The Taming of the Shrew is a performance that raises a number of issues concerning appearance versus reality. The assumption that many characters in the play are persuaded to be what they are not ignores the evident fact that each character chooses the role that they are to play. The culturally constructed hierarchy of power causes the actors to perform certain roles to avoid the constricting norms in society and retain their identities. Despite the ease with which they mask their true selves, the characters exist as others to oppose the patriarchy.
Shakespeare uses Sly, Katherine, Bianca, and Petruchio to reveal the power of the hierarchy as a farce that can be manipulated. Shakespeare uses the Induction to give the reader a notion as to what to expect, and introduce a number of crucial themes evident throughout the play. The Induction serves as a mirror to the rest of the play, emphasizes the theme of mistaken identities, and constitutes the Taming of the Shrew as a play within a play.
This aspect of the Induction gives rise to the importance of performance, which has a drastic effect on one’s interpretation of the play.
The play is portrayed as the dream of a drunken tinker, and therefore is, in effect, a farce perform ? 1)APPEARANCE VS. REALITY 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 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. REALITY Petruchio? s wedding embarrass and humiliate Kate. Kate accepting whatever Petruchio says is true Bianca? s obedience (not as sweet as they thought) Kate? s transition from a shrew to a tamed wife ? 4. 2)DISGUISE Disguise figures in The Taming of the Shrew: Sly dresses as a lord, Lucentio dresses as a Latin tutor, Tranio dresses as Lucentio , Hortensio dresses as a music tutor, and the pedant dresses as Vincentio. These disguises enable the characters to transgress barriers in social position and class, and, for a time, each of them is successful.
The play thus poses the question of whether clothes make the man? s personality, whether a person can change his or her role by putting on new clothes. The ultimate answer is no, of course. As Petruchio implies on his wedding day, a garment is simply a garment, and the person beneath remains the same no matter what disguise is worn. One of the primary themes in literature and drama examines the issue of appearance versus reality, often in terms of some delusion held by a character or characters.
William Shakespeare explores this theme in various ways in many of his plays, and explorations of the issue can be found in Twelfth Night and The Taming of the Shrew. The theme is embodied in both plays in the way certain characters play-act or pretend to be someone they are not, which links the questions of appearance versus reality directly to the drama itself. In the drama, actors pretend to be other people and act out versions of reality before an audience, and both the exploration of the question of what is reality and the way that exploration is presented rely on the contrast between illusion and reality.
Both plays are also love stories, and aspects of love are examined as they relate to the question of what is real and what is illusion. In The Taming of the Shrew, This play features two couples, one couple openly in love, the other couple openly battling their way to the feeling of love without knowing that is what they are doing. The two males are pursuing the sisters, Bianca and Kate, and both relationships are complicated by the conditions placed on the two young women by their father.
Lucentio loves Bianca, and though he wants to woo her, he will have to wait for Kate to be married first, as her father states: Gentlemen, importune me no farther, For how I firmly am res Throughout Shakespeare’s plays, one of the most effective plot strategies springs from characters who are deceived by another’s demeanor or language. When these otherwise intelligent men and women observe a sequence of action or hear an address, they tend to accept the implications of what confronts them without probing further or even questioning the motives of those involved.
Such lack of perception is frequently dramatized in imagery of sight, almost always with implications of “insight,” and the consequences of this “blindness” may be either comic or tragic. For Shakespeare, how characters respond when they distinguish between appearance and reality reveals a great deal about the characters themselves. Throughout Shakespeare’s plays, one of the most effective plot strategies springs from characters who are deceived by another’s demeanor or language.
When these otherwise intelligent men and women observe a sequence of action or hear an address, they tend to accept the implications of what confronts them without probing further or even questioning the motives of those involved. Such lack of perception is frequently dramatized in imagery of sight, almost always with implications of “insight,” and the consequences of this “blindness” may be either comic or tragic. For Shakespeare, how characters respond when they distinguish between appearance and reality reveals a great deal about the characters themselves.
In Shakespeare’s comedies, the conflict usually has psychological overtones related specifically to romance. In The Taming of the Shrew, for instance, when Petruchio arrives for his wedding with the shrewish Katherine, his servant, Biondello, describes the groom’s garb as outlandishly unsuitable for so dignified a ceremony (III, ii, 43–63). Tranio, another servant, understands, however, that Petruchio “hath some meaning in his mad attire” (III, ii, 124).
That meaning, we soon learn, is to teach Katherine to refrain from judging people by clothing or other superficial evidence: Our purses shall be proud, our garments poor, For ’tis the mind that makes the body rich; And as the sun breaks through the darkest clouds, So honor peereth in the meanest habit. (IV, iii, 171–174) Later, after Kate has undergone Petruchio’s brutal, if well-intentioned, punishment, she learns this lesson as well as many others, and consequently the uncertain meaning of appearance becomes the stuff of hu mor.
For instance, during their journey back to Padua, the couple banters playfully, first about whether the source of light above them is the sun or the moon, then about whether a fellow traveler is a young virgin or an old man (IV, v, 1–50). As the pair exchange badinage, we realize, along with the two of them, that they are playing a game, and their capacity to indulge in such byplay reflects a profound bond based on their capacity to view life from a similar perspective, to judge appearances skeptically, and to distinguish posturing from uprightness.
Indeed, the entire plot of The Taming of the Shrew is built on the unmasking of false appearance. Katherine, who initially seems a shrew, is revealed to be a woman of warmth, wit, and passion. Her sister, Bianca, who at the start appears obliging and charming, turns out to be the true shrew. Baptista, father to the two girls, claims to have affection for both, but in fact regards them as no more than prizes to be offered to the highest bidder (II, i, 341–345). Lucentio, Gremio, and Hortensio, who pretend to be steadfast suitors, all disguise themselves shamefully.
Virtually no one in the cast proceeds honestly except Petruchio, whose early protestations about Katherine’s beauty and good nature turn out to be uncannily accurate: Now, Kate, I am a husband for your turn, For by this light whereby I see thy beauty, Thy beauty that doth make me like thee well, Thou must be married to no man but me… (II, i, 272–275) Petruchio alone sees beneath her veneer, and he alone understands that her nature has been thwarted by the patriarchal society in which she has been raised. Ultimately, he is the one who “sees” the truth about her.
All these elements are suggested in the opening “Induction,” when the drunken tinker, Christopher Sly, is subject to a prank by the other patrons of the alehouse. When he is asleep, they dress him in fine clothes and insist that he is a lord. In the words of the Huntsman: “He is no less than what we say he is” (Induction, i, 71). Upon awakening, Sly quickly accepts his new role: Am I a lord, and have I such a lady? Or do I dream? Or have I dream’d till now? I do not sleep: I see, I hear, I speak; I smell sweet savors, and I feel soft things.
Upon my life, I am a lord indeed, And not a tinker, nor Christopher Sly. (Induction, ii, 68–73) His behavior suggests how the nature of a human personality is subject to external influence, how what we see and hear about ourselves substantially shapes us. In the context of the entire play, this revelation insinuates that for her whole life Katherine has been too powerful a personality for the taste of the male populace of Padua. Yet by boldly revealing her frustration at this predicament, she has invited others to conclude that she is merely a shrew.
As a result, she has isolated herself even further and simultaneously increased her misery. Once Petruchio enters, however, and alters the “appearance” of both the woman herself and the world as she sees it, her “reality” shines through. Struggle between the ClassesAnother theme important to the play is that of the struggle between the classes. The Induction creates a commentary on class rank. With too much time and money on his hands, the Lord highlights Shakespeare’s emphasis on the hierarchal class order as it is represented in The Taming of the Shrew. Disguise.
The theme of disguise is introduced in Act I, Scene I. By the end of the scene, we have a total of four people assuming disguise (Sly and Bartholomew in the Induction; Lucentio and Tranio in Act I, Scene 1). The disguises so far have been overt and sartorial in nature; people assume physical disguises in attempt to pass themselves off as someone else. Seeing so many people assuming identities reminds us that The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy of mistaken and disguised identity — a theme that will become increasingly more complex (yet increasingly subtle) as the play unfolds.
Behavior. After being rejoined by Baptista, Gremio, and Tranio, Petruchio shows us he is a quick and clever thinker. His highly comic lie about how, in private Kate “hung about [his] neck” but in public she’s agreed she’ll be “curst” brings the story’s theme of public behavior and private behavior to the forefront. Although in reality, he’s merely concocting a story of what has just happened, placing himself in a good light, there’s more truth in what he says than we may realize.
The distinction between what denotes proper public behavior and how that may or may not differ from private behavior will drive the play, especially Act V. Petruchio’s lie, too, makes it readily apparent he’s the only man in the story so far who has the wit to compete with Kate. The first and most obvious type of disguise employed in Shrew is the physical disguise. The notion of physical role playing is introduced at the very beginning of the play and continues throughout. A bit less obvious than the physical disguises are the psychological disguises in The Taming of the Shrew.
Both Kate and Petruchio assume psychological disguises. Kate becomes a shrew to compensate for the hurt she feels because of her father’s favoritism toward Bianca. In addition, she refuses to be saddled with an unworthy husband and so assumes the role of a shrew, insulating herself from the hurtful world around her, no matter how much she may secretly wish to join in the fun. Likewise, Petruchio assumes the role of shrew-tamer, exaggerating Kate’s bad behavior until she cannot help but see how infantile and childish her actions have been. “You are come to me in happy time, / . . . or I have some sport in hand / Wherein your cunning can assist me much” says the Lord to the players in the Induction of The Taming of the Shrew. These seemingly simple words of welcome resonate, setting the context for the story about to unfold before us. We know that theatricality will be paramount to the story as the clever Induction pulls us into the drama through the story of Christopher Sly’s duping. The Induction focuses our attention on the idea of appearances being deceiving, as well as on the importance of acting and role playing, but then it stops abruptly once The Taming of the Shrew proper begins.
Why then take the time to introduce us to Sly and the merry jest of the Lord and his household? We can see the Induction as functioning in a number of ways (see the Induction commentary for more), but one of its most important purposes is to clue spectators into one of the play’s main themes: role playing. In Shrew, Shakespeare provides disguises of all shapes and forms, from obvious physical disguises to more subtle psychological ones, and in the confines of a play within a play allows us to see a world which, not unlike our own, is teeming with role players.
The first and most obvious type of disguise employed in Shrew is the physical disguise. The notion of physical role playing is introduced at the very beginning of the play and continues throughout. When Christopher Sly falls asleep, the Lord decides to play a trick on him by having him carried to his manor and dressed as a nobleman. Lucentio, in Act I, Scene 1, assumes the role of Cambio, Bianca’s tutor, while his servant, Tranio, disguises himself as Lucentio.
Later, at the end of Act II, Scene 1, Tranio/Lucentio realizes he will need to present Vincentio, Lucentio’s father, so he decides “suppos’d Lucentio/ Must get a father, call’d suppos’d Vincentio” (II. 1, 407-408), and in Act IV, Scene 2, he finds a Pedant to play the part (72-121). We are introduced to yet another masquerader in Act III when Hortensio disguises himself as Litio, Bianca’s music tutor. Aside from proper clothing, the only other thing these role players seem to need in order to ensure their masquerades is someone to corroborate their stories.
Certainly the ease with which these players enact their roles suggests that as spectators (both inside and outside the theater) we need to be aware that nothing is as it seems and that we are continually surrounded by people who may just be acting a part in order to obtain a desired outcome. A bit less obvious than the physical disguises are the psychological disguises in The Taming of the Shrew. Both Kate and Petruchio assume psychological disguises. Kate becomes a shrew to compensate for the hurt she feels because of her father’s favoritism toward Bianca.
In addition, she refuses to be saddled with an unworthy husband and so assumes the role of a shrew, insulating herself from the hurtful world around her, no matter how much she may secretly wish to join in the fun. Likewise, Petruchio assumes the role of shrew-tamer, exaggerating Kate’s bad behavior until she cannot help but see how infantile and childish her actions have been. Bianca, too, assumes a psychological disguise, changing her perspectives drastically once she is safely married. Although she appears initially as a demure and pure soul, by play’s end we see that is not the case.
As the play draws to a close, we see more and more of Bianca’s true disposition and learn that, ironically, it is Bianca, not Kate, who really is the shrew! In her case, her psychological disguise provided her the opportunity to appear better than she really was, suggesting again that we must be wary of the role playing going on around us. Physical disguises are fairly easy to detect and defuse, but psychological disguises are quite a different and more complicated matter. Psychological and physical disguises, though, aren’t the only ways to look at the role playing in The Taming of the Shrew.
The play is also, in many respects, self-reflective. It is metadramatic in the sense that it is self-reflexive, calling attention to the fact it is a play and the actors are all taking a part. Use of metadramatic devices is not unique to Shrew, however. Shakespeare often uses these devices in his plays to offer spectators inside jokes about the players, the drama, or the men playing the roles, as well as to draw attention to the artificiality of what we see before us and to urge us to recognize the elements of drama that permeate our daily lives.
For instance, in Shrew, the Induction provides a framework for the obvious performance we are about to witness. There must be no mistake about it: What we are about to see is not a mirror held up to life; rather, it is a fiction created by a troupe of actors (note, too, how calling attention to the play as a fiction rather than a slice-of-life lessens the seriousness of the play’s message of male authority).
Besides the Induction and the obvious physical disguises (costumes, if you will), we can also see Shakespeare calling attention to his play as just that, a play, through the characters of Kate and Petruchio. Rather than seeing them as the shrew and the tamer, we can also see them as analogous to an actor and a director. In very literal terms, the character of Kate is created by a young man playing a woman who creates a shrewish persona for herself so she can more easily deal with the world around her (largely through avoiding it).
When her disguise is no longer useful to her (or when the director, Petruchio, has finally convinced her to abandon the disguise) she assumes another role — this time the dutiful wife (thinking of Kate as an actress also helps with interpreting her speech in Act V, Scene 2). Petruchio is the director who orchestrates the production we see before us. He theorizes on how to get Kate to do what he wishes and begins planning his performance early. Although the staging of Petruchio’s performance starts at the wedding when he assumes the costume of a wild man, he stages his largest production when he vows to kill his wife with kindness.
In helping Katherine to a more mature state of being, Petruchio dictates all the particulars, just as a director dictates a production. He runs the show, so to speak, governing when his wife will enter and exit, when she will eat and sleep, when the action will advance and when it will repeat itself, and even attempts to oversee time itself. He very carefully sets up the elaborate production at hand, helping move his shrewish wife into desirable mate. Disguising and role playing of all sorts fill the scenes of The Taming of the Shrew.
In addition to advancing the general plot, the pervasive disguising and metadramatic nature of the play suggest that role players abound and that, as wary spectators, we must be like Petruchio, careful not to take things at face value because we are surrounded by duplicitousness. The minor theme of the play is appearance vs reality. Throughout the drama, things are never really as they seem. Katherine appears to be a real shrew, but it is all a cover-up for the hurt she feels. Bianca appears to be a self-sacrificing angel, but she is really a spoiled young lady who can quickly revert to shrewish behavior.
Baptista appears to the outside world as a wonderful father; in truth, he pampers Bianca, totally spoiling her, and treats Katherine badly, depriving her of the loving attention she needs and seeks. Petruchio appears to be a cruel and insensitive husband to Katherine; in reality, he cares enough for her to try and change her shrewish ways by mocking and exaggerating her own behavior. The play is also filled with people in disguise, appearing to be something they are not. Lucentio disguises himself as Cambio, the tutor, so he can get to know Bianca. Hortensio also disguises himself as Licio, another tutor to Bianca.
Tranio disguises himself as Lucentio in order to present his master as a suitor for Bianca. The Pedant pretends to be Vincentio, the father of Lucentio. Through these appearances, the plot becomes complicated and often humorous, but Shakespeare masterfully reveals the true identity of all characters in the fourth act of the play. The Taming of the Shrew is a performance that raises a number of issues concerning appearance versus reality. The assumption that many characters in the play are persuaded to be what they are not ignores the evident fact that each character chooses the role that they are to play.
The culturally constructed hierarchy of power causes the actors to perform certain roles to avoid the constricting norms in society and retain their identities. Despite the ease with which they mask their true selves, the characters exist as others to oppose the patriarchy. Shakespeare uses Sly, Katherine, Bianca, and Petruchio to reveal the power of the hierarchy as a farce that can be manipulated. Shakespeare uses the Induction to give the reader a notion as to what to expect, and introduce a number of crucial themes evident throughout the play.
The Induction serves as a mirror to the rest of the play, emphasizes the theme of mistaken identities, and constitutes the Taming of the Shrew as a play within a play. This aspect of the Induction gives rise to the importance of performance, which has a drastic effect on one’s interpretation of the play. The play is portrayed as the dream of a drunken tinker, and therefore is, in effect, a farce performed for Sly. Shakespeare also raises the issue of the hierarchy and its subsequent power in this scene. He uses Sly as an other, allowing him to enter the realm of aristocracy, and define it by contrast.
The hierarchy is mocked when the drunken tinker is disguised as a lord, and even more so when Sly attempts to exercise his patriarchal power. Although Sly is eventually persuaded to change his outward appearance to that of a lord, he retains his identity. Sly asserts his position and identity with certainty and pride, refusing to accept the evidence of the servants that he is a lord that has been suffering from amnesia, “I am Christophero Sly, call not me ‘honour’ nor ‘lordship'”. (Induction. 2. 6. ) When he finally decides to accept this new role, his behavior proves to be inconsistent with that of aristocracy.
He will not try sack, preferring the ale that is familiar to him, and reveals his poor taste upon the introduction to his supposed wife and his unrefined commentary on the play. Shakespeare implies that a character can perform any role, but one’s identity cannot be manipulated. Shakespeare attacks the image of power designated by the culturally constructed hierarchy. He questions the extent to which the hierarchy can be manipulated, and conveys the idea of power as reality or fantasy. Power lies beyond the hierarchy and assumes numerous roles, as do many integral characters in Taming of the Shrew.
Shakespeare introduces each character as a distinct personality. As the play unfolds, the reader is given subtle indications that the roles performed by these characters contrast their identities. Bianca is portrayed as a mild, submissive, obedient, and consequently desirable woman. She acts as a literary foil to Kate, who is depicted as an intolerable and violent shrew in constant opposition to everything around her. Luciento remarks, “But in the other’s silence, do I see maid’s mild behavior and sobriety” (I. 1. 71), further developing the sisters as opposing characters.
Petruchio is illustrated as a violent, witty, cynical man seeking to marry strictly for money. The characters are actors, and it is through their performance that they triumph. Each freely changes and chooses their roles in order to manipulate the patriarchy and gender biases in society, and u | Confusion between appearance and reality is a principal source of humor in The Taming of the Shrew. In the Induction, Sly is misled by carefully orchestrated appearances into believing that he is really a wealthy nobleman rather than a poor tinker.
The subplot likewise depends on the confusion of appearance and reality as various characters practice elaborate deceptions. Hortensio pretends to be the music teacher Litio. Lucentio poses as the schoolmaster Cambio. He and Bianca use Latin lessons as a cover for their courtship, and they deceive her father by eloping on the eve of her planned betrothal to another man. Lucentio’s servant, Tranio, pretends to be his master and persuades an elderly scholar to pose as his master’s father. In the main plot, the difficulty of distinguishing between appearance and reality is emphasized in various ways.
Petruchio’s servant Grumio often misinterprets his master’s instructions, with comic results. More crucially, Petruchio’s strategy in dealing with Katherine often involves replacing the most apparent of realities with something more to his own liking. ”Say that she rail, why then I’ll tell her plain / She sings as sweetly as a nightingale,” Petruchio resolves before his first meeting with Katherine. Although she insists she wants nothing to do with him, he tells her father they have agreed to be married.
At his country house and on the road back to Padua he declares that it is morning when it is afternoon and that the moon is shining in broad daylight. When Katherine finally gives in to him, her surrender is signaled by her acceptance of his version of reality, in defiance of appearance: ”What you will have it nam’d, even that it is,/ And so it shall be so for Katherine. ”The various deceptions in the Induction and the subplot seem to poke fun at social distinctions, suggesting that the difference between a servant and a master, or between a poor Latin teacher and a wealthy merchant’s son, is merely a matter of appearance.
This idea is echoed in the main plot by Petruchio when he appears at his wedding in rags and says of Katherine, ”To me she’s married, not unto my clothes,” or when he tells Katherine not to worry about the way she is dressed because ”’tis the mind that makes the body rich. ”The theme of appearance and reality is also related to the play’s treatment of gender roles. Some commentators maintain that Petruchio transforms Katherine by refusing to accept her appearance of shrewishness as reality. Instead, he sets up a sort of alternate reality, insisting that she is really lovable and obedient until she accepts his view of her identity.
Other people argue, however, that the continual confusion of appearances and reality in the play undermines the concept of male dominance. They suggest that with so much deception going on in the play, the audience should be suspicious of taking Katherine’s transformation at face value. Perhaps she is merely pretending to give in to Petruchio. Or perhaps–as other critics have maintained–male supremacy itself is shown to be merely an illusion. | Throughout history there has been a general understanding that appearances can be deceiving.
A person may go through life without anyone understanding the true reality of their character. William Shakespeare, one of the greatest writers of all time, understood the relationship between appearance and reality and often gave characters two sides to their personality. Transformation is one of the most important and pervasive themes in Taming of the Shrew. Closely related to the theme of “Art and Culture,” it can involve physical disguise, changes in attitude and behavior, psychological changes, and even linguistic mutation.
Unlike the kinds of transformation we’re used to seeing in books (like, say, the Twilight saga – once a human turns into a vampire, she stops growing and developing and there’s no turning back to her previous state), metamorphosis in Shrew is not always permanent and it’s rarely genuine. To complicate matters, it’s virtually impossible for us to pin down the play’s attitude toward transformation – its stance toward the theme is just as slippery as the characters that undergo change. This seems to be Shakespeare’s point – identity and meaning are never fixed. Quote #1O monstrous beast! ow like a swine he lies! Grim death, how foul and loathsome is thine image! Sirs, I will practise on this drunken man. (Induction. 1. 4)| The Lord’s decision to punish Sly, by transforming him from a “beast” to a “nobleman,” anticipates the way Petruchio will force Kate to change from a “shrew” to an “obedient wife. ” Both of these forced metamorphoses raise Kate and Sly to more acceptable social roles, but Shakespeare calls into question whether these changes are permanent or even genuine. Quote #2I know the boy will well usurp the grace, Voice, gait and action of a gentlewoman:
I long to hear him call the drunkard husband, And how my men will stay themselves from laughter When they do homage to this simple peasant. (Induction. 1. 11)| Part of the Duke’s elaborate plot to turn Sly from a “swine” into a nobleman involves the transformation of his servants (and himself) into role-playing characters, a reminder that all actors (including Shakespeare) undergo transformations each time they set foot on stage. Quote #3And you are well met, Signior Hortensio. Trow you whither I am going? To Baptista Minola. I promised to inquire carefully
About a schoolmaster for the fair Bianca: And by good fortune I have lighted well On this young man, for learning and behavior Fit for her turn, well read in poetry And other books, good ones, I warrant ye. (1. 2. 3)| Gremio has no idea that the tutor he hired for Bianca is really Lucentio, a young man who has fallen in love Bianca. In the play, physical disguises are modes of deception that suggest all forms of transformation are temporary and not to be taken at face value. Quote #4I pray you, sir, let him go while the humour lasts. O’ my word, an she knew him as well as I do, she ould think scolding would do little good upon him: (1. 2. 8)| When Grumio notes that Katherine doesn’t have a chance against Petruchio, he lets on that perhaps Petruchio’s (future) transformation from an average guy to a domineering bully, who is more of a “shrew” than Kate, is more common than Petruchio lets on. It seems that P has played this game before. Quote #5I’ll tell you what sir, an she stand him but a little, he will throw a figure in her face and so disfigure her with it that she shall have no more eyes to see withal than a cat. You know him not, sir. (1. . 8)| When Grumio assures Hortensio that Petruchio will beat Kate in a verbal battle of wits, he suggests that Petruchio’s words, his “figures” of speech, have the power to physically alter Kate’s appearance. (Like acid might burn and transform a person’s face. ) This anticipates Kate’s transformation from railing shrew to an obedient wife. And though Petruchio never lays a hand on Kate, his taming tactics – starvation, forced sleep deprivation, etc. – do cause Kate to physically suffer, just as acid would. Quote #6Young budding virgin, fair and fresh and sweet,
Whither away, or where is thy abode? Happy the parents of so fair a child; Happier the man, whom favourable stars Allot thee for his lovely bed-fellow! (4. 5. 6)| It’s no surprise that the moment of Kate’s so-called “transformation” (the moment Petruchio breaks her will and tames her) occurs when she and Petruchio transform an old man into a “budding virgin. ” Part of what makes Kate a new kind of person is her ability to pretend, just like an actor. Quote #7BAPTISTA Why, tell me, is not this my Cambio? BIANCA Cambio is changed into Lucentio. LUCENTIO Love wrought these miracles. Bianca’s love
Made me exchange my state with Tranio, While he did bear my countenance in the town. (5. 1. 6)| Change and disguise are central to the Bianca plot, as just about all of her suitors don disguises to win her love. Here, Bianca cleverly puns on the word cambio, meaning “change” in Italian. We’re also interested in the way Lucentio blames his bad behavior (playing dress-up and lying to everyone) on “love. ” Sounds like a lame copout for sure, but he might be telling the truth. In his opening speech in Act 1, Lucentio seems hell-bent on studying and making his family proud of his “virtuousness. The moment he sees Bianca, however, he transforms into a man without scruples. Perhaps it’s true that love really does change a man, but not necessarily for the better. Quote #8BAPTISTA How likes Gremio these quick-witted folks? GREMIO Believe me, sir, they butt together well. BIANCA Head, and butt! an hasty-witted body Would say your head and butt were head and horn. (5. 2. 3)| Baptista and Lucentio are in for quite a surprise when they learn that Bianca is not as sweet and silent as she appeared to be. Here, Bianca plays off of Gremio’s comment that the wedding guests are butting heads (bickering and insulting one another).
Bianca jumps in and calls Gremio a horned animal (that’s code for “cuckold” – a man who is cheated on by his wife). It turns out, though, that Bianca’s husband is the chump because he’s married to a shrew. In a way, Kate is vindicated. On the other hand, the overall assertion doesn’t change – any woman who talks like a man is a “shrew. ” Quote #9HORTENSIO Confess, confess, hath he not hit you here? PETRUCHIO A’ has a little gall’d me, I confess; And, as the jest did glance away from me, ‘Tis ten to one it maim’d you two outright. (5. 2. 14)|
Here again a character implies that painful words and insults have the ability to physically transform one’s appearance. In this case, the thing that “maims” Hortensio and Lucentio is an accusation that their wives are disobedient and unruly. Petruchio implies that a wife’s behavior has the ability to alter her husband’s reputation or street cred. (It certainly leaves him open to insults from other guys and business associates. ) Petruchio also alludes to the idea that Hortensio and Lucentio have married castrating women. Ouch. Quote #10Now, fair befal thee, good Petruchio! The wager thou hast won; and I will add
Unto their losses twenty thousand crowns; Another dowry to another daughter, For she is changed, as she had never been. (5. 2. 7)| Baptista describes Kate’s outward transformation from shrew to ideal wife as though the change in his daughter’s behavior is so dramatic that she is unrecognizable. We’re reminded of the fact that Baptista never really knew his daughter at all, which hardly places him in a position to judge her so-called transformation. The fact that Baptista believes outward behavior is the thing that defines one’s identity gets him into trouble throughout the play.
His inability to look beyond appearances leaves him open to being deceived by Bianca, Lucentio, and Tranio. (Tip: This is also a great quote to consider of you’re interested in the theme of “Marriage” and dowries. ) Quote #1Persuade him that he hath been lunatic; And when he says he is, say that he dreams, For he is nothing but a mighty lord. This do and do it kindly, gentle sirs: It will be pastime passing excellent, If it be husbanded with modesty. (Induction. 1. 5)| The Lord’s motivation for playing an elaborate and cruel joke is somewhat fuzzy. Does he do it to teach Sly a lesson?
What will Sly learn? Or, is it simply to humiliate him and have some fun at the expense of a powerless, lower-class figure? The fact that the joke will be a “pastime passing excellent” is a bit of an inside joke – Elizabethan theater was one of the most popular forms of “pastime. ” Useful history snack: Bear baiting (tying up a bear and then releasing a pack of dogs on it while people watched from the bleachers) was another fun Elizabethan “pastime. ” In fact, Christopher Sly reveals that one of his many lame jobs was “bear keeper,” the guy who fed and cleaned up after bears used in baiting contests.
Quote #2Sirrah, go you to Barthol’mew my page, And see him dress’d in all suits like a lady: That done, conduct him to the drunkard’s chamber; And call him ‘madam,’ do him obeisance. Tell him from me, as he will win my love (Induction. 1. 11)| The Lord’s decision to “cast” his page (a young servant boy) in the role of Sly’s trophy wife calls our attention to Elizabethan stage, where all characters (male and female) were played by men or boy actors. Bartholomew was likely played by an attractive young boy, one pretty enough to convince Sly that he is a woman.
We’re supposed to laugh at Sly for being fooled but Shakespeare also points to the slipperiness of gender on stage. Quote #3Page My husband and my lord, my lord and husband; I am your wife in all obedience. SLY I know it well (Induction. 2. 3)| Bartholomew is very convincing as an obedient wife and Sly has no doubt that he’s the dominant one in the relationship. It’s funny, that’s for sure, but it also raises the question of whether or not the role of “obedient wife” is just that, a role to be played. Think about this in relationship to Kate’s final speech. How can we know if she’s being sincere?
Quote #4Your honour’s players, heating your amendment, Are come to play a pleasant comedy; For so your doctors hold it very meet, Seeing too much sadness hath congeal’d your blood, And melancholy is the nurse of frenzy: Therefore they thought it good you hear a play And frame your mind to mirth and merriment, Which bars a thousand harms and lengthens life. (Induction. 2. 1)| The Messenger’s announcement to Sly that a group of traveling actors will perform a play for him (doctor’s orders no less) is a playful way to nudge the play-goers to remind them that they too are an audience, and that theater is good for them. Fun fact: Puritan protesters against Elizabethan theater claimed that play-going was bad for an audience’s health. They worried actors could “infect” or “contaminate” audiences with bad morals, leading them to commit illegal sexual acts, which would also lead to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis. Shakespeare is poking fun at the Puritans here. ) Quote #5Dost thou love pictures? we will fetch thee straight Adonis painted by a running brook, (Induction. 2. 3)|
When the Second Servant offers to fetch for Sly a picture of a scene from Metamorphosis, we’re invited to compare Sly’s on-stage metamorphosis, from beggar to lord, to other modes of art. Shakespeare aligns his play with a classic text and links himself with the likes of literary giants such as Ovid. Quote #6″Hush, master! here’s some good pastime toward. ” (1. 1. 3)| There’s that word “pastime” again. Here, Kate is causing quite a “scene” and Tranio and Lucentio watch and comment on the spectacle of Kate arguing with her father and Bianca’s suitors in public. The point?
We are all spectators and spectacles at one point or another. Kate is literally causing a “scene” but later she and Petruchio will watch others misbehave in public. Everyday life has become a kind of theater. Quote #7First Servant My lord, you nod; you do not mind the play. SLY Yes, by Saint Anne, do I. A good matter, surely: comes there any more of it? Page My lord, ’tis but begun. SLY ‘Tis a very excellent piece of work, madam lady: would ’twere done! (1. 1. 1)| The last time we see or hear from Christopher Sly, our attention is drawn away from the action on the main platform stage to focus on Sly.
Sly’s boredom and rude behavior seems to be a parody of bad behavior at the theater and a friendly warning for audience members who can’t seem to pay attention. Quote #8Why, Petruchio is coming in a new hat and an old jerkin, a pair of old breeches thrice turned, a pair of boots that have been candle-cases, one buckled, another laced, an old rusty sword ta’en out of the town-armory, with a broken hilt, and chapeless; with two broken points: his horse hipped with an old mothy saddle and stirrups of no kindred. (2. 2. 1)| The play is full of narrations of off-stage events.
What interests us here is Biondello’s description of Petruchio’s crazy get-up. Before Petruchio arrives for his wedding, we know that he’s coming in costume and we’re prepared for some kind of dramatic performance. Quote #9Tell thou the tale: but hadst thou not crossed me, thou shouldst have heard how her horse fell and she under her horse; thou 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, hat never prayed before, how I cried, how the horses ran away, how her bridle was burst, how I lost my crupper, with many things of worthy memory, which now shall die in oblivion and thou return unexperienced to thy grave. (4. 1. 14)| Here’s yet another narration of an off-stage event, this time by Grumio. The curious thing about this moment is that Grumio gives Curtis an elaborate description of a scene after he tells him he’s not going to say anything. Grumio’s dramatic description of what must have been a terrible experience for Kate manages to turn the awful scene into a highly comedic moment.
Quote #10KATHARINA Husband, let’s follow, to see the end of this ado. PETRUCHIO First kiss me, Kate, and we will. (5. 1. 1)| For once, Kate’s public problems with Petruchio are no longer the main attraction in Padua. Here, Kate suggests that she and Petruchio follow Bianca and Lucentio in to the wedding banquet, to see how the new couple’s “drama” will work out. Just as quickly, though, Petruchio demands that they draw attention to themselves again by making out in public. This reminds us that, although the attention has just been on Bianca and Lucentio, it is Kate and Petruchio who are the center of the story.
It’s also a reminder to Kate that her public obedience will always be tested by her husband and scrutinized by the public. Quote #1For God’s sake, a pot of small ale. (Induction. 2. 1)| There are plenty of class jokes in the Induction, most of which revolve around the fact that Christopher Sly is a beggar and has no “class. ” Here, he demands a pot of cheap, light ale, drawing attention to the fact that even when he’s hanging out in an estate where more expensive options are preferred, Sly doesn’t really know any better. Quote #2Take him up gently and to bed with him; (Induction. 1. )| The physical movement from the tavern to the Lord’s house traces the disparity between Sly’s status as a poor beggar and the Lord’s status as a landowner and nobleman. (It also says a lot about the flexibility of the physical stage. ) Quote #3The more my wrong, the more his spite appears: What, did he marry me to famish me? Beggars, that come unto my father’s door, Upon entreaty have a present aims; If not, elsewhere they meet with charity: (4. 3. 1)| When Kate complains that Petruchio starves her, she suggests she’s treated worse than those who begged for food at her father’s door.
Kate is treated like a beggar, not simply because she’s denied food, but because she’s powerless to do anything about it. Despite her social rank, she is just as helpless here as Christopher Sly. Or is she? We’re struck by her seeming lack of awareness when she reveals that her father’s household often turned away beggars, who had to find charity “elsewhere. ” Does this make the audience feel less sorry for Kate? Or, does it merely draw out attention to the way women are seen as second class citizens? What’s this speech doing here? Quote #4Signior Hortensio, ‘twixt such friends as we
Few words suffice; and therefore, if thou know One rich enough to be Petruchio’s wife, As wealth is burden of my wooing dance, (1. 2. 10)| We’ve talked at length about Petruchio’s quest for a wealthy wife. On the one hand, this is a typical pursuit for a single, upper-middle-class guy in the 16th-century. On the other hand, we might wonder about Petruchio’s true financial state. Is he, as he says earlier, really well off? If he’s not, does our perception of him change? Is his sense of social inferiority what drives his behavior? Quote #5O this woodcock, what an ass it is! 1. 2. 13)| Grumio (Petruchio’s servant) remarks disdainfully that Gremio (an older suitor of Bianca) is inappropriate in his quest to wed Bianca. The play and the characters take a lot of pleasure in duping Gremio as punishment for his desire for a much, much younger woman. Quote #6What, you notorious villain, didst thou never see thy master’s father, Vincentio? (5. 1. 7)| Part of the fun of the play is the way servants get to play a part in deceiving authority figures. Here, Vincentio is irate that his servant Biondello pretends not to know him.
In the end, though, all aspects of social order are restored and servants put in their “proper” places. Quote #7GRUMIO Help, masters, help! my master is mad. PETRUCHIO Now, knock when I bid you, sirrah villain! (1. 2. 4)| This overall passage is typically seen as a brilliant moment of comic relief. We think there’s also something interesting about the fact that Petruchio has such a hard time controlling and communicating with his servant the first time we see him. How is it that Petruchio is able to control Kate (her behavior and her speech) but not Grumio?
Quote #8Thou art a lord, and nothing but a lord: (Induction. 2. 4)| The means by which the Lord and his crew convince Sly that he is a nobleman and not a beggar suggests that our identities, in part, are formed by the way other people treat us / behave toward us, and also by the names we are called. Sly is called a “Lord” and so he believes it. But that hardly makes Christopher Sly a nobleman, which suggests that some social identities are not as fluid or easily transgressed than others. Quote #9And for I know she taketh most delight
In music, instruments and poetry, Schoolmasters will I keep within my house, Fit to instruct her youth. (1. 1. 3)| In a time when educating women wasn’t exactly a top priority in middle-class households, it’s a bit unusual for Baptista to be so concerned with his daughters’ educations. Does this make him a doting, loving father with his girls’ best interests in mind? Or, is this a way for Baptista to make his daughters even more attractive (“Hey, look, my daughter/wife can read! Can yours? “) while nickel-and-diming Bianca’s suitors? He hints here that Hortensio and Gremio should hustle up a couple of teachers if they want to keep him happy. ) What are some other Shakespeare plays that address the formal educational of women? Quote #10WIDOW Lord, let me never have a cause to sigh, Till I be brought to such a silly pass! (5. 2. 6)| We left this character’s name attached to her lines for a reason – First, “Widow’s” name is nothing more than her marital status. In other words, she’s a stereotypical figure. Second, she’s still referred to as “Widow” even after she remarries.
Given that a widow had much more freedom (not to mention a genuine legal status as a human being) than married women and unwed daughters, widows were viewed as being dangerously unattached to men who could keep them in line and take care of them. Blegh. This is probably why Hortensio feels the need to attend Petruchio’s little training camp for husbands who want to boss around their wives. “Taming school” doesn’t help much though – in this scene, Widow mocks her new husband for thinking that he could bend her to his will. We just hope Hortensio didn’t have to pay a high tuition rate.
Cite this Taming of the Shrew
Taming of the Shrew. (2016, Oct 22). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/taming-of-the-shrew/