The Taming of the Shrew
The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy by William Shakespeare. It was one of his earlier plays, believed to have been written between 1590 and 1594. The play begins with a framing device in which a drunkard is deceived into thinking he is a nobleman who then watches the "play" itself, which depicts a nobleman, Petruchio, who marries an outspoken, intelligent, and bad-tempered shrew named Katherina. Petruchio manipulates and "tames" her until she is obedient to his will. The main subplot features the courting of Katherina's more conventional sister Bianca by numerous suitors. (From feedbooks.com)
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SCENE I. Before an alehouse on a heath.
It may come as a surprise that The Taming of the Shrew is a framed story; that is, it is a story told within another story. Taming actually starts with an episode from the life of Christopher Sly, a drunken tinker who is being ejected from a bar by the hostess.
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently. Is there a word on this page you need to look up, such as the obsolete definition for the word "baggage"?
What vocabulary words and phrases indicate to the reader that the Lord is discussing his hunting dogs throughout this exchange? Be sure to use the Define feature here as needed. What inferences can the reader make about the Lord through the use of this wording and topic?
So the Lord has a plan--he is going to play a joke on Christopher Sly and see if he can fool Christopher. Go back to the last page and make a list of the details of the plan. Then pay attention to the next four pages and see if each of the steps in the plan is carried out.
In order to add to the humor of the scene, the Lord decides to dress one of the male pages as a woman to act as Sly's wife in the prank. Think about how this correlates with the fact that, during Shakespeare's time, ALL female parts were played by males. How might The King's Men have chosen to represent a male comically depicting a female character vs. a male actor who is depicting an actual female character?
Based on context clues, which of the following definitions most closely aligns with use of the word "spleen" in this sentence?
SCENE II. A bedchamber in the Lord's house.
Watch the following video on character development before you read about what happens with Christopher Sly and the Lord's prank. (This annotation contains a video)
How does Sly try to prove his identity to the servants?
Look back at some of Christopher Sly's lines before this passage. What do you notice about Sly's vocabulary before the prank vs. during the prank? To what do you attribute this difference?
To add to the comedy of the scene, Sly turns the tables on the Lord and his page--he immediately asks his "wife" into his bed! If you were playing the page, how would you get out of this invitation while still maintaining the prank? (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following overarching themes is NOT explored through the relationship between Sly and the Page?
Why has Lucentio come to Padua with his servant Tranio?
Before being introduced to the main characters in this play-within-a-play, take a moment to watch this video about archetypal characters: (This annotation contains a video)
As an archetypal character, Katharina is certainly not the only shrew in literature. Watch the following brief Prezi for other examples of literary shrews. Can you think of any contemporary shrew archetypes in literature or film? (This annotation has embedded rich content)
The use of the word mew as a verb in this sentence is not revealed using the Define feature. Using context clues, what decision has Baptista made regarding his youngest daughter which is particularly unpopular with her two suitors, Hortensio and Gremio?
When we are first introduced to Lucentio, he is determined to become a model student. After observing Bianca for a brief time, he completely abandons his earlier plan in favor of winning Bianca. Based on this characterization, which of the following adjectives would best describe Lucentio in Act I, scene i?
Although Tranio is the servant and Lucentio the master, it's evident that Tranio has had some formal education himself. In Latin, Tranio is advising Lucentio "ransom yourself from captivity as cheaply as you can." What do you think Tranio means by this quote?
Lucentio comes up with what he believes is a fool-proof plan for wooing Bianca--he will have Tranio pretend to be Lucentio, while Lucentio will disguise himself so he can spend time with Bianca instead of going to school. There's one hitch in the plan, however--he has to convince his other servant Biondello not to reveal his true identity. If you were Lucentio, how would you convince Biondello to go along with your plan?
What story does Lucentio create to convince Biondello to go along with Lucentio and Tranio changing identities? What is Biondello's reaction to this story?
Shakespeare makes frequent use of puns in Taming. Here he adds to the humor of the scene by having Petruchio's servant Grumio intentionally misunderstand Petruchio's desire to have Grumio "knock." Which of the following most closely depicts Grumio's interpretation of Petruchio's command?
Petruchio greets his friend Hortensio with the Italian phrase, "With all my heart, well met."
Hortensio responds, "Welcome to our house, my much honored Signior Petruchio."
What is Petruchio's main intention in coming to Padua?
Here Petruchio is describing the type of wife he is willing to put up with, if only she is rich enough. The women referenced in this section (Florentius' love, Sibyl, Xanthippe) were all known for either their foul looks or foul behavior, neither of which is a concern to Petruchio. (This annotation contains an image)
How does Hortensio plan to fool his rival Gremio and gain access to Bianca despite her father's plan to keep her locked up until Katherine weds? Use textual evidence for support.
According to the Roundabout Theater Company website, "Clowns or fools appear in twenty-two of Shakespeare’s forty plays. They exist outside of the rules; they speak directly to the audience and are both part of the action on stage and commentators on the action. They also live outside of the rigid social hierarchy of Shakespeare’s time and, as a result, can speak truthfully to powerful people." Even though Grumio is a servant, he is very open in his observations of characters who are above him in social class. Pay attention to Grumio's character and his observations as you continue reading the play. (This annotation contains an image)
In this passage, Petruchio compares the challenges he has faced in his life with the challenge of wooing Katherine. Taking into account Shakespeare's choice of words and images in this passage, which of the following adjectives best describes the tone of this passage? Make sure to use the Define feature if necessary.
In this instance, "brave" means "boldly dressed." Remember that Tranio has undertaken to play the part of Lucentio while Lucentio, dressed as a music tutor, is busy wooing Bianca. "Lucentio" (Tranio) has transformed himself and has boldly come to throw his hat in the ring as a suitor of Bianca. (This annotation contains an image)
According to the Ancient Greece website, "Heracles was originally named Alcides by his parents, and his name was only changed later in a vain attempt to please Hera (Heracles meaning 'glory of Hera'). Hera supposedly sent two snakes to kill Heracles in his cot, but Heracles strangled a snake in each hand and played with the dead bodies as though they were toys." What message is Shakespeare sending about the wooing of Katherine by using this allusion to Greek mythology?
When Tranio, disguised as Lucentio, declares his intention to become a suitor to Bianca, Hortensio and Gremio insist that he share in Petruchio's wooing expenses. What is Tranio's response to this expectation?
Since Biblical times, it has been the tradition for older sisters to marry before younger ones. Those older sisters unlucky enough to remain unmarried when their younger sisters wed were expected to dance (either barefoot or in green stockings, and sometimes in a pig trough) to try to change their luck. If she remained unmarried, she was doomed to lead apes in hell as penance for choosing not to marry and have children.
Notice how Baptista chooses to answer Petruchio's question about Katherine. Based upon this answer and upon the interaction between the Baptista and Katherine just before the men entered, how would you interpret Baptista's feelings toward Katherine? What textual evidence can you quote to support this analysis?
Note that Baptista asks for "Lucentio's" background and parentage before he welcomes Lucentio as a suitor to Bianca. Now take note of the same encounter with Petruchio. How does their conversation differ from that with "Lucentio"?
Petruchio makes liberal use of literary devices to explain how he will woo Katherine. Which of the following literary devices is NOT used by Petruchio in this passage?
In this scene, Baptista asks whether or not Hortensio will successfully teach Katherine to play the lute (or "break her to the lute"). However, Hortensio complains that Katherine "broke the lute to me," meaning she broke the lute over his head, as seen in the following photograph from the play. (This annotation contains an image)
Using the Define feature for "volubility" is not very helpful. Using context clues, and understanding that Petruchio's plan in wooing his shrew is to do and say the opposite of everything Katherine does and says, which of the following is the best definition for the use of the word "volubility"?
Watch the following clip done at the Globe Theater before you answer the next question: (This annotation contains a video)
Watching words on a page being brought to life on a stage can change their interpretation. Which lines in this first scene between Petruchio and Katherine were changed for you by watching them performed in the video? How did they change?
What is revealed to Katherine about her situation in this passage from Petruchio?
Note how Petruchio uses allusions to earlier works and Greek historical figures in order to support one theme of the play--the proper behavior of a wife. Here he makes allusions to Grissel (Griselda), who is severely tested by her husband, and Lucrece (Lucretia), whose rape at the hands of the the Etruscan king's son led to Rome becoming a republic.
Clearly, Katherine is not going to change her behavior or agree to the marriage. What ingenious explanation does Petruchio contrive to convince Baptista to agree to the marriage?
Now that Katherine's marriage seems assured, the choice of a husband for Bianca commences. As was typical of the time period, Bianca will have no say in the match. Furthermore, as Baptista explains, it is the man with the most to leave Bianca upon his death who will win her hand, supporting the fact that marriage during the Renaissance was definitely more of an economic arrangement than an emotional one.
While "Lucentio" (Tranio in disguise) has outbid Gremio for Bianca's hand, the marriage contract comes with a condition. Which of the following accurately details the condition placed on the marriage by Baptista?
Taming of the Shrew: Quiz One
Meanwhile, back at Baptisa's house, Lucentio and Hortensio (both disguised as schoolmasters) vie for Bianca's attention. Since neither man knows the other is really in disguise, both suppose the other to be overreaching his social boundaries as a tutor flirting with his rich pupil. (This annotation contains an image)
Until this point in the play, the audience hasn't had much opportunity to hear from Bianca nor to observe her character. What is revealed about Bianca's character through this passage?
The ACTUAL translation of these lines is: "Here flowed the river Simois; here is the Sigeian land; here stood the lofty palace of old Priam." We will see how Lucentio uses these lines to reveal himself to Bianca.
Lucentio uses his Latin lesson to reveal his true character and his intent to use Tranio to outbid Gremio for her hand.
Bianca's response to Lucentio's lesson? She doesn't know or trust him, yet she cautions Lucentio not to let Hortensio hear them, and she tells him to despair not, giving him hope that his suit may be accepted by Bianca.
Bianca's reaction to Hortensio's lesson is quite different from her reaction to Lucentio's. What does her reception of Hortensio's message tell us of Bianca's character? What will Hortensio's opinion of Bianca be if she accepts Lucentio's advances? What does he threaten will be the consequence of this acceptance?
Poor Katharina believes she has been left at the altar. This is the first time in the play that we hear any of the men describe Katharina as a "shrew." The following PBS video examines how Shakespeare took the archetype of the shrew and made Katharina a very unique character: (This annotation contains a link)
As seen below, Katherine is dressed beautifully as a rich gentlewoman would be for her wedding day, while Petruchio has on a ridiculous outfit. Read again Biondello's description of Petruchio's entire ensemble. Why do you predict Petruchio would have arrived at the wedding in such a state? (This annotation contains an image)
Before Petruchio's entrance, which character does Shakespeare use to introduce comedy to the scene through the character's choice of words and turns of phrase?
In the midst of the wedding festivities, Tranio tracks Lucentio down and tells him of the new plan--to find an old man to play the part of Lucentio's father so he can approve the dowry agreement for Lucentio and Bianca's wedding.
Who is Tranio hoping to deceive through his plan to find a "supposed Vincentio"?
Use textual evidence to list two more things that Petruchio does during the marriage ceremony which would go completely against tradition. What do you think is the message Petruchio is trying to send to Katherine from the very beginning of their relationship? How does Katherine's behavior during the ceremony contrast with that of Petruchio?
Watch the following brief video to see the infamous kiss at the altar: (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following statements most closely depicts what Petruchio is saying about a wife's position in her husband's household in the highlighted passage?
Grumio uses an extended metaphor to describe how he is feeling after the trip. Keep this information in mind as you continue gathering information on Katherine's trek to her new home.
Directors frequently interpret Shakespeare's lines very personally, meaning that no two directors will present a scene in exactly the same way. If Grumio were to say these lines, but the scene were to show that NONE of the directions had been followed, which of the following words would best define how the director decided these lines were to be interpreted?
Note how Shakespeare frequently inserts humor into the scene through the use of puns or plays on words. For instance, in this line "fallen out" could be interpreted as Petruchio and Katherine having a fight, but when Grumio explains further, the pun is that they have LITERALLY fallen out of their saddles to the ground. Watch for other puns in this scene.
This drawing by Julius Caesar Ibbetson gives us some additional insight into the nature of the trip from Padua to Petruchio's home. Take some time to study it before you answer the next question. (This annotation contains an image)
Compare and contrast Grumio's account of the trip from Padua with Ibbetson's drawing of the same. What parts of Grumio's story made it into Ibbetson's drawing? What differed between Ibbetson's drawing and Grumio's story? If you had to retell the story of the trip JUST from Ibbetson's drawing, what might it sound like?
Already Kate's "taming" is underway. By being more impatient and curt than even Kate has been in the past, what is Petruchio forcing her to do?
According to Greek medicine, four humours exist in the blood. The humours include Blood, or the Sanguine humor, which is the red, hemoglobin-rich portion; Phlegm, or the Phlegmatic humor, which is present as the clear plasma portion; Yellow Bile, or the Choleric humor, which is present as a slight residue or bilirubin, imparting a slight yellowish tint; and Black Bile, or the Melancholic humor, which is present as a brownish grey sediment with platelets and clotting factors. To which humour is Petruchio referring when he says that both he and Katherine are "choleric"? (This annotation contains an image)
During the last scene between Petruchio and Katherine, it may have been confusing exactly why Petruchio was acting as he was. He now tells us directly what his plan is for Katherine. What comments can you make on the theme of power and the relationship between men and women based on Petruchio's short soliloquy here? Use textual evidence for support.
Tranio is playing his part beautifully as the supposed Lucentio. Here, through the observation of Bianca and "Cambio," he convinces Hortensio to reveal his true identity. What do you predict will be the effect of Tranio and Hortensio's conversation?
The map below will give you an idea of the travels of the Pedant. He came from Mantua (in peach in the northern part of Italy), is now in Padua (to the northeast of Mantua), then plans on going on to Rome (in purple) and eventually to Tripoli in Africa. (This annotation contains an image)
What detail about the Pedant makes it easy for Tranio to fool him into thinking his life is in danger?
An aside is usually a line or two spoken to the audience by a character making a comedic comment about the action on the stage. What is Biondello implying through this aside?
So Tranio has convinced the Pedant to pose as Vincentio supposedly to save his life. Why do you think Tranio is going to such lengths to make a formal marriage contract with Baptista when he himself is not going to marry Bianca?
Why are Katherine and Petruchio preparing to return to Baptista's house so soon after their wedding?
Here we see Petruchio use another play on words to add comedy to the scene. When Katherine says the cap is like those that gentlewomen wear, she is talking about women of title or noble women. Petruchio uses the same phrase "gentle woman" to remind Katherine that she is not a woman who acts in a gentle manner!
Take note of the painting of this particular scene by Wolfgang Boehm. Then answer the question which follows. (This annotation contains an image)
Based on the text and on the painting, which of the following adjectives best describes the attitude and facial expression of the tailor?
Imagine you are Petruchio. How would you defend your behavior regarding the tailor? What purpose do your actions serve? Use textual evidence for support.
As Petruchio's taming process continues, he persists in trying to teach Katherine that his word is law, even to the point of changing the time of day! If you were Hortensio, what taming lessons would you be taking away from this visit?
Taming of the Shrew: Quiz Two
Note here that the "supposed Lucentio" and his father, the "supposed Vincentio," are practicing before meeting with Baptista. Apparently Baptista and the real Vincentio met once before, years ago.
Which of the following is NOT a reason why Baptista and "Vincentio" are arranging the marriage contract at Lucentio's house instead of Baptista's?
What has Biondello been busy arranging for his master?
Note Lucentio's uncertainty here. Previously he seemed very assured that Bianca was of the same mind as he was concerning marriage, but now he seems unsure. In the end, though, he tries to reassure himself that Bianca will be convinced to marry him today.
Katharina seems to finally be getting the point of Petruchio's taming--that she will agree with him in all things. Do you think Katharina's speech is being said seriously or sarcastically?
Here Petruchio has some fun at Katharina's expense and takes the opportunity to test his taming. If you were Vincentio recording the events of this encounter in your journal, what would you thoughts be about Petruchio and Katharina?
Petruchio gives Vincentio the surprising news that they are now related. It's no wonder that Vincentio doesn't believe them at first, given their initial encounter!
Using the Define feature and context clues, which of the following would be the most accurate definition for "untoward" as it is used here?
Keeping in mind all that the Pedant has been told thus far in order to get him to impersonate Vincentio, how would he be feeling when he hears Lucentio's father is below?
What evidence does Vincentio cite to support his conclusion that Lucentio and Tranio are squandering his money in Padua?
Here Shakespeare changes Vincentio's mood dramatically. When he believed Lucentio and Tranio were spending all of his money, Vincentio was angry. Which of the following words best describes Vincentio's mood in his passage?
Shakespeare as a playwright doesn't often give a lot of stage direction in his plays. Here, though, he references how he would like Biondello, Tranio and the Pedant to exit this scene. Imagine how this might look on stage, and what type of impact this has on the tone of the play.
According to a number of sources, including Royalfaires.com, "it was considered a great scandal to show affection in public. However, gentlemen frequently escorted ladies whenever they were out walking in public. As with everything, there was a proper way for this to be done. Men and women would never walk around holding hands, palm to palm, as they do today. This was considered quite scandalous. First of all, they believed the germs that could be spread by rubbing palms with someone could prove fatal. Secondly, if one was willing to risk such a health hazard, they must surely be quite intimate with that person, and such a bold and public display of affection was not considered respectful of each other’s reputation." Kate refuses Petruchio's request for a public kiss because it would have been considered scandalous and improper even for married persons in the Elizabethan Period.
Which of the following best describes Petruchio's mood based on this passage?
How can the phrase "He that is giddy thinks the world turns round" best be paraphrased? Thoroughly explain your paraphrase and the tone with which it was conveyed by the widow.
Now that Bianca is married, we see another side of her character. Here she is making fun of Gremio by calling him a cuckold (a man whose wife is cheating on him). The cuckold is symbolized by horns, which is an allusion to the mating habits of stags, who give up their mates when they are defeated by another stag. Since Bianca chose another of her suitors over Gremio, she made a cuckold of him. (This annotation contains an image)
As we approach the climax of the story, which of the following overarching themes is supported by the bet which Petruchio proposes?
Note here that Lucentio is so confident of his wife's love and obedience that he rejects Baptista's offer to pay half of his bet.
Go back and re-read the passages where each man sends for his wife, paying particular attention to the verbs. How does this verb change through Lucentio, Hortensio and Petruchio? What does this change add to the mood of the scene?
In Shakespeare's original folio, the word was spelled "holydame," leading us to the interpretation of Holy Dame or a reference to the Virgin Mary.
What is Petruchio's total reward for betting that Katherine will be obedient to his command to come to him?
Katherine's speech is one of the most quoted from Taming. Analyze Katherine's point of view in her speech--do you believe she means what she is saying? Is the reader to interpret these lines ironically? Has Katherine been "tamed" by Petruchio as this speech seems to indicate? Use textual evidence for support.
Watch the linked video on the last half of Katherine's speech before answering the next question: (This annotation contains a video)
For another interpretation of Shakespeare's Taming, watch the final scene from the sitcom "Moonlighting." Think about the similarities and differences between this version of the ending and the original. (This annotation contains a video)
Think about the conclusion which Petruchio arrives at in the Moonlighting version of the play. Is this conclusion true in Shakespeare's original play as well? Which ending do you prefer and why? Which ending is more true to the time period in which it was written?
Taming of the Shrew: Quiz Three