List of Characters
Petruchio—the clever but rough man who tames the “shrew” to be his wife.
Katharina—the shrew; a sharp-tongued woman who will not take a husband; She finally capitulates to the overpowering Petruchio and becomes the model wife.
Bianca—Katharina’s beautiful younger sister who cannot marry until a man weds Katharina.
Lucentio—a young man who wants to marry Bianca; disguises himself as Cambio, a teacher, to woo Bianca covertly.
Baptista—the wealthy father of Katharina and Bianca.
Gremio—an old man and suitor to Bianca.
Hortensio—disguises himself as Litio, a musician, in order to woo Bianca covertly; breaks off his suit when she favors Cambio, and marries a wealthy widow instead.
Vincentio—Lucentio’s father; a wealthy merchant who resides in Pisa.
Tranio—Lucentio’s servant who disguises himself as his master and comes to Baptista to court Bianca on Lucentio’s behalf.
Biondello—servant to Lucentio who slanders his father, Vincentio.
Grumio—patient servant to Petruchio.
Pedant—is disguised as Lucentio’s father, Vincentio.
Widow—marries Hortensio and surprises everyone at the play’s end by being more shrewish than Katharina.
Christopher Sly—a common tinker, fooled into believing that he is a nobleman.
Lord—a nobleman who plays an elaborate joke on the unsuspecting...
(The entire section is 232 words.)
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Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Katharina (kat-uh-REE-nuh), the “shrew,” the spirited elder daughter of Baptista, a well-to-do Paduan gentleman. She storms at her father, her mild young sister, and her tutors until she meets Petruchio, who ignores her protests of rage and marries her while she stands by in stunned amazement. She continues to assert her will, but she finds her husband’s even stronger than her own and learns that submission is the surest means to a quiet life. Her transformation is a painful revelation to Lucentio and Hortensio, who must pay Petruchio their wagers and, in addition, live with wives who are less dutiful than they supposed.
Petruchio (peh-TREW-kee-oh), her masterful husband, who comes from Verona to Padua frankly in search of a wealthy wife. He is easily persuaded by his friend Hortensio to court Katharina and pave the way for her younger sister’s marriage. Katharina’s manners do not daunt him; in truth, his are little better than hers, as his long-suffering servants could testify. He meets insult with insult and storm with storm, humiliating his bride by appearing at the altar in his oldest garments and keeping her starving and sleepless, all the while pretending the greatest solicitude for her welfare. Using the methods of training hawks, he tames a wife and ensures a happy married life for himself.
(The entire section is 836 words.)
Katherina (Character Analysis)
Katherina is established as a "shrew"—a loud, unmanageable, bad-tempered woman—by her own behavior and by the comments of other characters, who repeatedly characterize her as ill-tempered and unreasonable. Unlike the stock character of the shrew found in many plays from Shakespeare's time, however, Katherina emerges as a complex individual who engages the audience's sympathy and concern. Baptista's obvious preference for her sister, Bianca, his crassly materialistic approach to his daughters' marriages, and the shallowness and rudeness of the Paduan suitors suggest possible reasons for Katherina's shrewish behavior. Her "shrewish" remarks are generally also clever and to the point, suggesting that she is more intelligent than most of the other characters in the play. Moreover, despite her shrewishness she is capable of concern for others, repeatedly trying to shield the servants from Petruchio's violent displeasure.
Katherina first appears in Act I, scene i, where she vigorously protests both Baptista's decision not to allow Bianca to marry until a husband is found for Katherina, and the insulting remarks of Gremio and Hortensio. This leads Tranio, who is looking on with Lucentio, to comment that she is "stark mad or wonderful froward [disobedient, unmanageable]." After Baptista and his daughters leave, Hortensio and Gremio continue to comment on Katherina's bad temper and the near-impossibility of any man agreeing to marry her.
(The entire section is 1022 words.)
Petruchio (Character Analysis)
The traditional interpretation of the character of Petruchio sees him as a romantic and dashing figure, sweeping Katherina off her feet with his manly energy, intelligence, and determination. His displays of violence and bad temper are then presented as merely a ploy intended either to show Katherina the absurdity of her own violence and bad temper or to shock her out of her habitual contrariness. While this remains the most common dramatic interpretation of the role, more recently literary critics and some productions of the play have portrayed Petruchio as a less than ideal man. These interpretations present his violent, domineering, and frequently unreasonable behavior as an intrinsic part of his character rather than as an affectation assumed for Katherina's benefit. They also tend to stress the crudity of many of his comments about marriage and about Katherina.
Petruchio first appears at the beginning of Act I, scene ii, when he and his servant, Grumio, arrive in Padua from Verona to visit Petruchio's friend Hortensio. Petruchio is quickly involved in a heated misunderstanding with Grumio and ends up wringing the servant's ear. When Petruchio tells Hortensio he has come to Padua to seek a wife, Hortensio tells him he knows of a woman who is very wealthy, but shrewish. Despite warnings from both Hortensio and Gremio about Katherina's temperament, Petruchio insists that he will woo her, claiming that wealth is his sole requirement in a wife and that he...
(The entire section is 1171 words.)
Lucentio (Character Analysis)
Lucentio is Vincentio's son. With Vincentio's permission, Lucentio is traveling abroad in order to expand his horizons and pursue his education. He has stopped in Padua on his way from Pisa to Lombardy and decides to remain in Padua for a while, exploring what that town has to offer. He must feel that Padua offers more cultural depth than Pisa because he says,
... I have Pisa left
And am to Padua come as he that leaves
A shallow plash to plunge him in the deep,
And with satiety seeks to quench his thirst.
The comparison he makes between Pisa and Padua is, perhaps, like the comparison between a small town and a big city. He will "quench his thirst" for knowledge in the rich center of learning that is Padua. He is no great and intense scholar, though. When Tranio says, "Let's be no stoics, nor no stocks" (I.i.31), Lucentio readily agrees. He will pursue only those forms of education which offer entertainment, nothing tedious or demanding. But before Lucentio can embark on this quest for higher learning, he sees Bianca and falls in love with her at first sight. Her father, Baptista, has removed her from the company of men, with the exception of her male teachers. The only way Lucentio can get close is by adopting the disguise of Cambio, a schoolmaster. It is not clear why Lucentio insists that Tranio wear his clothes and impersonate him. He has already told Tranio that...
(The entire section is 473 words.)
Sly (Character Analysis)
Christopher Sly is the main character in the Induction, or frame story. He falls asleep outside an Inn after drinking too much and arguing with the hostess there. A passing lord discovers Sly's drunken form and decides to make Sly believe that he is rich. That lord has his huntsmen carry Sly up to a richly appointed bedroom, dress him in fine clothes, and pretend that he is the sophisticated lord of the manor when he wakes. The essence of the joke is that none could be less sophisticated than Sly. When he wakes up, the first thing he calls for is "a pot of small ale" (Induction.ii.1). He is offered a glass of sack but denies having ever drunk that in his life, the distinction between the two drinks probably like that between beer and champagne. When the servants address him with "your lordship" and "your honor," Sly tries to maintain his identity and describes who he really is:
Am not I Christopher Sly, old
Sly's son of Burton-heath; by birth a pedlar, by education a
card-maker, by transmutation a bear-herd, and now by present
profession a tinker?
Sly does not seem to be convinced totally by the servants' story that he has been suffering from delusions for years. True to his nature, Sly only becomes interested in assuming the role of the lord of the manor when he is told that he has a wife, the lord's young page disguised. He wishes immediately to gratify...
(The entire section is 400 words.)
Other Characters (Descriptions)
Baptista is a wealthy landowner in Padua. He has two daughters, Bianca and Katherina/Kate. The younger daughter, Bianca, is much sought after, but Baptista has resolved that she should not marry until her older sister, Kate, is married. He is firm with Bianca's suitors, Hortensio and Gremio, on this point and insists that Bianca devote her time to study until he finds a suitable husband for Kate. Kate accuses Baptista of favoring Bianca over her, but actually Baptista demonstrates that he wants the best for both his daughters. He spends much of his time in the play haggling over his daughters' dowries, trying to insure that both Bianca and Kate are provided with material comforts. He even conducts a kind of bidding war between Gremio and Tranio (who is pretending to be Lucentio) for Bianca's hand in marriage. He also insists that his daughters' husbands have appropriate pedigrees. He is extremely upset when Petruchio shows up for the wedding dressed in wild attire, but since he knows Kate to be a terrible shrew and one for whom it will be difficult to find a match, his desire to see Kate married overrides his fear of public ridicule. His opinion of Kate does not change after she is married; at the end of the play, he even bets that Kate will lose the contest to see which wife is the most dutiful to her husband. It is true that Baptista does not consider his daughters' affections for the men with whom he arranges their marriages, but he has...
(The entire section is 3396 words.)