Background of the Play
The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy play written by William Shakespeare. It is supposed to be written between 1590 and 1592.
The play opens with a device referred to as an introduction. In the introduction, an impish nobleman beguiles a drunken man Christopher Sly to believe that he is a nobleman. To divert the sly, the nobleman performs the play, which is the main plot of The Taming of the Shrew.
The main plot of the play illustrates the courtship between Katherina and Petruchio. Katherina is a stubborn, headstrong, and shrew lady. Initially, Katherina is not willing to get into any relationship, and when she marries Petruchio, she is an unwilling participant in the relationship. However, she is “tamed” by Petruchio by different psychological torments. He keeps her from drinking and eating until she becomes compliant and obedient.
In the subplot of the play, there is a competition between suitors of Bianca, the younger sister of Katherina. Bianca is seen as the “ideal” woman. Among modern readers, there is considerable debate and controversy that the play is misogynistic.
The play Taming of the Shrew has been adapted for the stage, opera, screen, musical theater, and baller numerous times. The most famous adaptation was Kiss Me, Kate; McLintock! by Cole Porter. It was an American western comedy film in 1963.
The Taming of the Shrew Summary
Introduction I: A Framing Device
The play opens in somewhere in the English countryside, outside the alehouse Christopher Sly, a drunken beggar is arguing over some glassware with the Hostess that he broke in his intoxicated state. The Hostess leaves to search for the local authorities, whereas she loses consciousness and is discovered by a lord who is returning from the hunt. The lord tries to have fun with the sleeping beggar. He orders his servant to take them back to the home and treat him as if he is a lord. His servants agree to it and say that it would be great fun to do this.
In the meanwhile, a group of players arrived and offered their services to the lord. The lord welcomes them and asks them to spend the night at home. He also warns him of laughing at the strange behavior of the other lord for them they are going to perform.
The lord and his servicemen then leave to go to Bartholomew, the pageboy of the lord. They also instructed him to put disguise as a lady and turned into the wife of Sly. He also instructs the pageboy to show himself excited that Sly has recovered from his insanity and in his insanity, sly continuously insisted on being a beggar for more than seven years.
In the lord’s house, the servants treated sly as a lord and placed him in the bed of the lord. They put him on some fine clothes and Jewelry. The lord also disguised himself as the servant. When Sly gets into consciousness, the servants present them with good food and wine and say that he is their master. Sly protests that he remembers himself as being a poor beggar. The servants explain this remembrance is because of his madness from which he has suffered from the last fifteen years.
The servants then put on a show of wailing pleading at the continuous illness of their “lord.” However, Sly remained skeptical throughout. But when the servants mention his “wife,” he eventually gets convinced. The servants try to entertain him with the happiness that their lord’s memory has returned.
Sly then tries to discharge “his servants” to sleep with his “wife.” However, his wife explains to him that his physicians have advised him to take the best rest for a night or two so that his madness does not return. Afterward, the players arrive to perform the play to entertain Sly and his wife. Players performed the play, which is the main plot of The Taming of the Shrew.
The play within a play opens in the Italian city of Padua. A rich man arrives at the city with his servants to attend the local university. The name of the rich man is Lucentio, while his servants are Biondello and Tranio. Lucentio is so excited to begin his higher education; however, when he sees Bianca, his priorities change. Bianca is a beautiful, young woman and Lucentio instantly falls in love with him.
Lucentio cannot court Bianca because of two problems. The first is Bianca already has two suitors Hortensio and Gremio. The second is Bianca cannot marry until her old sister Katherina is not married to someone as declared by her wealthy father named Baptista Minola. Bianca’s older sister Katherina is an ill-tempered and shrewd woman with whom nobody wants to marry.
Lucentio tries to resolve the problem by disguising himself as Bianca’s Latin tutor to be with Bianca, whereas Hortensio disguises himself as Bianca’s music teacher. Moreover, Tranio pretends to be Lucentio and starts conversing with Baptista that if he can marry her not.
The problem of Katherina is solved when Petruchio, the friend Hortensio from Verona, comes to find a wife for himself. Petruchio is a brash young man and intends to marry a wealthy lady. He does care who she behaves and looks like as long as she brings a fortune. Hortensio tells him about Katherina and Petruchio instantly agrees to marry her even without looking at her.
The next day, Petruchio goes to Baptista’s house to meet Katherina. There they both have a great fight of words. Katherina time and again insults him; however, Petruchio tells her that he will marry her no matter if she agrees or not. He also lies to Baptista that on Sunday, Katherina has consented to marry him. Katherina is surprisingly silent to hear that, and the wedding between the two is set.
On Sunday, Petruchio intentionally comes late to his wedding. In the meanwhile, Katherina fears that she will turn to an old maid. However, when Petruchio arrives, he has dressed in a poor outfit and rides on a broken-down horse. After the wedding, Petruchio compels Katherina to leave her house before the wedding feast. He tells her all in her earshot that now she is his property, and he will act the way he pleases to.
Petruchio soon started the process of taming once they reached their country house. He keeps Katherina from drinking, eating, and sleeping for many days. He pretends to love her; that is why he is keeping him away from these low kinds of food and sleeping in a poorly made bed.
Meanwhile, in Padua, Lucentio woos Bianca with the Latin translation in which he declares his love for her. This makes Bianca fall in love with her. Hortensio also tries to win Bianca’s heart by declaring his love in the music lesson. Bianca refuses to say that she loves Lucentio. Hortensio leaves by resolving that he is marrying a wealthy widow. Tranio makes Baptista approve Lucentio’s marriage to Bianca by proposing a huge sum of money for Bianca.
Baptista agrees on the condition that before the marriage happens, he must confirm the huge sum from the father of Lucentio. Tranio and Lucentio try to find an old man to play the role of Lucentio’s father. Lucentio and Tranio are still in their disguises. Tranio proposes that they should take help from an old schoolmaster or pedant. When the pedant speaks to Baptista, Bianca and Lucentio decide to get out of the complicated situation by eloping.
Petruchio and Katherina visit Padua to meet Baptista. On their way to Padua, Petruchio takes Katherina to say what he proposes to say. He forces her to say that the old man is a really beautiful maiden, and the sun is actually the moon. As the willfulness of Katherina is dissipated, she agrees to whatever Petruchio says. On the way, they also meet Vincentio, the father of Lucentio, who is also going to Padua to meet his son. When they reach Padua, Vincentio’s father is surprised to learn that Tranio is disguised as Lucentio. Eventually, Lucentio and Bianca arrive to announce the news of their marriage. Vincentio and Baptista eventually agree to the marriage.
At the feasts that follow the wedding of Hortensio to the widow, the people are shocked to see that Katherina appears to be “tamed.” She obeys whatever her husband says and finally gives a speech in which she supports the loyalty of wives to husbands. When the three husbands decide on having a contest to see whose wife is more obedient, everyone expects that Lucentio will win. They summon up their wives; Bianca refuses to come while Katherina comes immediately. The other people realize that Petruchio has won the content. Petruchio and Katherina happily leave the feast and go to bed.
The Taming of the Shrew Characters Analysis
Petruchio is a selfish, boastful, and mercurial character of the play The Taming of Shrew. His behavior is difficult to understand. The appearance of Petruchio in the play dramatically changes the reader’s perception of the play. The whole perception depends on how one interprets the actions of Petruchio. If one interprets Petruchio as uncaring, vain, and greedy chauvinist who regards marriage as an institution where he can dominate himself, the play then turns into a dark comedy. It just deals with materialism and greed for power.
However, if one interprets the Petruchio to be really a loving husband who merely wants to tame Katherina to turn his marriage and life happy, the play then becomes a study of the relationship’s psychology.
Both interpretations can be studied in detail. However, the true case about Petruchio lies somewhere in between these two interpretations. Certainly, he is materialistic. Selfish, and is enthusiastic about the lord of his wife. However, at the same time, he loves Katherina, and also acknowledges that harmony is necessary for their relationship (which is completely opposite to conventions).
He wants his marriage life to be happy due to which Petruchio goes to the extent that he imposes his mastery on Katherina to an alarming length. He keeps her away from food and sleep and also maintains this treatment in the language of love. He indicates his eagerness for Katherina to shape herself according to her social status and also makes her act according to his own will to make their married life happy.
Furthermore, Petruchio is a comic character. He is an exaggerated person who consistently makes the readers laugh. The way he “tames” Katherina makes readers/audience laugh. However, the readers also laugh at how Petruchio is satirizing the gender inequalities prevailing in society.
Katherine is ill-known for her shrewd behavior in Padua. At the beginning of the play, Katherina is foul-tongued and foul-tempered. She degrades and insults men around her time and again. She is susceptible to display wild behavior all the time. She also physically attacks those who make her angry. Most of the characters in the play think that Katherina is inherently ill-tempered.
However, no one thinks that her foul behavior could be an outcome of her unhappiness in life. She is desperate and miserable due to which she could behave in an unpleasant way. There could be many possible reasons for her unhappiness. Katherina also expresses hatred and jealousy of how her father treats her younger sister. She also fears that she could never marry anyone, which could also result in her anxiety.
In simple words, Katherina feels out of place in the society she is living in. She is not willing to play the role of a maiden daughter because of her independence and intelligence. She clearly detests the expectation of society that she must obey her father, and display courtesy and grace towards her suitors. Simultaneously, Katherina also realizes that she can only lead a happy life and place in the world if she marries someone. These conflicting impulses are inherent in her and could also result in her bad temper. The only way to make her accept her social role is to give her love that she never gets from anyone and does not ignite her anger.
Regardless of the deprivation and humiliation that Petruchio adds to the life of Katherina, she agrees to marry him. There could be a possible reason why she agrees to marry him. In their first conversation, Katherina realizes that Petruchio equals her in both intellect and verbosity. She becomes excited to see a man who is different from the men surrounding her, who can easily be dominated.
Moreover, the forceful “taming” of Katherina by Petruchio is designed to illustrate that she has no other choice than to adapt herself to her conventional role as a wife. Even if Katherina dislikes her role as a wife, this adaptation is attractive for her to an extent. Her role as a wife makes her command respect from others, which she lacks by being shrewd. To have a social role is far better than consistently rejecting all social roles. At last, Katherina conforms to the taming and self-serving training by Petruchio. The training of Petruchio appears to be rational at this point as, by the end of the play, Katherina has attained an authoritative voice and a position which she initially denies.
In the play, Lucentio serves as the foil to Petruchio. He echoes the poetical and idyllic perception of love that is dismissed by the pragmatic views of Petruchio. Lucentio falls in love at first sight with Bianca. He asserts that if he cannot win her heart, he will die. Therefore, he starts struggling to win Bianca’s heart with a fanciful and romantic plan.
As in the play, the concept of love is associated with social and economic concerns; Lucentio is picked up by courtly love. His love does not include practical deliberation like that of Petruchio. Throughout the play, the relationship between Bianca and Lucentio appears to be pure and fresh when compared to the relationship between Petruchio and Katherina.
The choice of Petruchio to marry Katherina is solely based on getting a fortune; whereas, Lucentio’s choice to win the heart of Bianca is based on romantic love. Furthermore, Petruchio is determined to tame his newlywed wife; Lucentio is more concerned to devote himself to his wife. Petruchio makes his wedding a stage play to be enjoyed by the spectacle; Lucentio decides to elope with Bianca.
She is the younger daughter of Batista and the little sister of Katherina. She is an ideal woman with two suitors. She is totally opposite to her sister. She is soft-spoken, unassuming, and sweet in nature. Therefore, she appears to be a female foil of her sister Katherina. Due to her mild behaviors and her large fortune, several men are competing to be her suitor. However, Baptista urges that Bianca cannot marry until Katherina is not married.
Baptista Minola is the richest man in Padua. He can offer a substantial dowry to her daughter due to which a lot of men agree to marry his daughter. Though he is a little bit superficial, naturewise, he is a good person. Due to Katherine’s obstinate nature, his absentmindedness increases. That is why he decided to find her a suitor before Bianca’s marriage.
He is the servant of Lucentio. He accompanies Lucentio to Padua from Pisa. He is a comical and ironic character in the play. He is an important part of Lucentio’s plan to woo Bianca. He disguises himself as Lucentio and converses with Baptista to marry Bianca.
Gremio and Hortensio
They are the two gentlemen at Padua and the suitor of Bianca at the beginning of the play. Initially, these two men are rivals; however, they become friends when Bianca rejects both of them. Hortensio also introduces Petruchio to Katherina. In order to win Bianca’s heart, Hortensio becomes her music teacher. They both are disappointed in their efforts by Lucentio. Hortensio marries a widow at the end of the play.
He is the servant of Petruchio and a fool character in the play. He provides a source of comic relief in the play.
He is another servant of Lucentio. He also helps Lucentio and Tranio to carry out their plan in wooing Bianca.
He is the chief character in the brief introduction of the play. He is a drunken thinker and is fooled by a naughty nobleman to think that he is the real lord.
Themes in The Taming of the Shrew
Marriage as a Commercial Institution
Taming of the Shrew is a romantic comedy. It focuses on the romantic relationship between man and women which is developed from an interest to marry each other. The play is a typical comedy in this respect. Unlike other Shakespearean comedies, this play does not end at the wedding between the loving couples. It rather provides an important preview of the lives of the characters after their marriage. This preview serves to explore the social dimensions of love.
In the Taming of the Shrew, inner emotional desires are of secondary importance in the exploration of the meaning of love. The Taming of the Shrew, instead, highlights the social and economic characteristics of marriage. For instance, it highlights the fact of how economic contemplation controls whom to marry and whom to not.
The play is intended to explore the love and romantic relationship between men and women from a social perspective. It addresses the foundations of marriage and courtship than the inner feelings and passions of the two lovers.
Moreover, the play also focuses on how these courtships affect not only lovers but also friends, servants, and parents. It is generally observed that though the marriage relationship after the marriage is conducted between husband and wife, the relationship of courtship is discussed between the father of a girl and her future husband. Therefore, marriage turns out to be a transaction that, besides love and feeling, also involves the transfer of money.
For example, Lucentio woo Bianca, but he is only allowed to marry her when he convinces her father that he is really a rich man. If Hortensio had offered more money for Bianca, he would have definitely married her. Similarly, Petruchio does not care how his wife looks or behaves; his only concerns are a large fortune that his wife will bring to him.
Social Roles and Individual Happiness
In the play The Taming of the Shrew, every person occupies a significant social status and position. These positions carry certain expectations about how they perform; having a certain social role should behave. The social position of a character in the play is defined by his age, wealth, profession, gender, education, and parentage. How one should behave is largely enforced by society, parents, and friends.
For example, in the play, Lucentio is a wealthy young role, so he has his social role accordingly. Likewise, Tranio has the role of a servant, and Bianca and Katherina are having the roles of young maidens of the upper-class. These characters are supposed to act and behave according to their respective role. However, when the play opens, Katherina detests her social role. Her shrewd behavior and frustration result from her role in society. Katherina does not want to live up to the expectations of society, and therefore, she faces disapproval from society. She is alienated, which results in her miserable behavior and unhappiness.
Katherina is not only a character in the play who denies her social position. Lucentio also disguised himself as a tutor who belongs to a working class. Similarly, Tranio disguises himself as a wealthy young man, Christopher Sly, the chief character in the introduction of the play, is also made to think that he is a lord by transforming his appearance.
The denial of their social roles and position by other characters appears to be harmless and fun when compared to Katherina’s denial of her social position. Nonetheless, the play also emphasizes that before the end of the play, when conventional life will resume, all transformation must be undone. Eventually, the happiness and organization of society are solely based on how each individual in society plays their prescribed roles.
The attire of a person determining his social position is also illustrated in the motif of disguise. However, at the end of the play, it eventually sustains that a person’s social position cannot be assumed solely on how he dresses. A servant can wear the clothes of his lord but will remain a servant. A person eventually has to return to his own place just like Tranio. Similarly, Lucentio has to reveal his deception to Baptista and his father before he marries Bianca.
The development of the character of Katherina is mainly determined by her slow but steady adaptation to and acceptance of her social role as a wife. She conforms to the humiliating treatment of Petruchio that he intends to tame her as she realizes that if she likes or not, she will only attain happiness in life once she accepts her social duties and fulfills her social expectations.
As a matter of fact, the chief excitement in the play The Taming of the Shrew originated from the penetrable social boundaries. It is intersected by those who disguised themselves or cleverly lay. However, at the end of the play, the conventional order of the society restores, and those characters who adapt to the order set by society attains happiness.
The Taming of the Shrew Literary Analysis
Since the play was first staged, it gives rise to many questions. These questions include whether the Play The Taming of the Shrew supports the gender inequalities prevailing in the society or it is a portrayal and critiques the attempts of men to oppress women? Moreover, it also raises the question of how one should interpret the dynamics in the relationship between men and women in the play?
Many critics and directors have viewed these questions in a totally different way. For example, the 2003’s production by George Doran portrayed Katherine as a woman struggling to save a man she genuinely loves. In the 2016 production, Phyllida Lloyd has cast only women to exaggerate the brutality of man by enabling the actors to set aside the behavior of men. Like in 2016, Caroline Byrne’s production illustrates a violent and dark relationship between the protagonists of the play. As these different productions of play offer a different understanding of the meaning, the fundamental question which the play makes every reader/audience to think is whether the play really supports gender inequality or not.
The interpretation of the varying relationship and power dynamics between men and women in the play, particularly among the central couple Petruchio and Katherine, is the main problem of the play. Shakespeare offers the readers to take both stances as comedy and tragedy both. The play is harmless and comic when the relationship between Petruchio and Katherina is taken in a light mode; however, the play becomes tragic when one thinks about the gender inequality and oppression that women bear in the play. These ambiguities in the play are resolved by analyzing the language and structure of the play.
The hunting language of the play
The haunting language of the play is a recurring motif of the play. Language also warrants deliberation and reflects on the larger metaphor apart from the social setting to action. For example, in the framing introduction of the play, the lord encounters an unconscious beggar at the alehouse. The conversation between the lord and his servants turned to Christopher Sly, who is dead to the world before him. The lord describes Sly in a dehumanizing way by calling him “monstrous beast.” He also compared him to “swine.” The Sly appears to be a good game to be played on and the trap that the lord may use for hunting. The lord fools the poor Beggar to believe that he is a lord. This trick appears to be unjustifiable to the audience.
As there is no conclusion in the play to the frame introduction of The Taming of the Shrew, an alternative version of the play concludes with the beggar being abruptly dumped outside the alehouse, and also restores his real lowly status.
The inhumane treatment of the lord to Sly is based on social status, not on gender inequality; it also establishes the changing aspects of the inequality between the social classes and abuse. The main story of the play is linked through the framing introduction by suggesting the power dynamics and social concerns of Shakespeare with regard to the play.
Similarly, Katherina is also dehumanized in numerous ways on several occasions. Early in the Play, Gremio, the suitor of Bianca, called her “wild-cat.” This suggests that she is nasty and cannot be tamed. He also called her wild-cat in the sense that he fears her. later in the play, when Petruchio married Katherina, he says:
“She is my good, my chattels, she is my house,
My household stuff, my field, my barn,
My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything;”
Regardless of the fact that Petruchio may be describing her like this for fun or madness, he intentionally placed her in the category of inanimate household things and animals. It appears that he is trying to call her with all those features that he desires for himself in her: usefulness, voicelessness, and obedience.
Similarly, in the main soliloquies of the Play, Petruchio illustrates his intentions to tame Katherina. The language employed in the soliloquies is rich with the imagery of falconry. As it is the pursuit of the upper classes to hunt falcons. The close knowledge of Petruchio shows social status. Moreover, his knowledge also appears to support the patriarchal dominance that he intends to assert on Katherina.
Petruchio makes an obvious similarity between his method to domesticate or tame his wife and methods of falconers to hunt the falcons. He asserts that he will tame the wild female hawk. These imagery and metaphors based on the limiting the freedom of a powerful bird appears to be disturbing for the model of marriage. Over here, one can say that Shakespeare is highlighting the inequality in the relationship between man and women in which men (free and rational) subjugate his wife (who is like a wild animal and control her own access to sleep and food).
Petruchio intends to tame her so that she becomes obedient, acknowledges her social role, her position subservience to her husband, and recognizes the call of her husband. Thus, one can say that in regards to gender and class, both Katherina and Sly are made to receive the patriarchal dominance.
The imagery of hunting reappears at the end of the play in the exchange of witty jokes at the wedding celebration of Hortensio. In these exchanges, a desire in Petruchio’s heart arises to prove that now Katherina has become the most obedient wife. Petruchio also taunts Traino that though he has been hunting a bird, he missed his prey. He also called Bianca as the bird you aimed at but did not hit her at all.
The employment of pun makes the readers remember how men view wooing women as a hunt: a lucky man will be able to trap his wife. In response to Petructio’s taunt, Tranio suggests that his wife is not trapped yet. This stimulates Petruchio to prove that whose wife is the most obedient one among the three.
Shakespeare used the diction related to hunting throughout the play, which suggests that he is trying to draw the attention of his audience to the displeasing connections that his male characters in the play make between their treatment of women and other lower social class and hunting. Therefore, the play is a critique of the patriarchal dominance through men, and upper-class people exploit people lower to them in status and gender.
Hierarchies and humiliation in the play
A connection has been drawn between the introduction and the main play in the context of hierarchies and humiliation that the lower status people and lower gender faces from the dominant hierarchies. For instance, in the introduction, Sly is made to accept that he belongs to the social class. Certainly, he falls easily into the trap that is set for him by the lord. It appears to be cruel as Sly cannot do away with his lower status that is with him since his birth.
Similarly, Katherina appears to be struggling to not fall into the trap of marriage, but at the end she has to conform to the societal demands. The male domination has forced her to adapt herself with the expectations of the society and perform her gender role as prescribed by the society.
One can say that the power of Petruchio to subjugate Katherina and humiliate her is the product of social dominance to her. The play is also emphasized in the language of public humiliation. For instance Gremio, in response to Baptist’s offer, says that he would cart her rather than marrying. To cart her refers to the humiliation of women in public by forcing them to walk behind the cart in the streets. According to this statement, the character of Germio suggests those who do not comply with social roles like Katherina are worthy of public punishment. Moreover, it also suggests how women in the time of Shakespeare were subjected to public punishment.
Moreover, Katherina is humiliated at her own wedding in front of the whole town when Petruchio appears late and then in the humiliating dress. She expressed her anger to Baptista as:
“No shame but mine. I must, forsooth, be forced
To give my hand, opposed against my heart,
Unto a mad-brain rudesby…”
Moreover, at the end of the play, another humiliating moment occurs when Petruchio throws Katherina’s favorite hat and steps on it. The newlywed bride of Petruchio does not approve the act of Petruchio calls the blind obedience of Katherina as “a silly pass.”
Moreover, in the alternative version of The Taming the Shrewconcludes with the beggar being abruptly dumped outside the alehouse, and also restores his real lowly status. As Shakespeare does not conclude the play himself, it leaves the open question for the audience what might happen to Sly.
Shakespeare appears to set the conflict between the desire to escape from the social boundaries and humiliations that result from escaping these social boundaries. This also concludes that Shakespeare play does not support the male domination and subject it to criticism rather than emulation.
The Final Speech of Katherina- Humiliated, Tamed, or Free Thinking
The question of who wins the battle of sexes appears to be answered by Katherina in her closing speech. The speech can be interpreted in a variety of ways. On the surface, speech seems to support the idea that Katherina has been successfully tamed. In the speech Katherina uses the language in which she employs the diction from the institution of government to illustrate the power structure between husband and wife. In her speech, she called the husband as king, lord, sovereign, and governor. She says that the duties that subject owes to the king or prince, in the same way women owe duties to husbands.
The similarity that she draws between husband and prince appears to be overgeneralized and cold. The question is still not answered that has Katherina really tamed or she has accepted her social role and is advocating the socially accepted catalogue of duties and respects a wife owes to her husband. Moreover, in the speech coldness appears that really puts on a question on Petruchio’s training. Hence the speech of Katherina draws an ironic gap between what she says and the sincerity of what she says.
The Taming the Shrew- A problematic play
Certainly, The Taming of the Shrew is a problematic play. It does not only deal with the gender politics of the modern world, but also highlights the ideas of the battle of sexes and the difficulties raised due to it. Shakespeare, through the play, is making the readers and audience to ponder on these problems. He is making the readers question the entire process of “taming” a human being and perceives it as nothing but barbaric and ridiculous. The play appears to be misogynic and illustrated the misuse of power. However, the play appears to deal with these things in an ironic way. The overall irony employed in the play brings the dangers of misinterpretations.
Abstract ideas and concepts in a literary text are represented by objects, characters, and figures. The following are the symbols in the Play The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare.
The Wedding Costume of Petruchio
The humiliating and ridiculous costume that Petruchio wears on his wedding illustrates his dominance and control over his wife Katherina. He is able to humiliate Katherina by simply wearing the outfit. Moreover, for Katherina, it is shameful to be wed with someone who has such humiliating attire. However, she acknowledges the fact that she has no other choice but to marry him. With Petruchio dressed like a clown, she agrees to continue the wedding that gives away her authority even before the wedding between the two commenced.
The costume of Petruchio is also a symbol of the changing nature of attire. Petruchio asserts that Katherine is not marrying his clothes but him. This indicates that the real personality of a person is not reflected by the attire he carries. Similarly, Lucentio disguised as a middle class working tutor does not mean that his true will is not revealed to people. Likewise, Katherina may have accepted her role as wife, but her nature is essentially what it was before the wedding.
The recurrent images, structures, and literary devices in a literary text are called Motifs. The emphasis on the idea helps develop the major themes of a work. The following are the motifs in the Play The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare.
The Play, The Taming of the Shrew, is predominantly occupied with the disguised characters. For example, Sly is disguised as lord, Lucentio as a Latin tutor, Tranio as Lucentio, pedant as Vincentio, and Hortensio disguised as musical teacher.
With these disguises, the characters in the play are able to crisscross the social barriers of class and position. With the motif of disguise, the play emphasizes the idea that whether man is known by what he wears. Moreover, it also puts forward the idea that a person can change his or her social status by wearing different clothes. Of course, the answer is a big NO.
In the play, society is the web of the past that reveals the true nature of the individual who aimed to portray themselves as different by wearing different clothes. Person’s attire does not really change his true nature.
The word “taming” in the title of the play broadcast the motif of domestication in the play. In the play, a significant part of the play deals with Petruchio’s struggle to domesticate or “tame” Katherina into an obedient wife.
In the play, Katherina is time and again referred to and compared with wild animals like a falcon, hawk, and wild cat that need to be domesticated. Petruchio, as other men who exercise their domination, finds his duty to tame his wife. The relationship between Petruchio and Katherina after the marriage is defined by the pomposity of domestication and taming. Petruchio decides to kill the wild nature of her wife with kindness and also speaks of his treatment of Katherina as training a falcon. Lastly, Hortentio also refers to the house of Petruchio’s taming-school where other men can learn how to tame their wives.
The tone of the play is playful and introspective. The prolific ability of Shakespeare to make fun of his characters gives the play a playful quality. Moreover, the play is also introspective and welcomes the audience and readers to ponder on the different events of the play. The play also welcomes readers to consider their social traditions and conventions. Shakespeare deals with the social conventions and highlights the social problems in a light tone. The critics claim that the Play deals with the notion of “taming” is a very light tone. However, wit and sense of the play are prevalent throughout the text.
The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy-drama. Comedy is a genre which does not have many operating principles and operating rules. The tone of the comedy is light and humorous. It employs witty banter and clever language. It also contains the disguises, deception and episodes of mistaken identities. There are multiple plots, twists and turns, and the young couple must overcome some struggle to have a happy ending. The entire subplots are united at the end of the play, which also involves the reunification of all the characters.
Setting of the Play
The play is divided into two parts: the framing introduction and the inset of play. The introduction takes place in the English countryside, whereas the actions of the main plot are in Padua, Italy.
The Framing Introduction
In the framing introduction of the play, the setting is of the English countryside. The scenes first take place before the tavern. There the drunken Sly is picked up from his low world and placed in the estate of a lord where he is entertained with the main play of taming of the Shrew.
The Inset Play
The five-act play, which is the main plot of the play, is set in Padua, Italy; Padua is a college town that is well known for its prestigious university. Padua is the playground for the characters of the upper class. All the characters belong to the families of successful merchants. Though like the lord of the introduction, they are not landowners, they are well aware of how to make a profit in the business of export and import. The merchandise was at peak during the Age of Exploration.
The writing style of The Taming of the Shrew is witty, bawdy, and fast-paced. The play is known for its witty dialogues and playful bunter among the characters. The exchange of dialogues between the characters is full of puns, paradoxes, and humor. The clearest example of this writing style is the scene in the battle between Katherina and Petruchio during their first meeting.
Katharina: Where did you study all this goodly speech?
Petruchio: It is extempore, from my mother-wit.
Katharina: A witty mother! witless else her son.
Petruchio: Am I not wise?
Katharina: Yes, keep you warm.
Petruchio: Marry, so I mean, sweet Katharina, in thy bed:
Not only the speeches of educated and upper-class people are witty and humorous, but Shakespeare also gives apparent funny speeches to the clowns who have deep wit in it.