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.
Bianca (bee-AHN-kuh), Katharina’s pretty, gentle younger sister, for whose hand Lucentio, Hortensio, and Gremio are rivals. Although she is completely charming to her suitors, she is, in her own way, clever and strong-willed, and she chides her bridegroom for being so foolish as to lay wagers on her dutifulness.
Baptista (bap-TEES-tah), her father, a wealthy Paduan. Determined to treat his ill-tempered daughter fairly, he refuses to let Bianca marry before her. Petruchio’s courtship is welcome, even though its unorthodoxy disturbs him, and he offers a handsome dowry with Katharina, doubling it when he sees the results of his son-in-law’s “taming,” which gives him “another daughter.” Bianca’s marriage without his consent distresses and angers him, but his good nature wins out and he quickly forgives her, watching with delight as Petruchio demonstrates his success with Katharina.
Lucentio (lew-CHEHN-see-oh), the son of a Pisan merchant, who comes to Padua to study. He falls in love with Bianca when he first hears her speak and disguises himself as Cambio, a schoolmaster, to gain access to her, while his servant masquerades as Lucentio. He reveals his identity to his lady and persuades her to wed him secretly, but he finds his happiness somewhat marred when she costs him one hundred crowns by refusing to come at his call.
Hortensio (hohr-TEHN-shee-oh), Petruchio’s friend, who presents himself, disguised as a musician, as a teacher for Bianca. Convinced that Katharina is incorrigible, he watches Petruchio’s taming of his wife with amusement and skepticism. He weds a rich widow after becoming disillusioned when he sees Bianca embracing the supposed Cambio. Thus he finds himself, like Lucentio, with a wife more willful than he has expected.
Gremio (GREE-mee-oh), an aging Paduan who hires the disguised Lucentio to forward his courtship of Bianca. His hopes are dashed when Tranio, as Lucentio, offers Baptista a large settlement for his daughter, and he is forced to become an observer of others’ romances.
Vincentio (veen-CHEHN-see-oh), Lucentio’s father. He is first bewildered, then angry, when he arrives in Padua to find an impostor claiming his name, his son missing, and his servant Tranio calling himself Lucentio. Overjoyed to find the real Lucentio alive, he quickly reassures Baptista that an appropriate settlement will be made for Bianca’s marriage, saving his anger for the impostors who tried to have him imprisoned.
Tranio (TRAH-nee-oh), Lucentio’s servant, who advises his master to follow his inclinations for pleasure, rather than study. He plays his master’s part skillfully, courting Bianca to draw her father’s attention away from her tutor and even providing himself with a father to approve his courtship. He recognizes trouble in the form of the real Vincentio and attempts to avert it by refusing to recognize his old master and ordering him off to jail. His ruse is unsuccessful, and only nuptial gaiety saves him from the force of Vincentio’s wrath.
Grumio (GREW-mee-oh) and
Curtis, Petruchio’s long-suffering servants.
Biondello (bee-on-DEHL-oh), Lucentio’s servant, who aids in the conspiracy for Bianca’s hand.
A pedant, an unsuspecting traveler who is persuaded by Tranio to impersonate Vincentio.
Christopher Sly, a drunken countryman, found unconscious at a tavern by a lord and his huntsmen. They amuse themselves by dressing him in fine clothes and greeting him as a nobleman, newly recovered from insanity. Sly readily accepts their explanations, settles himself in his new luxury, and watches the play of Katharina and Petruchio with waning interest.
A lord, the eloquent nobleman who arranges the jest.
Bartholomew, his page, who pretends to be Sly’s noble wife.