Last Updated on April 25, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1022
Katherine is established as a "shrew"—a loud, unmanageable, bad-tempered woman—by her own behavior and by the comments of other characters, who repeatedly characterize her as ill-tempered and unreasonable. Unlike the stock character of the shrew found in many plays from Shakespeare's time, however, Katherine emerges as a complex individual who engages the audience's sympathy and concern. Baptista's obvious preference for her sister, Bianca, his crassly materialistic approach to his daughters' marriages, and the shallowness and rudeness of the Paduan suitors suggest possible reasons for Katherine's shrewish behavior. Her "shrewish" remarks are generally also clever and to the point, suggesting that she is more intelligent than most of the other characters in the play. Moreover, despite her shrewishness she is capable of concern for others, repeatedly trying to shield the servants from Petruchio's violent displeasure.
Katherine first appears in Act I, scene i, where she vigorously protests both Baptista's decision not to allow Bianca to marry until a husband is found for Katherine, and the insulting remarks of Gremio and Hortensio. This leads Tranio, who is looking on with Lucentio, to comment that she is "stark mad or wonderful froward [disobedient, unmanageable]." After Baptista and his daughters leave, Hortensio and Gremio continue to comment on Katherine's bad temper and the near-impossibility of any man agreeing to marry her.
At the beginning of Act II, Katherine enters with Bianca, whose hands are tied, and strikes her when she denies any preference for either of her suitors. When Baptista scolds her for her behavior toward her sister, Katherine accuses him of favoritism. Later in the same scene, in her first meeting with Petruchio, she meets his initial overture with hostility and insults. He responds with sexual innuendos. After he makes a particularly obscene remark, she strikes him. When her father enters, she denounces Petruchio as "one half lunatic" and responds to his insistence that they have agreed to be married on Sunday by commenting, "I'll see thee hang'd on Sunday first." But when Petruchio claims that she is only pretending to oppose the marriage and Baptista agrees to the match, she exits without saying anything further.
In Act III, when Petruchio at first fails to show for his wedding, Katherine complains bitterly: not only has she been forced against her will to accept "a mad-brain rudesby full of spleen," but now she is being made a fool of. She exits weeping. Reporting on Petruchio's outrageous behavior during the marriage ceremony, Gremio remarks that in response to the groom's behavior the bride "trembled and shook." Nonetheless, when Petruchio insists that they leave immediately after the ceremony, Katherine resists, first entreating Petruchio to stay, then firmly refusing to leave. When Petruchio insists on his right to make her leave and threatens violence against anyone who tries to stop them, she goes with him without further comment.
At the beginning of Act IV, Grumio reports on his trip to Petruchio's country house with Petruchio and Katherine. After Katherine's horse fell on her, Petruchio began to beat Grumio, and Katherine "waded through the dirt to pluck him off." Grumio's account leads Curtis to remark that Petruchio "is more shrew than she." When at the country house Petruchio upbraids and strikes the servants, Katherine defends them and urges him to be patient. After the couple retires to their chamber, Curtis tells the other servants that Petruchio is lecturing his bride on self-restraint, while she "Knows not which way to stand, to look, to speak, / And sits as one new-risen from a dream." In subsequent scenes, Petruchio repeatedly imposes his will despite Katherine's resistance and verbal protests. In Act IV, scene v, as they return to Padua for Bianca's wedding, Katherine again contradicts Petruchio, saying that the sun is shining when he has commented on the brightness of the moon. When he refuses to go on unless she agrees with him, she gives in, only to have him insist that it is indeed the sun. Commenting that "the moon changes even as your mind," Katherine gives in, agreeing to call it whatever he chooses. Hortensio tells Petruchio that "the field is won." Katherine's acceptance of Petruchio's will at this point is generally seen as a turning point in their relationship, although critics have offered varying opinions as to Katherine's mood at this point as well as the meaning of this turning point. When the travelers meet Vincentio on the road, Katherine easily falls in with Petruchio's joke of addressing the old man as if he were a young woman.
In Padua, as the Bianca-Lucentio subplot comes unraveled, Katherine wants to follow the other characters to see the outcome. Petruchio insists that she first kiss him publicly, and after a brief resistance, she complies. At Bianca's wedding banquet, Katherine becomes involved in an argument with the Widow when the latter refers to Katherine's reputation as a shrew. Later, when Petruchio, Lucentio, and Hortensio place bets on their respective wives' obedience, Katherine is the only wife to come when summoned. She obediently brings in the other wives, and when Petruchio tells her to take off her cap and stamp on it, she complies. When Petruchio orders her to instruct the other wives on their duty to their husbands, Katherine responds with a long speech advocating wifely obedience. Emphasizing the "painful labor" a husband takes on to ensure the security of his wife, she states that wives owe husbands a "debt" of "love, fair looks, and true obedience." She remarks that women are "soft" and "weak," and urges them to give up their pride, "for it is no boot" [there is no remedy]. In her final words in the play, she offers to place her hand under Petruchio's foot, to "do him ease."
Directors and actresses have adopted a variety of approaches to Katherine's final speech, depending on their interpretation of the play's meaning. Sometimes it is delivered ironically, as if Katherine does not mean what she says and is either humoring Petruchio or treating his wager as a joke. When the speech is delivered seriously, the tone adopted may vary from one of joyful acceptance to one of despair and resignation.
Last Updated on April 25, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1171
The traditional interpretation of the character of Petruchio sees him as a romantic and dashing figure, sweeping Katherine off her feet with his manly energy, intelligence, and determination. His displays of violence and bad temper are then presented as merely a ploy intended either to show Katherine the absurdity of her own violence and bad temper or to shock her out of her habitual contrariness. While this remains the most common dramatic interpretation of the role, more recently literary critics and some productions of the play have portrayed Petruchio as a less than ideal man. These interpretations present his violent, domineering, and frequently unreasonable behavior as an intrinsic part of his character rather than as an affectation assumed for Katherine's benefit. They also tend to stress the crudity of many of his comments about marriage and about Katherine.
Petruchio first appears at the beginning of Act I, scene ii, when he and his servant, Grumio, arrive in Padua from Verona to visit Petruchio's friend Hortensio. Petruchio is quickly involved in a heated misunderstanding with Grumio and ends up wringing the servant's ear. When Petruchio tells Hortensio he has come to Padua to seek a wife, Hortensio tells him he knows of a woman who is very wealthy, but shrewish. Despite warnings from both Hortensio and Gremio about Katherine's temperament, Petruchio insists that he will woo her, claiming that wealth is his sole requirement in a wife and that he will not be frightened off by mere noise.
In Act II, Petruchio presents himself to Baptista as a suitor for Katherine. At Hortensio's request, he also introduces Hortensio as Litio, a music teacher, leading Baptista to engage Hortensio to instruct his daughters. Brushing aside both Baptista's invitation to dinner and the older man's doubts about Katherine's acceptability, Petruchio immediately opens negotiations about the amount of money to be settled on Katherine. He and Baptista swiftly reach agreement. When Baptista stipulates that Petruchio must first obtain Katherine's love, Petruchio replies that "that is nothing," adding that he is "as peremptory as she proud-minded" and predicting that she will "yield" to him. When Hortensio enters bleeding and reports that Katherine has broken the lute over his head, Petruchio calls her "a lusty wench" and expresses eagerness to meet her.
In a soliloquy in Act II, scene i, just before his first meeting with Katherine, Petruchio describes his plan for dealing with her. Whatever she does, he will act as if she has done the opposite: If she is verbally abusive, he will praise her sweet voice; if she refuses to speak, he will applaud her eloquence; if she refuses to marry, he will ask her to set a date. When Katherine enters, they become embroiled in an exchange of insults that soon turns to sexual innuendo. When she strikes him after he makes a particularly obscene comment, Petruchio threatens to strike her back if she hits him again. Despite Katherine's hostility when Baptista returns, Petruchio says they have agreed to marry. When Katherine protests, Petruchio claims they have agreed that she will continue to behave shrewishly "in company." Baptista agrees to the marriage.
On the day appointed for the wedding, Petruchio arrives late and dressed in rags, defending his inappropriate attire by saying that Katherine is marrying him, not his clothes. His behavior at the ceremony, which takes place offstage, offends Gremio, who subsequently describes it: Petruchio swore in church, struck the priest, guzzled the wine and threw the remainder in the sexton's face, and kissed the bride noisily. After the ceremony, Petruchio insists that he and Katherine must leave immediately. He overrides Katherine's objections by announcing that he "will be master of what is [his] own" and pretending to protect her against the others' desire to detain her.
When Petruchio and Katherine arrive at his country house at the beginning of Act IV, Petruchio verbally abuses and beats the servants and sends the dinner back uneaten, telling Katherine it is burned and bad for their health. In the bridal chamber, he treats her to a lecture on self-restraint. In his second soliloquy, Petruchio likens Katherine to a wild falcon that must be prevented from eating and sleeping until it is tamed. Subsequently, he repeatedly frustrates Katherine's needs and desires, all the while insisting that he does so for her own good.
He also insists that Katherine agree with him even when he contradicts the most obvious realities, leading even his friend Hortensio to comment on his unreasonableness. Late in Act IV, as Katherine and Petruchio prepare to return to Padua for Bianca's wedding, he argues with Katherine about the time of day, insisting that they will not leave until "It shall be what a'clock I say it is." Later, on the road to Padua, he repeatedly changes his opinion as to whether the sun or the moon is shining and refuses to continue until Katherine agrees with him. Her eventual statement that "What you will have it nam'd, even that it is" is usually regarded as marking her capitulation to Petruchio. When they meet Vincentio on the road, Katherine plays along with her husband's joke when he pretends to think the old man is a young woman.
Through the remainder of the play Petruchio repeatedly tests Katherine's compliance. When they reach Padua, he threatens to return home unless she kisses him in the street. At Bianca and Lucentio's wedding banquet, a number of the other guests imply that Petruchio has failed to get control over Katherine. Petruchio proposes a wager on which of the three new wives—Katherine, Bianca, or the widow Hortensio has married—is most obedient. When Katherine is the only one of the three wives to come when summoned, Petruchio sends her to fetch the other wives, then tells her to take off her cap and stamp on it. Finally, he orders her to "tell these headstrong women / What duty they do owe their lords and husbands." At the end of Katherine's long speech in favor of male authority and female obedience, Katherine offers to place her hand under her husband's foot, to "do him ease." Petruchio praises her, kisses her, and takes her off to bed, suggesting as they leave that Hortensio and Lucentio have a hard road before them in their marriages.
Critical commentary and productions of the play reflect a wide diversity of opinion regarding both the nature of Petruchio's treatment of Katherine and his reasons for it. Motivations ascribed to his character range from love for Katherine to a will to dominate, from self-interest to a simple enjoyment of a challenge. Similarly, a wide variety of interpretations have been put forward regarding the dynamics of his relationship with Katherine. Some see him as bullying his wife into submission; others claim that he insightfully leads her to an acceptance of her "true" nature and of her rightful role in society. Still others claim that in the course of the play, Katherine and Petruchio negotiate a mutually acceptable mode of coexistence within the limits imposed by their society.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 473
Lucentio is Vincentio's son. With Vincentio's permission, Lucentio is traveling abroad in order to expand his horizons and pursue his education. He has stopped in Padua on his way from Pisa to Lombardy and decides to remain in Padua for a while, exploring what that town has to offer. He must feel that Padua offers more cultural depth than Pisa because he says,
... I have Pisa left
And am to Padua come as he that leaves
A shallow plash to plunge him in the deep,
And with satiety seeks to quench his thirst.
The comparison he makes between Pisa and Padua is, perhaps, like the comparison between a small town and a big city. He will "quench his thirst" for knowledge in the rich center of learning that is Padua. He is no great and intense scholar, though. When Tranio says, "Let's be no stoics, nor no stocks" (I.i.31), Lucentio readily agrees. He will pursue only those forms of education which offer entertainment, nothing tedious or demanding. But before Lucentio can embark on this quest for higher learning, he sees Bianca and falls in love with her at first sight. Her father, Baptista, has removed her from the company of men, with the exception of her male teachers. The only way Lucentio can get close is by adopting the disguise of Cambio, a schoolmaster. It is not clear why Lucentio insists that Tranio wear his clothes and impersonate him. He has already told Tranio that they should "take a lodging fit to entertain / Such friends as time in Padua shall beget" (I.i.44-45). Since he does not already have friends in Padua, there is apparently no need for Tranio to maintain Lucentio's presence and make it known that Lucentio is there.
This desire to develop or maintain his reputation bespeaks a certain arrogance in Lucentio. He leads a life full of class privilege, and things come easily for him. He has seen Bianca with her two suitors, Hortensio and Gremio, yet he believes he can impose himself between their suits and win Bianca for himself. She must see some inherent virtues through his disguise as Cambio, a lowly schoolmaster, for he does, in fact, win her rather easily. Lucentio deceives Baptista by marrying Bianca without his knowledge, and he places his own father in some humiliating circumstances. Yet he easily wins the blessing of both men when he pleads for mercy and asks their forgiveness. He does not offer any legitimate excuses; he only presents himself as one with a nature deserving of forgiveness. The only thing that Lucentio does not win is the contest at the end of the play. When Bianca does not come at his beck and call, he loses his wager. Lucentio can only congratulate Petruchio for having so thoroughly tamed his shrewish wife.
Last Updated on April 25, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 400
Christopher Sly is the main character in the Induction, or frame story. He falls asleep outside an Inn after drinking too much and arguing with the hostess there. A passing lord discovers Sly's drunken form and decides to make Sly believe that he is rich. That lord has his huntsmen carry Sly up to a richly appointed bedroom, dress him in fine clothes, and pretend that he is the sophisticated lord of the manor when he wakes. The essence of the joke is that none could be less sophisticated than Sly. When he wakes up, the first thing he calls for is "a pot of small ale" (Induction.ii.1). He is offered a glass of sack but denies having ever drunk that in his life, the distinction between the two drinks probably like that between beer and champagne. When the servants address him with "your lordship" and "your honor," Sly tries to maintain his identity and describes who he really is:
Am not I Christopher Sly, old
Sly's son of Burton-heath; by birth a pedlar, by education a
card-maker, by transmutation a bear-herd, and now by present
profession a tinker?
Sly does not seem to be convinced totally by the servants' story that he has been suffering from delusions for years. True to his nature, Sly only becomes interested in assuming the role of the lord of the manor when he is told that he has a wife, the lord's young page disguised. He wishes immediately to gratify his sexual desire, but the Page puts him off with the excuse that the doctors have prohibited such activity because it will only make Sly's condition worse. When it is proposed that Sly watch a play put on specifically for his amusement, he further shows his lack of sophistication. He asks whether the play "Is not a commonty a Christmas gambold or a tumbling-trick?" (Induction.ii.137-38), the forms of dramatic entertainment with which he is most familiar. The Page tells Sly "It is a kind of history" (Induction.ii.141), and Sly agrees to see the play. But at the end of the first scene, Sly is already nodding off. He is not heard or seen again, and the elaborate frame story is never resolved even though the audience expects to see Sly acquainted with the joke and returned to his former self at the end of the play.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 3396
Baptista is a wealthy landowner in Padua. He has two daughters, Bianca and Katherina/Kate. The younger daughter, Bianca, is much sought after, but Baptista has resolved that she should not marry until her older sister, Kate, is married. He is firm with Bianca's suitors, Hortensio and Gremio, on this point and insists that Bianca devote her time to study until he finds a suitable husband for Kate. Kate accuses Baptista of favoring Bianca over her, but actually Baptista demonstrates that he wants the best for both his daughters. He spends much of his time in the play haggling over his daughters' dowries, trying to insure that both Bianca and Kate are provided with material comforts. He even conducts a kind of bidding war between Gremio and Tranio (who is pretending to be Lucentio) for Bianca's hand in marriage. He also insists that his daughters' husbands have appropriate pedigrees. He is extremely upset when Petruchio shows up for the wedding dressed in wild attire, but since he knows Kate to be a terrible shrew and one for whom it will be difficult to find a match, his desire to see Kate married overrides his fear of public ridicule. His opinion of Kate does not change after she is married; at the end of the play, he even bets that Kate will lose the contest to see which wife is the most dutiful to her husband. It is true that Baptista does not consider his daughters' affections for the men with whom he arranges their marriages, but he has determined that the best marriages are those with a secure financial future, reflecting the beliefs of the time period during which the play was written.
Bianca is Baptista's daughter and the younger sister of Kate. Apparently she is quite attractive. Both Hortensio and Gremio are actively courting her, and Lucentio falls in love with her at first sight. Lucentio calls Bianca a "young modest girl" (I.i.156) and tells Tranio, "Sacred and sweet was all I saw in her" (I.i.176). Part of Bianca's attractiveness must be that she is a gem of modesty set against the foil of Kate's outspoken and grating disposition. Bianca takes full advantage of the contrast which her suitors perceive between herself and Kate. When Baptista pronounces that she must avoid the company of men and devote her time to academic pursuits, Bianca is the model of feminine modesty and duty. She tells her father, "Sir, to your pleasure humbly I subscribe" (I.i.81). But Bianca also has a selfish streak. Just before her submissive response to her father, she has told Kate, "Sister, content you in my discontent" (I.i.80). Bianca resents that Kate's willful behavior prevents her from enjoying the attention her suitors wish to shower upon her. That resentment comes fully into the open when Kate strikes Bianca for suggesting that Kate is envious of her.
We get a somewhat different picture of Bianca at the end of the play. Petruchio proposes that Bianca, Kate, and the widow be called by their husbands to see which of the three responds most readily. Biondello is sent to fetch Bianca for Lucentio and reports back that Bianca has claimed to be too busy to respond to her husband's desire. Only Kate responds promptly, and Lucentio loses his wager. When he tells Bianca that she has cost him the wager, she says, "The more fool you for laying on my duty" (V.ii.129). Apparently, different sets of rules exist in marriage and courtship. Once Bianca has landed Lucentio, she no longer needs to make him the center of her attention as she did in the secret confines of her cloistered cell. As a married woman, she is free to indulge her own desires.
Biondello is Lucentio's servant. Since the stage directions refer to him as a boy, it can be assumed that he is younger than Tranio. When Lucentio takes on the disguise of Cambio and pretends to be a schoolmaster so that he can get close to Bianca, Lucentio tells Biondello that he has killed a man in a quarrel and Tranio has disguised himself as Lucentio to save Lucentio's life. Biondello must now treat Tranio as Lucentio and serve him. Biondello never really believes the story Lucentio has made up, and he quickly learns the plan that is actually afoot. When the need arises, he is given the task of finding a person who might convincingly impersonate Vincentio, Lucentio's father; and he selects the pedant, "In gait and countenance surely like a father" (IV.ii.65). He serves as a messenger for Tranio and is so involved in the intrigue set in motion by Lucentio and Tranio that he even denies knowing Vincentio when the latter recognizes him outside of Tranio's lodging. At the end of the play, Biondello is sent to fetch Kate, Bianca, and the widow for their husbands.
Curtis is a servant at Petruchio's country house. He tries to get information from Grumio, another of Petruchio's servants, when the latter arrives in advance of the newly wedded Kate and Petruchio with the order to make the house ready. When Grumio finally gets around to telling Curtis how Petruchio and Kate have been acting on their journey from Baptista's home, Curtis summarizes Petruchio's behavior. He says, "By this reckoning he is more shrew than she" (IV.i.85). Curtis calls Petruchio's other servants—Nathaniel, Philip, Gregory, Nicholas, and Joshua—together and sees that they are ready for the arrival of their master and new mistress. Later, Curtis informs Grumio that Petruchio is in Kate's chamber, lecturing her about the need to abstain from sexual activity, while poor Kate does not quite know what to make of the lecture.
Gremio is a wealthy suitor to Bianca, competing with Hortensio for her hand in marriage. When Baptista refuses to allow either of them to court Bianca until Kate is married, the two are quite amicable about the competition, both realizing that neither can succeed with Bianca until Kate is married; and they openly agree to work together toward that end, if possible. Secretly, both plot a way to stay close to Bianca in the interim. Gremio, following Baptista's suggestion, recommends Cambio as a schoolmaster to Bianca, unaware that Cambio is Lucentio in disguise. In return for the recommendation, Gremio expects that Lucentio will act as a go-between and advance Gremio's suit for Bianca, which, of course, Lucentio does not do since he is advancing his own suit. After Kate and Petruchio are married and the competition for Bianca opens once again, Gremio feels he should be allowed to marry Bianca because, as he tells Baptista, "I am your neighbor, and was suitor first" (II.i.334). Baptista does, in fact, tend to favor Gremio because of his greater material wealth; but to be fair, Baptista opens the bidding, Bianca going to whomever offers the largest dowry. Tranio, disguised as Lucentio and presumably acting on his behalf, accuses Gremio of being too old for Bianca, while Gremio counters with the charge that Bianca could never be attracted to one so young and immature as Tranio. Tranio exaggerates Lucentio's wealth and outbids Gremio, who resigns himself to the fact that he will never have Bianca. At the end of the play, Gremio, with no hope of finding a mate in the group assembled at Lucentio's house, joins the party only to enjoy his share of the feast.
Grumio is Petruchio's main servant, accompanying Petruchio on his trips back and forth between his country house and the town of Padua. Grumio is a clown and a jokester who seems to enjoy being obstinate and acting thickheaded. Language is always a problem with Grumio because he always plays on vagaries and claims not to understand what is being said unless it is spoken in the clearest and most direct terms. For example, when Petruchio first arrives in Padua to visit his old friend Hortensio, he asks Grumio to knock on Hortensio's door. Grumio pretends to understand that Petruchio wants him to knock either Petruchio or someone who has offended him. It is only when Petruchio refers specifically to knocking on the gate (I.ii.37) that Grumio understands fully what Petruchio has requested. Again, when Grumio answers the question posed to him by Curtis concerning the attitudes of Petruchio and his new bride on their trip home from Padua, Grumio is purposefully evasive. He grows annoyed with Curtis and strikes him, claiming that had not Curtis annoyed him he would have heard the details in full. Grumio then goes on to relate the details in full, contradicting what he has just said. Grumio mimics his master, dressing outlandishly for Petruchio's wedding and going along with Petruchio's scheme to delude and humiliate Kate.
The haberdasher shows Kate a hat he has been commissioned by Petruchio to make for her. In front of Kate, however, Petruchio pretends that he is very displeased with the hat, calling it too small and too unfashionable for Kate. Even though Kate likes the hat and insists that she will have that one or none at all, Petruchio has refused it for her, and the haberdasher exits.
Hortensio is a friend to Petruchio and is engaged in a somewhat good-natured rivalry with Gremio to win Bianca for a bride. When Baptista cuts Bianca off from her suitors until Kate is married, Hortensio guardedly mentions to Petruchio that he knows an eligible woman with money; the only problem is that she is an intolerable shrew. To Hortensio's surprise and in answer to his prayers, Petruchio is interested and wants to go propose to Kate immediately. Hortensio, then, goes along with Petruchio and disguises himself as Litio, a music teacher, so that he might get a head start on Gremio in wooing Bianca. But Hortensio soon becomes engaged in a contest with another suitor. Cambio, who is really Lucentio, vies with Hortensio for Bianca's time. It soon becomes clear to Hortensio that Bianca prefers Cambio to himself. He wants to share his new misery with other company. He brings Tranio, whom he believes to be Lucentio, to observe that Bianca is enamored of her tutor Cambio. Hortensio is upset that Bianca favors one whom he believes is of a lower class than himself, so he swears to quit pursuing the love of Bianca. He accepts the consolation prize and vows to wed the widow he has known for only a brief time. During the gathering at Lucentio's house at the end of the play, Hortensio, along with Lucentio and Baptista, loses money when he wagers that Kate will be the least dutiful of all three wives, the widow included.
The hostess appears briefly at the beginning of the Induction. She scolds Christopher Sly and asks whether or not he intends to pay for the glasses he has broken while getting drunk. When he informs her that he, indeed, does not intend to pay, she leaves to get the sheriff, intending to have Sly arrested.
The huntsmen appear in the Induction. They return from hunting with the lord, discussing the attributes of several of the hunting dogs. When that lord discovers Sly asleep outside the tavern, the huntsmen carry Sly up to the lord's chambers and agree to join in the trick the lord intends to play on Sly.
This lord appears in the Induction. He stumbles over Sly's prostrate body and is at first upset that such a drunkard has passed out near his estate. He then decides, for his own amusement, to delude Sly into thinking that he is a proper lord when he awakes.
The page appears in the Induction. His name is Bartholomew, and he is a page to the lord who is setting Sly up as an unwitting actor in some amusing entertainment. The page is directed to clothe himself in the fashion he has seen his mistress and other ladies of noble station adopt. He is to pretend that he is Sly's wife. When Sly informs the page that the servants have told him he has been in and out of consciousness for fifteen years, the page says, ''Ay, and the time seems thirty unto me, / Being all this time abandon'd from your bed" (Induction.ii.114-15). This is precisely the wrong thing to say to Sly, who wants to be intimate with his wife right away. The page has to think quickly. He asks that he might abstain from Sly's bed yet awhile because the doctors have cautioned that sex might return Sly to his former illness.
The pedant is chosen by Biondello to impersonate Vincentio, Lucentio's father, because, according to Biondello who has been sent to find a likely candidate for the role, he bears himself like a father would. When Tranio asks Biondello about his choice, Biondello says he is either "a mercatante or a pedant, / I know not what" (IV.ii.63-64). Tranio tells the pedant, who is from the town of Mantua, that the Duke of Padua has determined that any merchant from Mantua apprehended in Padua should be put to death, a proclamation stemming from a recent quarrel between the two towns. Tranio suggests that, to insure his safety, the pedant disguise himself as Vincentio. Pedants were often the objects of ridicule in Elizabethan drama because of their narrow mindedness and lack of creativity. True to that Elizabethan stereotype, the pedant in this play throws himself into the role of Vincentio and does it "by the numbers." Although he conducts the negotiations with Baptista convincingly enough, when confronted with the real Vincentio, he does not have the presence of mind to abandon his persona in precarious circumstances. He proclaims that he is, indeed, Vincentio and forces Tranio and Biondello to deny Lucentio's real father to his face.
The players appear in the Induction. They arrive at the lord's house as he is planning the elaborate hoax on Christopher Sly. The players are enlisted in that hoax and are instructed by the lord to perform for Sly, providing a fit entertainment for the sophisticate Sly is supposed to be. The lord cautions the players to restrain themselves in front of Sly because he has never seen a play before. What he really means is that they are not to make fun of Sly when they see what a rustic clown he is. The players comprise the cast of characters in the inset play.
There are several groups of servants in The Taming of the Shrew. In the Induction, the servants to the lord participate in the ruse foisted on Sly. They call him by exaggerated titles when he wakes and lead him to believe that he is a nobleman suffering from a delusional malady that makes him lose consciousness for long periods of time. In addition to Grumio, Petruchio has several servants at his country house. (See Curtis.) They bring food and drink to Kate, all of which is dashed from their hands and proclaimed unfit for Kate by Petruchio. Apparently they, with the exception of Grumio, are not aware of Petruchio's tactics for taming Kate. They marvel at their master's odd behavior. Baptista also has servants at his home. One of those servants is directed to escort Hortensio and Lucentio, in their disguises of schoolmasters, into the presence of their pupil Bianca.
The tailor has been commissioned, like the haberdasher, to make a dress for Kate. When he shows that dress to her, a displeased Petruchio mocks both the style of the dress and the tailor himself. The tailor protests that he has made the dress according to Petruchio's exact specifications. Petruchio has the tailor read the list of those specifications, but when he reads "'The sleeves curiously cut'" (IV.iii.143), Petruchio says, "Ay, there's the villainy" (IV.iii.144). The direction for cutting the sleeves of the dress is just ambiguous enough for Petruchio to object that he will not purchase it for Kate. Petruchio is only trying to teach Kate a lesson, not punish the tailor; he has Hortensio take the tailor aside and promise to pay him for his goods.
Tranio is Lucentie's servant. He and Lucentio witness the scene of Baptista cloistering Bianca, cutting her off from her suitors. Tranio and Lucentio also overhear Baptista's remark that Bianca will only be allowed the male company of her schoolmasters, and they simultaneously conceive the same plan: Lucentio will disguise himself as one of those schoolmasters in order to court the woman with whom he has instantaneously fallen in love. Tranio will wear Lucentio's clothes, which bear the distinction of a higher class than those usually worn by Tranio, and will maintain Lucentio's presence in Padua. Tranio adjusts to his new role quite readily. It is hard to determine which of the subsequent intrigues are suggested by Lucentio and which are orchestrated by Tranio on his own initiative. He introduces himself to Baptista and the company of Bianca's suitors as Lucentio and proclaims his desire to court Baptista's younger daughter. He engages in an outrageous bidding contest for Bianca, pledging a dowry of greater wealth than that promised by Gremio. He enlists the pedant to impersonate Vincentio and guarantee the preposterous material possessions Tranio has claimed to have. He conducts the marriage negotiations with Baptista and even directs Lucentio to stop at the church and marry Bianca before bringing her to those negotiations. Tranio is so good at playing his role that it almost seems as if Tranio has become Lucentio and Lucentio has become the servant. Tranio's fall from that higher social position, though, is sudden. Vincentio exposes him as Lucentio's servant, a reality of class distinction Vincentio knows well, having raised Tranio since he was three years old.
We learn from Lucentio at the beginning of the play that his father, Vincentio, is "A merchant of great traffic through the world" (I.i.12). He has taken up residence in Pisa and has encouraged Lucentio to travel and pursue his education away from that town. On their way to Padua to visit Kate's father, Petruchio and Kate encounter Vincentio, who tells them, "And bound I am to Padua, there to visit / A son of mine, which long I have not seen" (IV.v.56-57). The play is vague about how much time has elapsed since Lucentio and Tranio arrived in Padua, but apparently Lucentio has been away from home long enough for Vincentio to miss him. Vincentio thinks the behavior of Petruchio and Kate is odd. Petruchio describes Vincentio to Kate as a young maid, and Kate agrees with that assessment; then, Petruchio asserts that Vincentio is a grisled old man, and Kate agrees again. Despite this bizarre episode, Vincentio accepts their offer to lead him to Lucentio's house in Padua. Once there, Vincentio is confronted by the pedant who claims to be Lucentio's father. At first, Vincentio is only confused; but when he recognizes Tranio and Biondello and they deny knowing him, he becomes outraged, especially when Tranio calls out to have Vincentio arrested. He is used to being treated with respect and deference by Lucentio's servants. When they do not do so, he wants desperately to exercise his power and punish them. He says, "I'll slit the villain's nose that would have sent me to the gaol" (V.i.131-32). He is still upset, even after Lucentio has arrived to explain the whole affair and has asked Vincentio to pardon Tranio. In the end, Vincentio displays his generous and gracious nature, assuring Baptista that he will be fully compensated for Lucentio's deception in secretly marrying Bianca.
After Hortensio realizes that Bianca is lost to him, he resolves that, within three days, he will marry the widow who has loved him as long as he has loved Bianca. In the final scene, Petruchio suggests to the widow that Hortensio is afraid of her. She tells Kate, "Your husband, being troubled with a shrew, / Measures my husband's sorrow by his woe" (V.ii.28-29). She means that Petruchio assumes all wives are shrews because his own wife is one. But ultimately the widow proves to be a less manageable wife than Kate is. The widow fails the test; she does not come when she is called.
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