The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

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What happens in The Taming of the Shrew?

In The Taming of the Shew, the confident Petruchio tries to tame Katharina, the supposed shrew. After being deprived of food and sleep, Katharina is finally "tamed" and bends to Petruchio's will.

The Taming of the Shrew summary key points:

  • Lucentio and his servant Tranio travel to Padua where they encounter Baptista and his daughters, Katharina and Bianca. Bianca has many suitors but Baptista insists on first marrying off the aggressively assertive Katharina.

  • Lucentio falls in love with Bianca and trades clothes with his servant so that he can woo Bianca under the guise of a tutor.

  • Petruchio decides he wishes to marry the wealthy Katharina and help his friend Hortensio, who wishes to marry Bianca. Hortensio disguises himself as a tutor to woo Bianca.

  • Petruchio marries Katharina and bends her to his will by a scheme that deprives her of food and sleep.

  • Lucentio woos Bianca and the two marry secretly. Hortensio marries a rich widow.

  • In a contest to determine the most obedient wife, Katharina wins. She has been tamed by Petruchio.

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Summary

Written between 1590 and 1592, Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy about the unconventional marriage between Petruchio and Katherine. Disreputable Petruchio is paid to woo cantankerous Katherine so that her younger sister, Bianca, is eligible for marriage. Through a series of cruel psychological games, Petruchio attempts to tame the shrewish Katherine into becoming a model wife. Though presented as a comedy, The Taming of the Shrew is a controversial play for modern audiences. Some view it as a relic of antiquated gender roles, while others view it as a quirky love story between two stubborn, strong-willed characters.

Induction

The induction takes place before the first act of the play. It is cut from many performances as it has little bearing on the rest of the play. The induction introduces Christopher Sly, a drunken beggar. Sly falls asleep in a local tavern just as a great lord comes back from his hunt. The lord and his men decide to play a prank on Sly: they will pretend that Sly is a great lord who lost his mind. They move the beggar to the lord’s chambers and hire a traveling band of actors to perform a play for Sly when he wakes up. The Taming of the Shrew is the play that the actors perform.

Act I

Act I opens as Lucentio and his servant, Tranio, arrive in Padua. Lucentio, a merchant’s son, has come to Padua to study philosophy. As they discuss Lucentio’s studies, Baptista and his two daughters, Bianca and Katherine, enter and are followed by two of Bianca’s suitors, Gremio and Hortensio. The two suitors long to marry Bianca, but Baptista refuses to marry off his younger daughter until the elder, Katherine, is wed. Neither man wants to take on this challenge as Katherine is notoriously ill-tempered. As Lucentio and Tranio watch the argument unfold, Lucentio finds himself enamored with Bianca’s mild modesty. He convinces Tranio to switch clothes with him so that he can...

(The entire section is 3,449 words.)