Describe the nature of the relationship between servant and master in The Taming of the Shrew.
Interestingly, the way that the relationship between master and servant is presented is somewhat reversed from what we would perhaps expect it to be. The central master-servant relationship in the play is of course Lucentio and Tranio, but, whilst Tranio overtly pays every respect to his master and does genuinely seem to be a loyal and loving servant, it is Tranio that is shown to be the cunning one out of the pair. A prime example comes in Act I scene 1 when Lucentio has been struck so strongly by Bianca's beauty, yet seems clueless of how to advance a stratagem to gain access to her so that he can woo her. It is up to Tranio to subtly nudge his master in the right direction:
Her elder sister is so curst and shrewd
That till the father rid his hands of her,
Master, your love must live a maid at home.
And therefore has he closely mewed her up,
Because she will not be annoyed with suitors.
Tranio thus gently takes his master's mind away from his lovesick state and reminds him of the reality of the situation, carefully pointing him in the right direction. Tranio thus seems to be the shrewder out of the two characters, not only in terms of the way he is able to think up ideas but the way that he is able to suggest them in such a way that they appear to be his master's ideas and not his own.
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