything.
On the way back to
Padua, Petruchio observes that the moon shines
“bright and goodly” (4.5.4). Katharina tells him
that the sun, not the moon, is shining. When
Petruchio insists that it is the moon, Katharina—now ready to agree with
Petruchio about anything for her own peace of
And be it
moon, or sun, or what you please.
Petruchio replies, “I say it is the
moon” (4.5.18). When Katharina agrees with him,
he says, “Nay, then you lie: it is the blessed
sun” (4.5.20). In a final display of submission
to his will, Katharina says,
An if you please to call it a
Henceforth I vow it shall be so
for me. (4.5.15-17)
Then God be
bless’d, it is the blessed sun:
Katharina has been tamed.
But sun it is not when you say it
And the moon changes even as your
Back in Padua, Lucentio has
eloped with Bianca; but because Lucentio’s
father, Vincentio, has vouched for his son and
approved the marriage, Baptista is satisfied.
Meanwhile, Hortensio has successfully wooed and
wed a widow. While celebrating their marriages
at a feast at Lucentio’s house, the men converse
over a banquet table while the women chat in a
parlor. Amid the merriment among the men, Tranio—a servant of Lucentio—taunts Petruchio, claiming that
Katharina controls him. Baptista, well aware of
Katharina’s bellicose ways, agrees with Tranio.
Petruchio then proposes a wager. Each husband
will send for his wife. The husband of the wife
who responds first wins the bet. They all agree
to the wager and set the prize at a hundred
crowns. The three husbands issue commands, but
only Katharina comes forth; the other ladies
continue chatting idly in the parlor. Later,
when the other two wives come forth, Katharina
lectures them on the importance of wifely
is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Petruchio says, “Why there’s a
wench! Come on, and kiss me, Kate” (5.2.198).....
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that
cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance commits
To painful labour both by sea and
To watch the night in storms, the
day in cold,
Whilst thou liest warm at home,
secure and safe;
And craves no other tribute at
But love, fair looks and true
Too little payment for so great a
Such duty as the subject owes the
Even such a woman oweth to her
Story Within a Story
Taming of the Shrew is a story within a
story. The play resembles the structure of the
so-called frame tale, a literary work in which
one story presents another story, or several
stories. For example, The Canterbury Tales,
by Geoffrey Chaucer, begins with the story of a
group of pilgrims on their way to Canterbury to
visit the shrine of Saint Thomas á Becket. To
entertain themselves on the way, various
pilgrims tell stories. Thus, the outer story
about the pilgrimage becomes the frame of the
inner stories, which focus on unrelated
The inner stories are like a painting; the outer
story is like its frame—hence, the term frame
tale. In The Taming of the Shrew, the
story of Christopher Sly is the frame. The
five-act play, presented before Sly by an acting
troupe, is the inner story. The play has two
story lines: the main plot, involving Petruchio
and Katharina, and the subplot, involving Bianca
and her suitors.
main conflict in the story is the battle of the
sexes between sharp-tongued Katharina and sly
Petruchio. Even though she vows not to marry, he
woos her, enduring her insults. But in the face
of his persistence and his psychological
tactic—"to kill a wife with kindness"
(4.1.146)—she yields and becomes an obedient
The climax of a play or
another literary work, such as a short story
or a novel, can be defined as (1) the turning
point at which the conflict begins to resolve
itself for better or worse, or as (2) the
final and most exciting event in a series of
The climax of The Taming
of the Shrew occurs, according to
the first definition, in the fifth scene
of Act IV when Petruchio observes during the
daytime how brightly the moon is shining.
Katharina corrects him, saying he means the
sun. No, he says, it is the moon. Katharina
insists that it is the sun. Petruchio says it
shall be a moon or a star or whatever he says
it is. Frustrated, Katharina agrees: It is the
moon. Petruchio then says she lies: It is the
sun. All right, says Katharina, it is the sun.
But if he says it is the moon, she adds, then
it is the moon. Whatever he says it is, it is.
This exchange marks Katharina's complete
submission to Petruchio's will. He has tamed
According to the second
definition, the climax occurs in Act V
when Tranio attempts to bruise Petruchio's
ego, saying Katharina controls him. Baptista
says it is a fact that Petruchio has a shrew
as a wife. Petruchio then lays down a wager
with Lucentio and Hortensio. Each man will
send for his wife. The husband of the wife who
arrives first wins a hundred crowns.
Katharina, of course, proves the most
obedient. She arrives pronto while the other
two women sit chatting in a parlor.
The conclusion is the part of
the play that follows the climax. The
highlight of the conclusion begins when Tranio
attempts to bruise Petruchio's ego, saying
Katharina controls him. Baptista says it is a
fact that Petruchio has a shrew as a wife.
Petruchio then lays down a wager with Lucentio
and Hortensio. Each man will send for his
wife. The husband of the wife who arrives
first wins a hundred crowns. Katharina, of
course, proves the most obedient. She arrives
pronto while the other two women sit chatting
in a parlor. Petruchio wins the bet. He then
tells Bianca to fetch the other two wives,
Bianca and the widow. She returns with them
moments later, then lectures them on their
duties to their husbands. She says, in part:
Such duty as
the subject owes the prince,
Even such a woman oweth to her
And when she’s froward
[uncontrollable], peevish, sullen,
And not obedient to his honest
What is she but a foul
And graceless traitor to her
I am asham’d that women are so
To offer war where they should
Or seek for rule, supremacy,
When they are bound to serve,
love, and obey. (5.2.173-182)..
Baptista Minola treats his daughters, Bianca and
Katharina, like marionettes, expecting them always
to do his bidding. It is he who decides whom
Bianca will marry (the richest bachelor), and it
is he who orders Katharina to marry Petruchio, a
man she says she despises. Katharina's
relationship with Petruchio is hardly an
improvement over her relationship with her father.
Using the same tactics to tame Katharina that he
uses to tame falcons and hawks, Petruchio forces
her to acknowledge that he is always right, even
when he says the sun is the moon. At the end of
the play, all of the husbands brag about what they
apparently believe is an important quality in a
wife: submissiveness. One may interpret
Shakespeare's farcical depiction of courtship and
male-female relationships as his way of
criticizing gender bias. The taming of Katharina
thus is really a plea for equality of the sexes.
The Quandary of Renaissance Women
Katharina is an intelligent, capable young woman
who would probably thrive independently in a
challenging career, eventually marrying a man of
her choice. But because the male-dominated society
generally limits women to domestic roles—wife,
mother, and household manager under the thumb of a
husband chosen by her father—she becomes
frustrated and angry, venting her anger on whoever
happens to be in her presence. But if she wants to
avoid becoming an old maid who spends her days
knitting, sewing, or cooking in her father's
house, the only realistic option open to her is to
conform to prevailing social customs by assenting
to an arranged marriage. That is her dilemma. And
that is the dilemma that Renaissance women of the
real world faced in Shakespeare's time.
Language as a Weapon
Baptista's treatment of Katharina as a puppet
subject to his whims provokes her to lash out at
the world with her most powerful weapon, language.
Her apparent resentment of society's decree that
women are inferior to men further provokes her. It
may also be that she was simply born mean. But she
meets more than her match in Petruchio, who also
uses language as a weapon. At first, he uses his
tongue to praise her rather than scold her. Then
he uses it to destroy her resistance, insisting
that the sun is the moon—or the moon is the
sun—until she agrees that reality is whatever he
says it is. Ironically, she ends up where she
started, by obeying the orders of a man.
In the upper classes of Renaissance Europe, the
wealth and social standing of a prospective spouse
was an important consideration for parents when
they were deciding whether to allow a child of
theirs to marry. In The Taming of the Shrew,
Lucentio wins Bianca not because of charm or good
looks; he wins her because he outbids other
suitors for her and, in so doing, gains her
father's approval for the marriage. It is as if
Bianca is chattel that her father is auctioning
off. Money is also the reason that Petruchio seeks
a wife. He hopes to capitalize on a handsome
dowry, as Hortensio points out.
Here is a gentleman [Petruchio]
whom by chance I met,
Upon agreement from us to his
Will undertake to woo curst
Yea, and to marry her, if her
dowry please. (1.2.157)
Petruchio uses deceit to help him subdue
Katharina. For example, in the first scene of Act
4, he pretends that the meat his servants prepared
for his and Katharina's supper is burnt, then
rejects the entire meal. Katharina goes to bed
famished. His purpose is to make her so hungry
that she will humble herself and beg for food. He
also pretends to be dissatisfied with the way his
servants made the bed, then tears up the sheets
and covers. His ranting keeps Katharina up all
night, further wearing her down. He continues to
deceive her with strange and unsettling behavior
that eventually helps to force her Katharina to
submit to his will.
In competing for the hand of Bianca, Lucentio and
Hortensio also resort to deceit. Both of them
disguise themselves as schoolmasters to gain
access to her. In addition, Tranio uses deceit to
persuade the pedant to disguise himself as
Vincentio, Lucentio's father.
In the Induction, the practical jokers use deceit
to persuade Christopher Sly that he is a wealthy
Killing With Kindness
Using reverse psychology, Petruchio pampers and
coddles Katharina in order to rob her of occasions
to complain. He says,
This is a way to kill a wife
And thus I’ll curb her mad and
headstrong humour [behavior].
He that knows better how to
tame a shrew,
Now let him speak: ’tis charity
to show. (4.1.146-149)
This tactic, along with his use of language as a
weapon (as described previously), enables him to
silence her scolding tongue and turns her into an
Figures of Speech
Following are examples of figures of
speech from The Taming of the Shrew. For
definitions of figures of speech, see Literary Terms.
walk, we will bestrew the ground.
legs that one shall
at that sight
shall sad Apollo
weep. (Induction, 2.45-46)
suck the sweets of sweet
Sacred and sweet was all I
Fiddler, forbear; you
grow too forward,
do me double wrong.
is a way to kill
a wife with kindness;
thus I’ll curb
I have no
more doublets than backs, no more stockings
than legs, nor no more
shoes than feet. (Induction, 2.7)
not I Christopher Sly, old Sly’s son, of
birth a pedlar, by
education a cardmaker, by
transmutation a bear-herd, and now by present
profession a tinker? (Induction, 2.12)
I burn, I pine, I perish.
Say that she rail; why
tell her plain
sings as sweetly as a nightingale:
Say that she frown; I’ll say she
looks as clear 168
morning roses newly wash’d with dew:
Say she be mute
and will not speak a word;
commend her volubility,
uttereth piercing eloquence: (2.1.166-172)
shouldst have heard in how miry a place, how she was
bemoiled: how he
left her with the horse upon her; how he beat
me because her horse stumbled; how she waded
through the dirt to pluck him off me: how he
swore; how she
prayed, that never prayed before; how I
cried; how the
horses ran away; how her
bridle was burst; how I
lost my crupper. (4.1.32)
Grim death, how foul and loathsome
is thine image! (Induction, 1.30)
Dramatic: Situation in which the audience or
reader knows what a character does not know.
lord compares Christopher Sly, who is in a
drunken stupor, to death (metaphor).
making the comparison, the lord addresses
Here are examples: (1) In the Induction, Christopher Sly
is unaware that he is the victim of a practical joke.
(2) Most of the time, Katharina is unaware that
Petruchio is using deceit to "tame" her. (See Deceit, above, for additional
show’d a tender fatherly regard,
To wish me wed to one half
Master, master! news! old news, and
such news as you never heard of! (3.2.33)
cold comfort (4.1.13)
And if the boy have not a woman’s
rain a shower of commanded tears,
onion will do well for such a shift. (Induction,
Scene 1, Lines 123-125)
Lord uses a metaphor to compare the crying of
a woman to a rainstorm. This passage suggests
that actors in Shakespeare’s day—and
perhaps Shakespeare himself when he performed
in plays—used onions to coax reluctant tears
from their eyes in emotional scenes.
Thinkest thou, Hortensio, though her father be
very rich, any man is so very a fool to be
married to hell? (1.1.115)
compares Katharina to hell incarnate.
small choice in rotten apples. (1.1.118)
Katharina to a rotten apple.
tell me now, sweet friend, what happy gale
you to Padua here from old Verona? (1.2.37-38)
Petruchio's purpose in coming to Padua to a
raging fires meet together
do consume the thing that feeds their fury
himself and Katharina to raging fires.
A woman mov’d is like a fountain
thick, bereft of beauty. (5.2.160-161)
a woman moved to the muddy waters of a
uses imagery that compares Katharina to animals.
For example, the title is a metaphor comparing
Katharina Minola to a shrew, a mouse-like mammal that is
extremely mean-tempered. Other metaphors compare
her to animals that require considerable
training before they are docile enough to serve
their masters. These animals include hawks,
falcons, asses (known for their obstinacy), and
horses. Shakespeare also uses Imagery that
compares Katharina to objects, such as flowers
and hazel nuts. Both types of imagery appear
when when Petruchio says:
I will be
master of what is mine own:
Petruchio compares Katharina to birds of prey:
She [Katharina] is my goods, my
chattels; she is my house,
My household stuff, my field, my
My horse, my ox, my ass, my any
My falcon now is sharp and
passing empty [very hungry],
till she stoop she must not be
then she never looks upon her lure.
way I have to man my haggard,
make her come and know her keeper’s call;
is, to watch her, as we watch these kites
bate and beat and will not be obedient.
his plays, Shakespeare occasionally uses
stichomythia (stik uh MITH e uh), a literary
device that occurs frequently in ancient Greek
drama. Stichomythia consists of brief,
alternating lines of dialogue in which
characters argue, express strong emotions,
and/or exchange insults. The following example
presents dialogue between Petruchio and
Katharina. Note the wordplay centering on the
heraldic terms arms and crest.
come, you wasp; i’ faith you are too
If I be waspish, best beware my
My remedy is, then, to pluck it
Ay, if the fool could find it where it
Who knows not where a wasp does wear his
In his tongue.
Yours, if you talk of tails; and so
What! with my tongue in your tail? nay,
Kate, I am a gentleman.
That I’ll try. [Striking
I swear I’ll cuff you if you strike
So may you lose your arms:
you strike me, you are no gentleman;
if no gentleman, why then no arms.
A herald, Kate? O! put me in thy
What is your crest? a coxcomb?
A combless cock, so Kate will be my
No cock of mine; you crow too like a
Nay, come, Kate, come; you must not look
It is my fashion when I see a crab.
Why, here’s no crab, and therefore look
There is, there is.
Then show it me.
Had I a glass, I would.
What, you mean my face?
Well aim’d of such a young one.
Now, by Saint George, I am too young for
Yet you are wither’d.
’Tis with cares.
I care not. (2.1.209-240)
puns appear in the above passage on
stichomythia, such as those centering on tongues
and tails, as well as arms and heraldry. In
puns, the meaning of a word often changes when
it is repeated in a conversation, creating a
humorous effect. Note, for example, how the
meaning of the word bear changes in
successive lines spoken by Petruchio and
Katharina in the following passage.
Asses are made to bear,
and so are you. (Bear here means
to carry a burden.)
Women are made to
bear, and so are you. (Here bear
means to give birth to a child.)
No such jade as
bear you, if me you mean. (In this line, bear
takes on a double meaning: No jade (harlot)
will copulate with him or tolerate him.)
use of allusions to ancient mythological and
historical figures early in the play demonstrate
his knowledge of classical literature and the
ancient world. The following are among the
2.22): God of
prophecy, music, poetry, and medicine. His
alternate name, Phoebus, means brightness, and
he was thus also considered the god of the
Aristotle (1.1.34): Greek
philosopher (384-322 BC) whose works in logic,
metaphysics, literature, science, ethics,
politics, and other fields profoundly
influenced the development of philosophy in
the western world.
Cytherea (sith er E uh) (Induction,
2.38): Another name for Venus (Greek
name: Aphrodite), the goddess of love.
of Agenor (1.1.142):
Reference to Europa, daughter of Agenor, the
king of Phoenicia. She was very beautiful.
(Greek name: Artemis) goddess of the moon,
hunting, and virginity.
(Induction, 1.21): In Ovid's Metamorphoses,
a mountain nymph who offended Juno (Greek name:
Hera), the queen of the gods. In retaliation,
Juno took away Echo's ability to speak except to
repeat the words spoken by another. In the
Induction, the Lord argues that his hunting dog
is faster than Echo—that is, it can run faster
than an echo reverberating back to a listener.
Her beauty attracts Jupiter (Greek name: Zeus),
the king of the gods, who took her to Crete.
There, she bore him three sons.
Daughter of a river god. She rejected the
advances of Apollo. When he persisted, she
prayed to her father for help, and he changed
her into a laurel tree to keep her from Apollo's
ibat . . . celsa senis (3.1.30-31): Latin
quotation from Heroides, by the Roman
poet Ovid. Lucentio quotes
the line when he is supposedly teaching Latin to
Bianca. However, he has no idea what the
quotation means but only pretends to know. The
quotation describes a scene in the aftermath of
the Trojan War, saying, "Here flowed the Simois
River, and here was the Sigeian land. Here stood
the great palace of Priam (king of Troy).
(Induction, 2.41): Young
woman with whom Jupiter (Greek name: Zeus), the
king of the gods, fell in love but turned into a
heifer to disguise her from his jealous wife,
Juno (Greek name: Hera).
(1.1.143): Jupiter (Greek name: Zeus),
king of the gods.
(Latin name: Lucretia (2.1.298):
Beautiful wife of a Roman soldier named
Collatinus. When she refuses to yield to the
advances of Sextus Tarquinius—the son of the
king of Rome—he rapes her. For more information,
see Shakespeare's narrative poem, The Rape of Lucrece.
(1.1.87): Goddess of wisdom and war.
(Her Greek name was Athena.) She was born
fully grown in a suit of armor, issuing from
the forehead of Jupiter (Zeus). The Greeks
highly revered her and built many temples in
vid) (1.1.34): One of ancient Rome's
greatest poets. Ovid (43 BC-AD 17) was most
famous as the author of Metamorphoses.
(suh MEER uh mis) (Induction, 2.26):
Legendary queen of Babylonia, famed for her
(1.2.60): Greek philosopher (469-399 BC)
whose methods and ideas
profoundly influenced the philosophical and
moral tenor of western thought over the
centuries. His refusal to compromise his
intellectual integrity in the face of a death
sentence set an example for all the world to
of Socrates. She was believed to be quarrelsome
What Was a Dowry?
In Europe, it was customary for a
bride or her family to provide the groom a
dowry. In The Taming of the Shrew,
Baptista Minola offers a generous dowry to the
man who marries his daughter, Katharina.
Generally, a dowry was a grant usually
consisting of real estate, valuables, or
money. It was not an outright gift to the
husband. Rather, it was a reserve asset with
any or all of the following purposes:
controlled the dowry. Although he could not
transfer it to another person, he could accrue
investment income from it for the family.
insure fair treatment of the wife by the
husband. For example, if a husband committed a
serious wrong against his wife, he had to
forfeit the dowry. He also had to forfeit it
to her or her family if he divorced her.
provide income for household necessities as
the husband and wife were beginning their
provide the wife income if the husband died.
Shakespeare's writings suggest
that he visited Italy, although no other
evidence is available to indicate that he ever
set foot outside of Britain. As for the evidence
in his writing, consider that more than a dozen
of his plays—including
The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet,
All's Well That Ends Well, Othello,
Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, The Two Gentlemen
of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing, and The Winter's Tale
all have some or all of their scenes set in
Italy. Consider, too, that plays not set in
Italy are often well populated with people
having Italian names. For example, although The
Comedy of Errors takes place in Ephesus,
Turkey, the names of many of the characters end
with the Italian ''o'' or ''a'':—Angelo, Dromio, Adriana,
Luciana. In Hamlet's Denmark, we find
characters named Marcellus, Bernardo and
Francisco. Practically all of the
characters in Timon of Athens bear the
names of ancient Romans—Lucullus, Flavius, Flaminius,
Lucius, Sempronius, Servillius, Titus,
Hortensius. Of course, it is quite
possible that Shakespeare visited Italy only in
Study Questions and Essay Topics
1.....Baptista Minola arranges
marriages for his daughters, Katharina and
Bianca. How widespread was the practice of
arranged marriages in the age of
2.....Do any countries observe this
practice today? What are the advantages and
disadvantages of this practice?
3.....How does the divorce rate in
arranged marriages compare with the divorce
rate in marriages of people who choose their
4.....How important is (or was)
money in your choice of a spouse?
5.....How import are (or were)
position and social status in your choice of a
6.....Which character in the play do
you most admire? Which character do you least
7.....In an essay, analyze the
psychology that Petrucchio uses to tame
8.....In an essay, argue that the
courting customs of today are just as silly as
those in the time of the fictional Petruchio
and Katharina. (Or argue that these customs
are beautiful and memorable.)
9.....Write an essay comparing and
contrasting Katharina and Bianca.
an essay comparing and contrasting Petruchio
with Bianca’s successful suitor,
the end of the play, are Petrucchio and
Katharina in love?