The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

“The Taming of the Shrew” is a comedy play written by William Shakespeare in the late 16th century. The play tells the story of a wealthy man named Baptista who has two daughters, the gentle and obedient Bianca and the sharp-tongued and stubborn Katherina, known as the shrew.

Baptista declares that Bianca cannot marry until Katherina is married first, which leads to a number of suitors attempting to win Katherina’s hand. Petruchio, a brash and determined man, decides to marry Katherina and sets out to “tame” her into being a more obedient and subservient wife.

Through a series of sometimes cruel and sometimes comical actions, Petruchio manages to break Katherina’s spirit and turn her into a submissive and obedient wife. In the end, Bianca marries her true love, Lucentio, and Katherina delivers a famous speech in which she declares that women should be submissive to their husbands.

The play has been controversial over the years due to its depiction of the subjugation of women, but it is still widely studied and performed today.

Key Facts

Here are some key facts about “The Taming of the Shrew”:

  • Author: William Shakespeare
  • Date of first performance: between 1590 and 1594
  • Setting: Padua, Italy
  • Main characters:
    • Petruchio, a gentleman from Verona
    • Katherina, the shrewish daughter of Baptista
    • Bianca, Katherina’s younger sister
    • Lucentio, a young gentleman from Pisa
    • Hortensio, a friend of Petruchio and Lucentio
  • Plot summary: The play tells the story of a wealthy man named Baptista who has two daughters, the gentle and obedient Bianca and the sharp-tongued and stubborn Katherina. Baptista declares that Bianca cannot marry until Katherina is married first, which leads to a number of suitors attempting to win Katherina’s hand. Petruchio decides to marry Katherina and sets out to “tame” her into being a more obedient and subservient wife. Through a series of sometimes cruel and sometimes comical actions, Petruchio manages to break Katherina’s spirit and turn her into a submissive and obedient wife.
  • Themes: gender roles, power dynamics in relationships, marriage, social class, deception, appearances vs. reality, obedience and submission, love and desire.
  • Famous quotes:
    • “I am ashamed that women are so simple/ To offer war where they should kneel for peace” (Act 5, Scene 2)
    • “And do as adversaries do in law, / Strive mightily but eat and drink as friends” (Act 1, Scene 2)
    • “My tongue will tell the anger of my heart, / Or else my heart concealing it will break” (Act 4, Scene 3)
  • Adaptations: “Kiss Me Kate” (1953) is a famous musical adaptation of the play, and there have been numerous film and television adaptations over the years.

Major Characters

Here are the major characters in “The Taming of the Shrew”:

  1. Petruchio: A wealthy gentleman from Verona who comes to Padua to find a wife. He is determined to marry Katherina despite her reputation as a shrew and sets out to “tame” her through various tactics, both cruel and comical.
  2. Katherina (Kate): The elder daughter of Baptista and the titular “shrew.” She is sharp-tongued, independent, and unwilling to be subservient to any man, but eventually succumbs to Petruchio’s domination and becomes a submissive and obedient wife.
  3. Bianca: Katherina’s younger sister, who is sweet-tempered and desirable. She is courted by several suitors throughout the play, including Lucentio and Hortensio.
  4. Lucentio: A young gentleman from Pisa who falls in love with Bianca and disguises himself as a tutor in order to be near her. He ultimately wins her hand in marriage.
  5. Hortensio: A friend of Petruchio and rival suitor to Bianca. He gives up on courting her and instead marries a wealthy widow.
  6. Baptista: The wealthy father of Katherina and Bianca. He insists that Bianca cannot marry until Katherina is wed, which sets the plot in motion.
  7. Tranio: Lucentio’s servant, who poses as his master in order to carry out his plan to win Bianca’s hand in marriage.
  8. Grumio: Petruchio’s servant, who assists in his master’s efforts to “tame” Katherina.
  9. Gremio: An elderly suitor of Bianca who is ultimately rejected in favor of Lucentio.
  10. Vincentio: Lucentio’s father, who comes to Padua and is mistaken for Lucentio himself by the other characters, leading to confusion and hilarity.

Minor Characters

  1. Biondello: Lucentio’s servant, who assists him in his plan to win Bianca’s hand.
  2. Curtis: A servant of Petruchio, who assists in his master’s efforts to “tame” Katherina.
  3. Pedant: A traveling scholar whom Petruchio enlists to pretend to be Vincentio in order to convince Baptista to marry him to Katherina.
  4. Widow: A wealthy woman whom Hortensio marries after giving up on Bianca.
  5. Tailor and Haberdasher: Tradesmen whom Petruchio employs to make clothes for his wedding to Katherina.
  6. Nathaniel, Gregory, and Philip: Servants of various characters who provide comic relief in the play.
  7. Servants of Baptista: Various servants who appear throughout the play and assist in the plot.