1616)The Taming of theShrewWilliam Shakespeare (1564-1616)Type of Work:Dramatic, farcical comedySettingWarwickshire, England and Padua, Italy;sixteenth centuryPrincipal CharactersChristopher Sly-an indolent, fat tinkerBaptisa Minola-a rich Italian gentlemenBianca-his refined, youngest daughterKatherine-his sharp-tongued, eldest daughterGremio-Bianca’s rich and elderly suitorHortensio-Bianca’s other suitorPetruchio-Hortensio’s friendLucentio-a rich and colorful gentlemenTranio-Lucentio’s servantStory OverveiwThe hostess of the inn bellowed at thedrunken tinker, berating him for the glasses he had burst and threateningto call the constable. “Let him come”, mumbled Christopher Sly as he slidunder a stool and began to snore. The hostess shook her fist and ran out.At that moment, in strode a gallently plumed lord with his servants.The lord was a mischievous sort, and he,deciding that it would be an excellant joke to change this swinish drunkardslumpled at his feet into a lord, ordered his servants to drag the manto his mansion, wash him, dress him in fine apparel, and lay him in therichest chamber. The company set off to do the lord’s bidding.Chirtopher Sly awoke.
He blinked in thelight of the magnificent room in which he found himself. He was sittingon a mountain of cushions;servants bowed to him in honor. Think this allmust be the work of strong drink-as was often the case-he cried for moreale. When he was served all matter of food and drink, he objected, complainingthat he was a simple tinker unaccustomed to such fare. As their lord hadintructed them, the servants informed him that Chirstopher Sly did notexist; that he was indeed a lord who had awakened from a bad dream.Next, accompanied by a sultry music, indanced the new lord’s pageboy (wife), with bosoms as large as a pair oforanges. Straightway, the tinker-lord wanted to carry her off to bed; butthe servants insisted he must gaurd his strength, for he had been ill manyweeks.
So the ardent husband was forced to sit modestly by his bride andwatch a play.As he watched, he became tranfixed by thedream-like drama that unfolded before his eyes:In Padua, an old Italian town, lived richold Baptista Minola and his two daughters. The youger girl, Bianca, wasan angel from heaven;the elder, Katherine, was a scourge from the “otherplace”, with a mustard-hot temper and a sizzling tongue to match. Katherinehad no suitors, while Bianca had two, which posed a problem for their father.Baptista would not allow the younger Bianca to marry unless someone tookKatherine off his hands first-but surely it would “snow in hell” beforeany man married such a shrew!.Baptista pled with Bianca’s two suitors,elderly money-bag, Gremio and the younger Hortensio, to consider, instead,his eldest daughter. They vigorously shook their heads.
The resigned fatherthe charged them to fin a tutor for his cherished young Bianca and hurriedinto the house, leaving the hapless pair to the mercies of Kathrine. Theysoon conceded that if either wished to woo gentle Bianca, they must finda husband for her scolding sister.Two strangers from pisa had witnessed thisfamily scene. One, Lucentio, had fallen in love with Bianca at first glimpse,and he caught upon the idea of becoming her tutor. When his servant Tranioremined him that he had business errands in Padua for his father, Lucentioconvinced Tranio to trade places with him.
He would be two places at once-onbusiness in the name of Lucentio, and as lover-tutor in the name of Tranio.The two exchanged clothes, and Lucentio stood transformed into a humbleschoolteacher, while Tranio, in his master’s wonderful raiment, becamea wealthy merchant.Meanwhile, Hortensio, still pondering possibleploys to marry off Katherine, encountered an old friend from Verona, Petruchio,who expressed a desire “to wive it wealthily in Padua.” Hortensio impulsivelyalluded to Katherine, but then squelched the idea; he could not wish sucha women on his friend. But amazingly, the thought of a spirited heiresswas to Petruchio’s liking, and Hortensio at last agreed to help him meetKatherine. In return, he asked Petruchio to recommend a schoolmaster forBianca-who would, of course, be Hortensio himself, in disguise.Then came Gremio, with a schoolmaster ofhis own to present to baptista-the starry eyed Luccentio.
Behind them saunteredcolorful Tranio, also on his devious way to woo Bianca-in his master’sname.As the beaus lined up to vie for Bianca’slove, each agreed to pay an allotted amount to Petruchio for removing theimpediment-Katherine- that blocked their contest for lovely Bianca. Petruchio,money in his pocket, beamed with joy.Baptista had just reprimanded Katherinefor her abusive manners, when visitors arrived. he was pleased that Gremiohad found a suitable schoolmaster to teach Bianca in Latin and Greek, andeven more pleased that a fine-looking, courteous gentlemen,, Petruchioof Verona, was inquiring after Katherine, “Pray have you not have a daughtercalled Katherina, faitr and virtuous?””I have a daughter called Katherina,” Baptistaresponded, leaving it at that.
Pettucio, too, had brought a “learned”schoolmaster to teach Bianca in musical skills. And then still anothersuitor appeared to seek Bianca’s hand-a colorful richly dressed young “gentleman”from Pisa. What a glorious day! The father had secured, in a matter ofminutes, a suitor for each of his daughters, and two schoolmasters. Heturned to Petruchio to settle on the amount of the dowry before the youngfellow could change his mind.When Petruchio finally did meet Katherine,he was genuiely taken with her, and began to court her amid a battle ofwit and wills. She frowened; he smiled. She called him an ass; he calledher a woman.
Still passion would not be deterred, for truly she was beauty-thougha sour one. When Katherine railed to her father about her hatred for hersuitor, Petruchio, with utmost cheerfulness, assured Bapitsta that allwas well; in fact, he would soon be off to Venice to purchase wedding clothes.”Kiss me, Kate!” he said seizing her by the waist. “We will be marriedo’Sunday!”Baptista, meanwhile, decided to betrothehis popular Bianca to the highest bidder. Rich Gremio gleefuly began tooffer more and more of his properties, but each offer was bested by Tranio.
Finally Gremio could no longer offer anything else and it appered thatTranio had won Bianca.All this time, Luccentio had been “tutoring”Bianca, not in Latin, but in love. He confessed that he disguised himselfto make love to her, and that his servant Tranio was at that moment seeking,under Lucentio’s name, to win her hand from her father.Hortensio also sought a chance to teachBianca in love, rather than in music. But Bianca would have none of Hortensio,proclaiming the Latinist as her choice.
The afternoon arrived for Kate’s weddingto Pertruchio. As part of a campaign to tame his wild bride, the groomshowed up late, wearing rags and old boots, and carring a broken sword.In a drunken state, he cuffed the sexton and kissed Katherine with an “echoingsmack” that could be heard throughout the church. At the wedding feast,he grabbed Katherine and, waving his battle swoed, whisked her out of thehall to his shabby house. Baptista, more afraid of his daughter than forher, could only mutter, “Nay, let them go a couple of quiet ones.”By noe, Hortensio found Kate much changed-andmiserable. Each time Petruchio’s servants offered Kate food, her husbandhad contemptuously rejected it as unworthy of her.
A tailor had broughther fine linen gowns, Pertruchio found fault in everything. Finally heorder the aching, weary woman on to a horse, and they both started backto Baptista’s mansion. Petruchio had broken Katherine’s will. This plain,rough fellow had weathered her storms and thrown them back into her face.A wedding feast of huge proprions was soonheld in old Baptista’s house. A triple marrige was celebrated: Luccentio,at last as himself,had gained Baptista’s blessing to wed Bianca; Hortensiohad briskly courted his “ripe plum” of a widow; and Kate and Petruchiowere now heart-to-heart in love.
At the wedding feast, Katherine’s fatherdrunkenly consoled Petruchio saying, “I think thou hast the veriest shrewof all.” But Petruchio disagreed, and wagered a hundred dollars that hisKate wouls obey his command to come to him more quikly then the other twobrides would come to their husband’s calls; Kate by now surpassed the othersin courtesy and attention to duty. When the three wivws were summoned,only Kate appeared. In a seemingly demeaningly gesture, she knealt andplaced her hand beneath her husband’s foot. But the act had not broughther down; it had raised her husband up, and showed to the silent guestshow much she esteemed Petruchio.
“Why there’s a wench! Come on, and kissme, Kate!” he roared. He had courted her out of love of coins, but nowhe knew no greater riches than the coins of love.Night fell. With Petruchio and Kate goneto bed, the empty chamber was silent-except for the snoring of a tinker,asleep on the floor.CommentaryThis rough and bawdy play-with-in-a-playis unlike most of Shakespeare’s works. Instead of lyrical poetry and delicatehumor, The Taming of the Shrew is filled with coarse vivid puns. In fact,some claim this disparity as evidence that Shakespeare was not the play’ssole author.
Nonetheless, it is one of Bard’s most popularworks. The lusty main characters have become models for the shrewish womenand the strong-willed woman-tamer.