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Taming of the Shrew


The Taming

of the Shrew


By William Shakespeare


One of the best-loved "Battle of the

Sexes" is back!  Courtship or contest of

wit and will?  The verbal sparring never

stops as National Players presents one

of Shakespeare's most popular














Synopsis of The Taming of the Shrew


In the Italian city of Padua, Lucentio arrives with his servants, to attend the local

university.  Lucentio is excited to begin his studies, but his priorities change when he

sees Bianca, a beautiful, mild young woman with whom Lucentio instantly falls in love.

There are two problems: first, Bianca already has suitors; second, Bianca’s father, a

wealthy old man named Baptista, has declared that no one may court Bianca until first

her older sister, the vicious, ill-tempered Katherine, is married.  Lucentio decides to

overcome this problem by disguising himself as Bianca’s Latin tutor to gain an excuse

to be in her company.  While Lucentio pretends to be Bianca’s tutor, his servant Tranio

dresses up as Lucentio and begins to confer with Baptista about the possibility of

marrying his daughter.


The Katherine problem is solved for Bianca’s suitors when Hortensio’s friend

Petruchio, a brash young man from Verona, arrives in Padua to find a wife.  He intends

to marry a rich woman, and does not care what she is like as long as she will bring him

a fortune.  He agrees to marry Katherine sight unseen.  The next day, he goes to

Baptista’s house to meet her, and they have a tremendous duel of words.  As

Katherine insults Petruchio repeatedly, Petruchio tells her that he will marry her whether

she agrees or not.


When Petruchio arrives late to his own wedding, he is dressed in a ridiculous outfit,

rides on a broken-down horse, and forces Katherine to leave for his country house

before the feast.  Once they reach his country house, Petruchio continues the process

of “taming” Katherine by rejecting all food and clothing as not good enough for her.


In Padua, Tranio secures Baptista’s approval for Lucentio to marry Bianca by

proposing a huge sum of money to lavish on her.  Baptista agrees but says that he

must have this sum confirmed by Lucentio’s father before the marriage can take place.

Tranio, fearful that in bringing Vincentio, Lucentio’s father, to Padua he would not

approve of the assumed identities, carries the charade further by convincing a

traveling pedant to play the part of Luncentio’s father.  Lucentio and Bianca decide to

circumvent the complex situation by eloping.


Katherine and Petruchio soon return to Padua to visit Baptista.  On the road, the

couple meets Lucentio’s father, Vincentio, who is on his way to Padua to see his son.  

In Padua, Vincentio is shocked to meet himself being impersonated by the pedant and

Tranio masquerading as Lucentio.  At last, Bianca and Lucentio arrive to spread the

news of their marriage.  Both Vincentio and Baptista finally agree to the marriage.


At the banquet following Hortensio’s wedding to the widow, the other characters are

shocked to see that Katherine seems to have been “tamed”—she obeys everything

that Petruchio says and gives a speech advocating the loyalty of wives to their



About The Taming of the Shrew


Love and marriage are the concerns of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. The

play offers us some strikingly different models of the process of attracting and

choosing a mate and then coming to terms with the mate one has chosen. Some of

these models may still seem attractive to us, some not. 


Lucentio’s courtship of and marriage to Bianca are prompted by his idealized love of

an apparently ideal woman. When she first appears, Bianca is silent and perfectly

obedient to her father. Lucentio then speaks of her as if she were a goddess come to

earth. Because her father denies all men the opportunity openly to court Bianca,

Lucentio spontaneously throws off his social status as a gentleman in order to disguise

himself as a lowly tutor, the only kind of man that Bianca’s father, Baptista, will let near

her. All that matters to Lucentio is winning Bianca’s heart. To marry her—even in

secret and in shared defiance of her father—is surely, he believes, to be happy. 


An alternative style of wooing adopted by Petruchio in quest of Katherine is notably

free of idealism. Petruchio is concerned with money. He takes money from all Bianca’s

suitors for wooing her older sister, Katherine, who, Baptista has dictated, must be

married before Bianca. When Petruchio comes to see Katherine, he first arranges with

her father the dowry to be acquired by marrying her. Assured of the money, Petruchio

is ready to marry Katherine even against her will. Katherine is the shrew named in the

play’s title; and, according to all the men but Petruchio, her bad temper denies her the

status of “ideal woman” accorded Bianca by Lucentio. Yet by the end of the play,

Katherine, whether she has been tamed or not, certainly acts much changed. Petruchio

then claims to have the more successful marriage. But is the marriage of Petruchio and

Katherine a superior match—have they truly learned to love each other?—or is it based

on terror and deception?


This question about Katherine and Petruchio is only one of the questions this play

raises for us. How are we to respond to Kate’s speech at the end of the play, with its

celebration of the wife’s subordinate position?  What does it mean that Bianca, the

“ideal” woman, at the end seems unpleasant and bad-tempered, now that she is

married?  How should we respond to the process by which Petruchio “tames” Kate? 

As with so many of Shakespeare’s plays, how one answers these questions has a lot

to do with one’s own basic beliefs—here, one’s beliefs about men and women, about

love and marriage.


Adapted from the New Folger Library Shakespeare edition, edited by Barbara A.

Mowat and Paul Werstine. © 1992 Folger Shakespeare Library. (


Women and The Taming of the Shrew


To some, The Taming of the Shrew is distasteful because it appears to be justifying

the subjugation of women.  But many actresses have loved the role and felt that the

story depicts the love of two equals.  In this respect, Kate provides Petruchio a partner

equal to him in spirit and stature, and Petruchio teaches Kate to develop a sense of

humor and cooperation.  It is significant to note that the play is full of disguise and irony.  

Perhaps, Petruchio may be fooled into thinking that he has tamed Kate.  Who is not to

say that Petruchio has also been tamed by love?  And, surely, Kate is only a shrew in

the most superficial way; many observers feel that Bianca, under the pretense of

gentleness, is the real shrew!  Whichever way The Taming of the Shrew is interpreted,

it is clear that Shakespeare intended it as an adventurous love story full of riddles and

double entendres – not as a treatise supporting cruelty towards women.

Shakespeare’s Universality


Why do we still perform and read Shakespeare’s plays while other plays have fallen

into obscurity?  It is not because his plays are the most well structured pieces nor is it

because he is always the finest poet or most original thinker in the English language.  

Rather, it is his ability to empathize with and understand all of humanity in a way that is

never judgmental which attracts us to his work.  We often see ourselves in

Shakespeare’s vital characters. Sometimes our own emotions seem more aptly

expressed in his words than in our own.


It follows then that Shakespeare’s plays do not have to be produced only in

Elizabethan setting.  Often, changing a play’s locale to a more familiar one helps

illuminate certain aspects of the play by bringing the audiences closer to the action.  

Indeed, examples of Shakespeare set in other time periods are innumerable. Macbeth

has been done in a contemporary corporate boardroom.  The Royal Shakespeare

Company placed The Merry Wives of Windsor in the 1950s and showed Mistress

Ford and Mistress Page blithely chatting in pedal-pushers with their heads under huge

hair dyers at the beauty parlor! The Taming of the Shrew has been done in a raucous

Commedia dell’ Arte style and in a 1930s Italian mafia setting.


Famous Quotes from The Taming of the Shrew


"I come to wive it wealthily in Padua; If wealthily, then happily in Padua"

Petruchio – (I, ii)


“‘Katherine the Curst,’ A title for a maid, of all titles the worst.”

Grumio – (I, ii)


“For you are call'd plain Kate, And bonny Kate and sometimes Kate the

curst; But Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom Kate of Kate Hall, my

super-dainty Kate, For dainties are all Kates” Petruchio – (II, i)


“Asses are made to bear, and so are you.” “ Women are made to bear and

so are you.” Kate and Petruchio (II,i)




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Last modified: 03/23/06