Sir, you say well, and well you do conceive,
And since you do profess to be a suitor,
You must, as we do, gratify this gentleman,
To whom we all rest generally beholding.
Tranio:The Taming Of The Shrew Act 1, scene 2, 269–277
Sir, I shall not be slack; in sign whereof,
Please ye we may contrive this afternoon,
And quaff carouses to our mistress' health,
And do as adversaries do in law,
Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
Today, one "strives mightily" against great odds to secure some noble, usually unselfish, end. In The Taming of the Shrew, however, Tranio doesn't have heroic deeds in mind. The situation he likens to a law case is a three-way competition for the hand of the beautiful and well-dowered Bianca; the suitors are compared to opposed lawyers with only a professional interest in the competition. Nothing so important or so personal is at stake that the opponents can't share a nip at the metaphorical men's club.
Tranio is actually a sham, a decoy for his master Lucentio, who is a suitor. Tranio and Lucentio have exchanged roles so that Lucentio, in the guise of a tutor, can spend hours covertly courting his "pupil" Bianca. Tranio's job is to keep Bianca's other suitors and her father off Lucentio's scent. If all this sounds confusing, things get a lot more complicated before the inevitable happy ending.
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