Although there has been much debate, Shakespeare is now believed to have composed The Taming of the Shrew between 1592 and 1594. Although a play named The Taming of A Shrew was published first in the so-called “bad quarto” of 1594, Shakespeare’s own version was not published until 1623 when the First Folio of his works was compiled. The pirated version is thought to be a fast transcription, not without some embellishment, of Shakespeare’s play as it was performed.
The first known performance of The Taming of the Shrew was held at Newington Butts on June 13, 1594 by Shakespeare’s own company, the Chamberlain’s Men. Shakespeare himself played the part of Vincentio (a confined role) alongside the very popular actor Richard Burbage, who played Lucentio. However, there is a reference (not a record) in the “bad quarto” to earlier performances by the Earl of Pembroke’s Men, a troop which disbanded in 1594 due to financial troubles.
The Newington Butts stage was located one mile south of London Bridge in one of the Liberties, so called because they lay outside of the city limits where strict municipal laws did not affect the theater. Londoners regularly traveled outside the city proper to see their favorite plays, except during plague years when the theaters were closed for the public’s safety. The Globe, Shakespeare’s famous playhouse, was likewise located in the Liberties. When it burned down, Shakespeare’s company was forced to move into London to Blackfriars and other playhouses.
The Taming of...
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Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*Warwickshire. County in England’s Midlands area, which contains William Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon. The induction scenes, outside a tavern and within a nameless lord’s country house, contain specific references to actual villages such as Greet, Wincot, and Burton Heath. This landscape introduces contemporary sociopolitical issues such as enclosure (the tavern abuts the lord’s hunting preserve), vagrancy and sumptuary laws (for example, Sly’s list of jobs and his being jokingly dressed as a lord), and the economic tensions produced by changes in land use (Sly’s poverty contrasts with the conspicuous wealth of the lord’s house—dogs, servants, food, and erotic art).
*Padua. City in northeastern Italy, about twenty miles west of Venice. Shakespeare borrows this setting from the Italian source for his comedy, Ludovico Ariosto’s I suppositi, complete with disguises and clever manservants. As usual on the fluid, nonrepresentational Elizabethan stage, the action moves effortlessly, without the use of stage directions, from the first street scenes to the reception rooms, where Petruchio woos Kate, to the music room. The impression achieved is of a successful mercantile community, where personal wealth is measured in numbers of ships and household goods. The streets and houses near the home of Baptista Minola provide the fictional displacement from the England portrayed in the introduction, a displacement that parallels the thematic shifts from class anxieties to those of contemporary gender politics.
*Petruchio’s farmhouse (peh-TREW-kee-oh). Near Verona, a city in northern Italy, forty miles west of Padua. Petruchio’s property, with its muddy roads and bustling servants, provides a material reality in contrast to Padua’s nondescript spaces. As signified by the names of the servants, Petruchio’s blunt masculinity is construed as characteristically English in contrast with the mannered Italians. Furthermore, Petruchio’s house functions as a site of transformations, where the pretensions of wealth and social behavior can be stripped away from Kate by Petruchio’s “taming.”
The Induction, Scene 1 Questions and Answers
1. Where does the action take place?
2. Why do Christopher Sly and the hostess quarrel?
3. Is Sly a modest person?
4. Where is the Lord returning from when he finds Sly asleep?
5. What does the Lord decide to do with Sly?
6. Who arrives at the Lord’s dwelling while he is making preparations?
7. What special instructions does the Lord give to the new arrivals?
8. How does the Lord plan to use his page?
9. What special instructions does the Lord send to his page?
10. Why does the Lord want to be present when Sly awakens?
1. The action takes place in England, in...
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The Induction, Scene 2 Questions and Answers
1. Where does Sly awaken?
2. How is Sly treated once he is awake?
3. How does Sly first respond to this treatment?
4. How does Sly describe himself?
5. What activities does the Lord suggest might be to Sly’s liking?
6. What classical text do the Lord and his servants allude to when they mention mythological characters, such as Adonis and Io?
7. How does the Lord ultimately convince Sly that he is a lord and not just dreaming?
8. Describe Sly’s reaction to his “wife.”
9. Does Bartholomew join Sly in bed?
10. What sort of play is announced to Sly?
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Act I, Scene 1 Questions and Answers
1. Under what special circumstances does Act One begin?
2. Where do Lucentio and Tranio arrive in the first scene, and why have they come to this town?
3. Whom do Lucentio and Tranio witness quarreling?
4. Why will Baptista not give away Bianca at present?
5. How does Katharina treat the suitors of Bianca?
6. What scheme does Hortensio concoct in order to marry Bianca?
7. With whom has Lucentio fallen in love?
8. How does Lucentio intend to woo Bianca?
9. What is Tranio’s role in Lucentio’s plan?
10. How does Sly like the play so far?
1. Act One begins with Sly...
(The entire section is 326 words.)
Act I, Scene 2 Questions and Answers
1. Why has Petruchio come to Padua?
2. Why does Petruchio box Grumio’s ears?
3. Whose house does Petruchio enter?
4. What does Hortensio suggest to Petruchio?
5. With whom does Gremio conspire to achieve Bianca?
6. What is Gremio’s attitude toward Petruchio’s attempt to marry Kate?
7. What does Grumio mean when he says that Petruchio will disfigure Kate so that she will not be able to see?
8. Why does Tranio appear at Hortensio’s home?
9. What is Lucentio doing in the meantime?
10. Why does Tranio go along with the men’s scheme?
1. Petruchio arrives in...
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Act II, Scene 1 Questions and Answers
1. What color is Kate’s hair?
2. Why has Kate bound Bianca’s hands?
3. Who offers Baptista gifts?
4. Why do the men believe that Petruchio has successfully wooed Kate when she rejects him publicly?
5. How does Baptista resolve the strife between Gremio and Tranio, who both seek the hand of Bianca?
6. What does Gremio offer to give Bianca?
7. How does Tranio’s offer compare to Gremio’s?
8. When are Katharina and Bianca to be married?
9. How does Gremio react to Baptista favoring Tranio’s offer?
10. What does Tranio mean when he says that a “child shall get a sire”(408)?
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Act III, Scenes 1 and 2 Questions and Answers
1. What does Cambio recite to Bianca?
2. Assess Lucentio’s control of Latin.
3. What lesson does Hortensio give to Bianca?
4. Why does Hortensio lose interest so suddenly in Bianca?
5. Why is Kate upset on her wedding day?
6. Why does Petruchio arrive underdressed for his own marriage?
7. What happens during the ceremony?
8. Why does Petruchio insist that he must leave immediately?
9. To which poet does Shakespeare allude in Petruchio’s speech about a wife’s duty to her husband?
10. How do the guests react to the newlyweds’ early departure?
1. He recites a...
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Act IV, Scenes 1 and 2 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Grumio arrive ahead of Petruchio and Kate?
2. How was their journey from Padua?
3. What do Kate and Petruchio eat when they arrive?
4. Why does Petruchio reject the mutton?
5. What plan does Petruchio concoct to tame Kate after he rejects their meal?
6. Which Ovidian text does Lucentio name to Bianca?
7. Why does Tranio swear not to court Bianca?
8. What is the taming school to which Tranio refers?
9. Why is origin of the pedant important to Tranio?
10. Why does the pedant offer to play the part of Vincentio while in Padua?
1. He has been sent ahead to...
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Act IV, Scenes 3 and 4 Questions and Answers
1. What does Grumio give to Kate for breakfast?
2. How long has Kate slept on her wedding night?
3. What reason does Petruchio give for rejecting the cap?
4. Does Petruchio accept the gown?
5. When was the last time Kate has eaten?
6. Where did the pedant encounter Baptista twenty years ago?
7. To whom does Baptista think he is giving away his daughter, Bianca?
8. Why does Baptista not make immediate arrangements for Bianca’s dowry once he has met the pedant disguised as Vincentio?
9. How will Lucentio be able to marry Bianca before the public ceremony with Tranio as groom to Bianca?
10. To what...
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Act IV, Scene 5 Questions and Answers
1. What time of day is it when Petruchio declares that the moon shines bright?
2. Whom do Kate and Petruchio encounter on their journey?
3. How does Kate give in to Petruchio?
4. Why is Vincentio headed to Padua?
5. To what does Petruchio refer when he mentions being crossed?
6. How does Petruchio greet Vincentio?
7. How does Kate earn Petruchio’s favor when meeting Vincentio?
8. How does Vincentio respond to their games with him?
9. Why is Hortensio with Kate and Petruchio?
10. What does Hortensio plan to do when he returns to Padua?
1. It is daytime.
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Act V, Scene 1 and 2 Questions and Answers
1. Why is Gremio present in this scene?
2. Where is Tranio’s father from?
3. Why does Vincentio think that Lucentio has wasted his fortune while in Padua?
4. Why does Vincentio accuse Tranio of murdering Lucentio?
5. Why is Gremio eager to defend Vincentio?
6. Why does Tranio call for a constable?
7. Who finally gives away Lucentio’s scheme to marry Bianca privately?
8. How much time has passed since Petruchio and Kate were married?
9. How much money has Baptista lost on account of Petruchio’s bet with the husbands?
10. According to Kate, why should women obey their husbands?
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Bibliography and Further Reading
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Bloom, Harold, ed. William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew”: Modern Critical Interpretations. New York: Chelsea House, 1988. Not for the faint-hearted, this collection of essays is useful for indicating the trends of modern scholarship regarding the play. It contains a number of essays utilizing modern critical perspectives such as feminism and deconstruction.
Greenfield, Thelma N. “The Transformation of Christopher Sly.” Philological Quarterly 33 (1954): 34-42. Greenfield argues that the importance of the Christopher Sly framing device lies in its establishment of the juxtaposition between reality and appearance...
(The entire section is 244 words.)