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The Taming of the Shrew

by William Shakespeare

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Where is The Taming of the Shrew set? What difference does this make?

The Taming of the Shrew is set in Italy, in and around the city of Padua. This part of the world was renowned for its merchant elite, the movers and shakers in society. And it has been suggested that, in portraying these people, Shakespeare was actually satirizing Elizabethan society.

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The induction of The Taming of the Shrew, the frame narrative, if you will, takes place in contemporary England, where a traveling band of actors gets ready to perform the play.

The actual play has a very different setting from the induction. It takes place in and around Padua in Italy, a place renowned for its learning, where the great Galileo, one of the greatest scientists of all time, was professor of mathematics at the town's prestigious university.

It was also famous for its merchant elite, whose members made up the movers and shakers in society. The main characters in the play hail from this elite; they are what we would nowadays call the upper-middle classes. Wealthy and privileged, they treat marriage like just another business venture.

Although The Taming of the Shrew is set in Italy, it might as well be set in Shakespeare's England. That's because the main characters display a remarkable likeness to the English merchant classes.

This is surely deliberate on Shakespeare's part. It has been suggested that in his portrayal of Padua's social elite, he's actually engaging in a spot of satire at the expense of the Elizabethan English merchant classes, who were starting to become more powerful and socially prominent in Shakespeare's day.

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