The Taming of the Shrew Characters
The main characters in The Taming of the Shrew include Bianca, Katherine, Petruchio, Lucentio, Hortensio, Gremio, Grumio, and Tranio.
- Bianca, Baptista’s younger daughter, has many suitors but cannot marry until her older sister Katherine is wed.
- Katherine, Baptista’s eldest daughter, is the clever but temperamental "shrew" of the play.
Petruchio marries Katherine to obtain her wealth. He endeavors to tame her shrewish nature.
- Lucentio, Hortensio, and Gremio are Bianca's suitors. Lucentio and Hortensio disguise themselves as teachers in order to get closer to Bianca.
- Grumio is Petruchio’s servant.
- Tranio is Lucentio’s servant. Tranio poses as Lucentio while Lucentio attempts to woo Bianca.
List of Characters
In the frame story, Christopher Sly is a drunken tinker who falls asleep at a tavern. When he wakes up, he finds himself in the chambers of a rich lord. He is told that he has been in a dream for fifteen years. His “servants” tell him that his doctor has prescribed laughter to release the excess of melancholy in his blood. Sly is wary of the comedy though and calls it a “tumbling trick.” He is surprisingly wise for his low status and debauched behavior.
The wealthy lord who decides to play a prank on Christopher Sly. He is pompous and condescending.
Katherine “Kate” Minola
Katherine, or Katharina, often referred to as Kate, is the daughter of Baptista Minola, a wealthy man from Padua. She is the elder of Baptista’s two daughters. Katherine is quick-witted, offensive, and temperamental. She is cruel to her sister, Bianca, and abusive to her sister’s suitors. She does not want to get married and verbally attacks anyone who tries to court her. For these reasons, she is known as a shrew. However, Katherine can also be read as a bitter cynic. Her hostility towards her father, suitors, and her sister can be read as her protest against her social position as a woman. She is far more clever than most of the characters in the play, but she has no control over her life. Her father will decide whom she marries and then her husband will decide how she behaves. Katherine may be so angry and cruel as a means of rebelling against the unfair societal standards imposed on women.
Katherine’s drastic change in temperament at the end of the play has long been a source of debate for critics. Various adaptations of the play have interpreted Katherine’s advocacy of female submission to male authority differently. Some choose to view her change of heart as straightforward evidence that Petruchio really has tamed her willful nature. By this reading, the play becomes an uncritical reinforcement of the idea that women should be submissive and modest. Petruchio’s treatment of Katherine is justified, and he successfully reforms her into the model wife, allowing the two of them to achieve marital happiness.
The play can also be interpreted through a darker lens. Many of Petruchio’s tactics—sleep deprivation, starvation, and psychological warfare—are considered torture techniques. By reading Petruchio as an abuser, Katherine’s final speech becomes tragic. Either she submits to her husband’s will out of fear that he will hurt her again, or she has been conditioned to genuinely believe what she is saying by his abuse. Either way, this reading positions Katherine as a victim, and her final speech is a testament to just how broken she has become.
Another reading focuses on Katherine’s agency and posits that she delivers her final speech somewhat ironically. Evidence for this reading lies in the fact that the supposedly tamed Katherine, who is frequently criticized for being too outspoken and “forward,” delivers the longest speech in the play. By this interpretation, she is either fooling Petruchio into believing that she has reformed, or the two are in cahoots to win the bet. Either way, Katherine retains her willful nature and intellect.
Many modern adaptations choose to portray the latter reading,...
(The entire section is 1,537 words.)