The Taming of the Shrew - Suggested Essay Ideas

Suggested Essay Ideas

The Induction, Scene 1
1. Class differences are displayed in the opening scene of the Induction. Describe the differences between the Lord and Christopher Sly in regard to their behavior, speech, and their expectations of one another.

2. The differences between men and women are, illustrated by the fight between Sly and the Hostess, and referred to by the Lord’s comment about a woman’s ability to cry. Compare these two scenes and discuss how women and men are shown here to be similar and/or different. You will need to consider whether the claim that women can cry on com¬mand is true.

The Induction, Scene 2
1. Explain Sly’s change of heart to accept his new identity as a gentleman. What has brought this change about? What was his attitude toward being a gentleman before and after this turnaround?

2. Describe the sexual tension when Sly asks for his wife to join him in bed. Why must Bartholomew refuse Sly?

3. Consider how Shakespeare forces his audience to speculate about the naturalness of a person’s attraction to the opposite sex. How does Shakespeare suggest that this attraction might actually be conventional (that is, socially patterned) as well as (or instead of) naturally inclined?

Act I, Scene 1
1. Many critics question whether Katharina deserves her
reputation as a shrew. Compare the remarks made by Gremio, “shrew,” a “fiend of hell” and so on.

2. Bianca utters a mere four lines in this scene (ll. 80-83). Characterize the import of her words here, and compare her attitude with that of her older sister.

3. Biondello immediately recognizes his master despite the disguise. But Lucentio thinks that the citizens of Padua will take him for a schoolmaster and Tranio for a merchant’s son if they simply dress up as those persons. How does this kind of role-switching compare with that of the gendered role reversal performed by the page in the Induction? How would each instance of role change be tolerated in modern society?

Act I, Scene 2
1. Only Petruchio plans to woo a woman openly while Gremio, Hortensio and Lucentio contrive schemes to gain access to Bianca. Compare the plans of each suitor and decide whose is the most clever and whose the most “manly.” Explain your reasoning.

2. Petruchio appears in this scene as a rough man. Describe why this is so by examining his words and his actions around the other men.

3. Master and servant quarrel at the beginning of this scene over a small linguistic misunderstanding. Explain the nature of this mishap first. Then calculate whether Grumio really misunderstands Petruchio. Base your answer on evidence provided by Grumio’s asides to the audience during this scene.

Act II, Scene 1
1. Describe Petruchio’s courtship of Kate. What methods does he use? Is he successful?

2. Compare the suitors’ dowry offers. Why does Baptista accept Tranio’s offer over Gremio’s? How does this compare to Petruchio’s promise?

3. Examine Kate’s behavior in this scene. Why does she treat people in such a harsh manner?

Act III, Scenes 1 and 2
1. Compare Bianca’s behavior in Act Three, Scene I with Kate’s behavior in Acts I and II. How are the two sisters different in demeanor and attitude in this act?

2. Contrast Petruchio’s method of taming his bride as shown in Act III, Scene 2 with his courtship of Kate in Act II. Is the change in tactics warranted? Is it effective?

3. Evaluate Petruchio’s speech about a husband’s rights over his spouse. How persuasive would his argument be to a modern audience?

Act IV, Scenes 1 and 2
1. Describe the methods Petruchio uses to tame Kate in Act IV, Scene 1.

2. Review Grumio’s behavior thus far in the play and evaluate his knowledge of his situation.

3. Enumerate the motives of Hortensio and Tranio in agreeing to forswear Bianca. You will need to consider the action in previous scenes to formulate a response.

Act IV, Scenes 3 and 4
1. Baptista readily discusses dowry arrangements in Act II, Scene 1. Why, then, does he claim here that he is afraid of too many “ears” in his house? Is Shakespeare merely using this excuse as a way to get Baptista to encounter the real Vincentio by transporting him to Tranio’s lodgings? What makes these two scenes different?

2. Examine the metaphor of the book as applied to a woman, or more specifically to a bride, in Scene 4. What does this metaphor entail? What kind of autonomy does it grant to a woman? Who, for instance, does this comparison assume is writing the book?

Act IV, Scene 5
1. Examine Kate’s autonomy after her capitulation to Petruchio’s whims. How much freedom does she sacrifice by placating Petruchio’s perverse sense of humor?

2. Consider the many comparisons used in this scene. In what sort of light do they cast the people they describe? For example, how does Hortensio’s metaphor of the field depict Kate?

3. Reflect upon the tension involving gender (masculine versus feminine roles) in this scene. What are the pivotal moments in this play when gender becomes an issue for us? Develop a few questions that would occur to a modern audience for each situation.

Act V, Scenes 1 and 2
1. Enumerate all the stories that Vincentio is forced to accept as truth. Be sure to include Act IV, Scene 5 in your account.

2. How is Kate treated in Act V, Scene 2? How does Kate behave considering the ways in which people treat her?

3. Outline Kate’s argument for male supremacy. Does her argument make sense? Is Kate speaking sincerely here, or is she merely saying what Petruchio wants to hear?