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The Taming of the Shrew
A Study Guide
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Table of Contents

Type of Work      The Induction      Composition and First Performance      First Printing      Sources      Settings     
Characters      Plot Summary     Structure: a Story Within a Story      Conflict      Climax      Conclusion     Themes      Figures of Speech      Animal Imagery
Stichomythia     Puns      Allusions      What Was a Dowry?      Did Shakespeare Visit Italy?      Study Questions and Essay Topics

Complete Annotated Text of the Play

Study Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings
...© 2003, 2008, 2011, 2016, 2017

Type of Work

The Taming of the Shrew is a stage play in the form of a comedy that satirizes silly or unfair social customs and courting practices, often through farce. Farce is a type of comedy that relies on exaggeration, horseplay, and unrealistic or improbable situations to provoke laughter. In a farce, plotting takes precedence over characterization.

The Induction and the Main Story

The play begins with an introductory element called “The Induction.” It tells a brief story about a drunkard who, in an elaborate practical joke, is deceived into believing that he is a wealthy nobleman. An acting troupe then performs a five-act play for him about how a gentleman from Verona tames and marries the shrewish daughter of a nobleman in Padua, Italy.

Composition and First Performance

The Taming of the Shrew may have been written as early as 1589, according to a British Library web site (Treasures in Full: Shakespeare in Quarto <http://www.bl.uk/treasures/shakespeare/taming.html>). But that source and others say the play was most likely written in the early 1590s, probably between 1590 and 1592.  Conclusive evidence does not exist to establish the date of the first performance of the play. However, the diary of Philip Henslowe (1550-1616), a manager and producer of stage productions, suggests that the play was first performed at Newington Butts, a theater across the River Thames from central London.

First Printing

In 1623, The Taming of the Shrew and thirty-five other Shakespeare plays were published by two of the late author's friends, John Heminges and Henry Condell, in a book entitled Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. This book has become known as the First Folio, so called because it was printed on folios. A folio was a large sheet of paper folded once to form four pages, or two leaves. Other Shakespeare plays were published in later folio editions. Most versions of Shakespeare's plays published today are based on the First Folio.


No specific source for the main plot of The Taming of the Shrew has been established, although literary works existed in Shakespeare's time that centered on episodes and themes similar to those in Shakespeare's play. However, no documentation exists to suggest that Shakespeare used any of these literary works.

It has been suggested that Shakespeare drew upon a work entitled A Pleasant and Conceited History, Called the Taming of the Shrew, by an unidentified author. This play, published in 1594, is set in Greece with a different cast of characters. It has a plot similar to that of Shakespeare's play. But no evidence exists that Shakespeare used this play as a source. No evidence exists, either, that this play was nothing more than an altered or corrupt version of Shakespeare's play.

It can be stated with confidence, however, that Shakespeare based a subplot of The Taming of the Shrew on I Suppositi (The Suppositions), by Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533). Ariosto’s work was translated into English as The Supposes, by George Gascoigne (1525-1577).


The action in the Induction takes place in the English countryside, first on a heath in front of an alehouse and then in a bedroom in the house of a lord. The action in the five-act play takes place in various locations in Padua, Italy, and at a house in the nearby countryside. Padua is in northern Italy on the Bacchiglione River. Padua is about thirty miles west of Venice.


The tone of the play is lighthearted, playful, and comic. However, it has a serious undertone focusing on the inferior status of women in Renaissance society.

Characters (Dramatis Personae)

The Induction

Christopher Sly: Tinker found drunk by a lord.
Lord: Nobleman who finds Sly.
Hostess, Page
Players, Huntsmen, Servants
Soto: One of the players.

The Five Acts

Katharina Minola: Temperamental, strong-willed daughter of Baptista Minola. She has a sharp tongue with which she can carve men into insignificance. Katharina is sometimes referred to in dialogue as Katherine and Kate.
Petruchio: Boisterous and domineering gentleman of Verona who woos and wins Katharina against all odds. Petruchio and Katharina are the main characters, or protagonists.
Baptista Minola: Wealthy gentleman of Padua who bears the burden of being Katharina's father.
Bianca: Gentle but somewhat spoiled daughter of Baptista and sister of Katharina. She has many suitors who vie for her hand with the power of wealth and position.
Vincentio: Elderly, well-to-do gentleman of Pisa.
Lucentio: Vincentio's son, who loves Bianca. To woo her, he assumes another identity, calling himself Cambio.
Gremio: Another suitor of Bianca.
Hortensio: Another suitor of Bianca.
Servants of Lucentio: Tranio, Biondello.
Servants of Petruchio: Grumio, Curtis, Nathaniel, Nicholas, Gregory, Adam, Ralph, Joseph, Philip, Walter, Sugarsop, Peter.
Antonio: Father of Petruchio. Antonio does not appear in the play, but Petruchio—to commend himself to Baptista—says his father is famous throughout all of Italy.
Ferdinand: Cousin o
f Petruchio
Widow: Woman Hortensio marries after he fails to win Bianca.
Pedant: Elderly schoolmaster who pretends to be Lucentio's father, Vincentio.
Minor Characters: Tailor, Haberdasher, Servants.

Plot Summary


An introductory event called the Induction precedes Act I. In the Induction, a nobleman returning from a hunt finds a sleeping drunkard named Christopher Sly. Deciding to play a trick on him, the nobleman directs his servants to carry Sly to the best bedroom in his home, dress him in finery, and anoint him with perfumes. When Sly awakens, the servants are to pretend that he is a great lord who has just come to his senses after fifteen years of insanity. Sly awakens, and the nobleman then has a traveling acting troupe perform a play for Sly called The Taming of the Shrew

The Acts

Lovely Bianca Minola has no shortage of admirers in Padua, a prosperous city in northern Italy. In fact, three young gentlemenHortensio, Gremio, and Lucentioare suing for her hand in marriage. However, Bianca’s father, wealthy Baptista Minola, decrees that she may receive no suitors until her beautiful but shrewish sister, Katharina, receives a proposal of marriage and goes to the altar. The three young men then begin plotting to marry off hellcat Katharina. It so happens that a likely candidate for her handPetruchio, a rough-hewn gentleman from Veronais visiting at Hortensio’s house.

Petruchio, whose father has recently died, has come to Padua to seek his fortune and find a wife. While the three rivals for Bianca are at Hortensio’s house, Hortensio tells Petruchio of a beautiful woman with a large dowry whose only drawback is her scolding tongue. If he will woo her, they vow, they will help pay the cost of courting her. Petruchio, relishing the challenge (and no doubt the dowry), agrees to court Katharina.

When Petruchio comes calling at the Minola household, Katharina is chasing Bianca, whom Katharina has just slapped after an argument. After Bianca runs out of the room, Katharina complains to her father that he favors Bianca over her: “She is your treasure, she must have a husband; / I must dance bare-foot on her wedding day” (2. 1. 35-36). Katharina exits just as Petruchio enters with Gremio, Lucentio, Hortensio, and two servants. Lucentio and Hortensio are in disguisethe former as a Greek and Latin tutor and the latter as a music and mathematics teacheras part of a scheme to gain access to Bianca, upon whom Baptista keeps a close watch. Baptista thinks they have come in response to his earlier-expressed desire to hire schoolmasters to educate his daughters.

When Petruchio and Katharina meet the first time, Petruchio boldly announces that he plans to woo her. She reacts with a volley of insults, and he rejoins with playful taunts, then tries to calm her:
PETRUCHIO:   Come, come, you wasp; i’ faith, you are too angry.
KATHARINA:   If I be waspish, best beware my sting.
PETRUCHIO:   My remedy is then, to pluck it out.
KATHARINA:   Ay, if the fool could find it where it lies.
PETRUCHIO:   Who knows not where a wasp does wear his sting? In his tail.
KATHARINA:   In his tongue.
PETRUCHIO:   Whose tongue?
KATHARINA:   Yours, if you talk of tails: and so farewell.
PETRUCHIO:   What, with my tongue in your tail? nay, come again. Good Kate; I am a gentleman. (2.1.209-219)
Katharina slaps him. He threatens to strike back if she slaps him again. Later, after more verbal fireworks, Petruchio uses reverse psychology on her, telling her that 
I find you passing gentle. 
’Twas told me you were rough and coy and sullen, 
And now I find report a very liar; 
For thou are pleasant, gamesome, passing courteous. (2.1.243-246) 
When Baptista enters the room and asks how the two are getting along, Katharina denounces Petruchio with more insults. But Petruchio, bold as ever, says Kate has declared her love for him, showered him with kisses, and wooed him with such swiftness that they have agreed to marry on the following Sunday. Baptista, extremely pleased, says the matter is settled: Katharina will marry Petruchio.

Baptista then turns his attention to Bianca, decreeing that, on the Sunday following Katharina’s wedding, Bianca will marry the man who provides the largest dowry. Gremio boasts that his house has the finest furnishingsgold, ivory, pewter, brassand that his farm has one hundred twenty oxen. Because Lucentio and Hortensio remain in disguise as schoolmasters, they cannot speak for themselves; rather, their servantspretending to be their mastersdo it for them. In the end, Baptista accepts the proposal made on behalf of Lucentio, because his father is said to own three large argosies (merchant ships), two galliasses (fast warships with three masts), and twelve tight galleys (ships using oars and/or sails).

On the day of Katharina’s wedding. Petruchio arrives late on a decrepit horse. He is wearing common clothes and is accompanied by an untidy servant, Grumio. During the wedding, he behaves badly. First, he curses. Then he kisses the bride with “a clamorous smack” (3.2.155). Snubbing the wedding feast, he carries Katharina off to his country house. Grumio accompanies them. It is a long, cold, miserable ride made worse when Katharina falls from her horse into mud. Petruchio blames Grumio for Katharina’s fall and beats him until Katharina comes to Grumio’s rescue. Once at the country house, Petruchio means to please his new wife in every way, and woe unto anyone who thwarts his efforts.

So he browbeats and nitpicks the servants for every shortcoming, real or imagined. When meat arrives, he pretends that it is burnt and hurls it to the floor; so, too, cups, saucers, everything. When he scolds the servants, Katharina attempts to pacify him, saying the meat was well prepared. But Petruchio insists that it was burnt and declares it would be better if both of them ate nothing at all. Katharina goes to bed on an empty stomach. All night long, Petruchio complains about the arrangement of the bed covers, and Katharina cannot sleep. Through it all, he sings the praises of Katharina, thus leaving her little room to complain about his conduct.

After Petruchio and Katharina travel to Padua for a visit, Petruchio orders new clothes for his wife. When the outfitter arrives and displays her new apparel, Petruchio finds fault with every garment even though Katharina dearly loves a cap. Exasperated, she declares, “Love me or love me not, I like the cap, / And I will have it, or I will have none” (4.3.93-94). She gets no cap, no gown, no anything.

On the way back to Padua, Petruchio observes that the moon shines “bright and goodly” (4.5.4). Katharina tells him that the sun, not the moon, is shining. When Petruchio insists that it is the moon, Katharinanow ready to agree with Petruchio about anything for her own peace of mindsays,
And be it moon, or sun, or what you please. 
An if you please to call it a rush-candle,
Henceforth I vow it shall be so for me. (4.5.15-17)
Petruchio replies, “I say it is the moon” (4.5.18). When Katharina agrees with him, he says, “Nay, then you lie: it is the blessed sun” (4.5.20). In a final display of submission to his will, Katharina says, 
Then God be bless’d, it is the blessed sun:
But sun it is not when you say it is not,
And the moon changes even as your mind. (4.5.21-23)
Katharina has been tamed. 

Back in Padua, Lucentio has eloped with Bianca; but because Lucentio’s father, Vincentio, has vouched for his son and approved the marriage, Baptista is satisfied. Meanwhile, Hortensio has successfully wooed and wed a widow. While celebrating their marriages at a feast at Lucentio’s house, the men converse over a banquet table while the women chat in a parlor. Amid the merriment among the men, Tranioa servant of Lucentiotaunts Petruchio, claiming that Katharina controls him. Baptista, well aware of Katharina’s bellicose ways, agrees with Tranio. Petruchio then proposes a wager. Each husband will send for his wife. The husband of the wife who responds first wins the bet. They all agree to the wager and set the prize at a hundred crowns. The three husbands issue commands, but only Katharina comes forth; the other ladies continue chatting idly in the parlor. Later, when the other two wives come forth, Katharina lectures them on the importance of wifely submission: 
Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance commits his body
To painful labour both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe;
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks and true obedience;
Too little payment for so great a debt.
Such duty as the subject owes the prince
Even such a woman oweth to her husband. (5.2.164-174)
Petruchio says, “Why there’s a wench! Come on, and kiss me, Kate” (5.2.198).....

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Structure: a Story Within a Story

The Taming of the Shrew is a story within a story. The play resembles the structure of the so-called frame tale, a literary work in which one story presents another story, or several stories. For example, The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer, begins with the story of a group of pilgrims on their way to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas á Becket. To entertain themselves on the way, various pilgrims tell stories. Thus, the outer story about the pilgrimage becomes the frame of the inner stories, which focus on unrelated topics. 

The inner stories are like a painting; the outer story is like its frame—hence, the term frame tale. In The Taming of the Shrew, the story of Christopher Sly is the frame. The five-act play, presented before Sly by an acting troupe, is the inner story. The play has two story lines: the main plot, involving Petruchio and Katharina, and the subplot, involving Bianca and her suitors.


The main conflict in the story is the battle of the sexes between sharp-tongued Katharina and sly Petruchio. Even though she vows not to marry, he woos her, enduring her insults. But in the face of his persistence and his psychological tactic—"to kill a wife with kindness" (4.1.146)—she yields and becomes an obedient wife.


The climax of a play or another literary work, such as a short story or a novel, can be defined as (1) the turning point at which the conflict begins to resolve itself for better or worse, or as (2) the final and most exciting event in a series of events.

The climax of The Taming of the Shrew occurs, according to the first definition, in the fifth scene of Act IV when Petruchio observes during the daytime how brightly the moon is shining. Katharina corrects him, saying he means the sun. No, he says, it is the moon. Katharina insists that it is the sun. Petruchio says it shall be a moon or a star or whatever he says it is. Frustrated, Katharina agrees: It is the moon. Petruchio then says she lies: It is the sun. All right, says Katharina, it is the sun. But if he says it is the moon, she adds, then it is the moon. Whatever he says it is, it is. This exchange marks Katharina's complete submission to Petruchio's will. He has tamed her.

According to the second definition, the climax occurs in Act V when Tranio attempts to bruise Petruchio's ego, saying Katharina controls him. Baptista says it is a fact that Petruchio has a shrew as a wife. Petruchio then lays down a wager with Lucentio and Hortensio. Each man will send for his wife. The husband of the wife who arrives first wins a hundred crowns. Katharina, of course, proves the most obedient. She arrives pronto while the other two women sit chatting in a parlor.


The conclusion is the part of the play that follows the climax. The highlight of the conclusion begins when Tranio attempts to bruise Petruchio's ego, saying Katharina controls him. Baptista says it is a fact that Petruchio has a shrew as a wife. Petruchio then lays down a wager with Lucentio and Hortensio. Each man will send for his wife. The husband of the wife who arrives first wins a hundred crowns. Katharina, of course, proves the most obedient. She arrives pronto while the other two women sit chatting in a parlor. Petruchio wins the bet. He then tells Bianca to fetch the other two wives, Bianca and the widow. She returns with them moments later, then lectures them on their duties to their husbands. She says, in part:

Such duty as the subject owes the prince,  
Even such a woman oweth to her husband;  
And when she’s froward [uncontrollable], peevish, sullen, sour,         
And not obedient to his honest will,  
What is she but a foul contending rebel,  
And graceless traitor to her loving lord?—  
I am asham’d that women are so simple  
To offer war where they should kneel for peace,          
Or seek for rule, supremacy, and sway,  
When they are bound to serve, love, and obey. (5.2.173-182)..


Gender Bias

Baptista Minola treats his daughters, Bianca and Katharina, like marionettes, expecting them always to do his bidding. It is he who decides whom Bianca will marry (the richest bachelor), and it is he who orders Katharina to marry Petruchio, a man she says she despises. Katharina's relationship with Petruchio is hardly an improvement over her relationship with her father. Using the same tactics to tame Katharina that he uses to tame falcons and hawks, Petruchio forces her to acknowledge that he is always right, even when he says the sun is the moon. At the end of the play, all of the husbands brag about what they apparently believe is an important quality in a wife: submissiveness. One may interpret Shakespeare's farcical depiction of courtship and male-female relationships as his way of criticizing gender bias. The taming of Katharina thus is really a plea for equality of the sexes.

The Quandary of Renaissance Women

Katharina is an intelligent, capable young woman who would probably thrive independently in a challenging career, eventually marrying a man of her choice. But because the male-dominated society generally limits women to domestic roles—wife, mother, and household manager under the thumb of a husband chosen by her father—she becomes frustrated and angry, venting her anger on whoever happens to be in her presence. But if she wants to avoid becoming an old maid who spends her days knitting, sewing, or cooking in her father's house, the only realistic option open to her is to conform to prevailing social customs by assenting to an arranged marriage. That is her dilemma. And that is the dilemma that Renaissance women of the real world faced in Shakespeare's time.

Language as a Weapon

Baptista's treatment of Katharina as a puppet subject to his whims provokes her to lash out at the world with her most powerful weapon, language. Her apparent resentment of society's decree that women are inferior to men further provokes her. It may also be that she was simply born mean. But she meets more than her match in Petruchio, who also uses language as a weapon. At first, he uses his tongue to praise her rather than scold her. Then he uses it to destroy her resistance, insisting that the sun is the moon—or the moon is the sun—until she agrees that reality is whatever he says it is. Ironically, she ends up where she started, by obeying the orders of a man.


In the upper classes of Renaissance Europe, the wealth and social standing of a prospective spouse was an important consideration for parents when they were deciding whether to allow a child of theirs to marry. In The Taming of the Shrew, Lucentio wins Bianca not because of charm or good looks; he wins her because he outbids other suitors for her and, in so doing, gains her father's approval for the marriage. It is as if Bianca is chattel that her father is auctioning off. Money is also the reason that Petruchio seeks a wife. He hopes to capitalize on a handsome dowry, as Hortensio points out.

    Here is a gentleman [Petruchio] whom by chance I met,  
    Upon agreement from us to his liking,  
    Will undertake to woo curst Katharine;  
    Yea, and to marry her, if her dowry please. (1.2.157)


Petruchio uses deceit to help him subdue Katharina. For example, in the first scene of Act 4, he pretends that the meat his servants prepared for his and Katharina's supper is burnt, then rejects the entire meal. Katharina goes to bed famished. His purpose is to make her so hungry that she will humble herself and beg for food. He also pretends to be dissatisfied with the way his servants made the bed, then tears up the sheets and covers. His ranting keeps Katharina up all night, further wearing her down. He continues to deceive her with strange and unsettling behavior that eventually helps to force her Katharina to submit to his will.

In competing for the hand of Bianca, Lucentio and Hortensio also resort to deceit. Both of them disguise themselves as schoolmasters to gain access to her. In addition, Tranio uses deceit to persuade the pedant to disguise himself as Vincentio, Lucentio's father.
In the Induction, the practical jokers use deceit to persuade Christopher Sly that he is a wealthy nobleman.

Killing With Kindness

Using reverse psychology, Petruchio pampers and coddles Katharina in order to rob her of occasions to complain. He says,

    This is a way to kill a wife with kindness;   
    And thus I’ll curb her mad and headstrong humour [behavior].   
    He that knows better how to tame a shrew,   
    Now let him speak: ’tis charity to show. (4.1.146-149)

This tactic, along with his use of language as a weapon (as described previously), enables him to silence her scolding tongue and turns her into an obedient wife.

Figures of Speech

Following are examples of figures of speech from The Taming of the Shrew. For definitions of figures of speech, see Literary Terms.


Say thou wilt walk, we will bestrew the ground. (Induction, 2.27)

Scratching her legs that one shall swear she bleeds; 
And at that sight shall sad Apollo weep. (Induction, 2.45-46)

To suck the sweets of sweet philosophy. (1.1.30) 

Sacred and sweet was all I saw in her. (1.1.150)

Fiddler, forbear; you grow too forward, sir. (3.1.3)

You do me double wrong. (3.1.18)

This is a way to kill a wife with kindness; 
And thus I’ll curb her mad and headstrong humour. (4.1.146-147) 

I have no more doublets than backs, no more stockings than legs, nor no more shoes than feet. (Induction, 2.7)

Am not I Christopher Sly, old Sly’s son, of Burton-heath; by birth a pedlar, by education a cardmaker, by transmutation a bear-herd, and now by present profession a tinker? (Induction, 2.12)

Tranio, I burn, I pine, I perish. (1.1.129)

Say that she rail; why then I’ll tell her plain 
She sings as sweetly as a nightingale: 
Say that she frown; I’ll say she looks as clear  168 
As morning roses newly wash’d with dew: 
Say she be mute and will not speak a word; 
Then I’ll commend her volubility, 
And say she uttereth piercing eloquence: (2.1.166-172)

Thou shouldst have heard in how miry a place, how she was bemoiled: how he left her with the horse upon her; how he beat me because her horse stumbled; how she waded through the dirt to pluck him off me: how he swore; how she prayed, that never prayed before; how I cried; how the horses ran away; how her bridle was burst; how I lost my crupper. (4.1.32)         

Apostrophe and Metaphor
Grim death, how foul and loathsome is thine image!  (Induction, 1.30)
The lord compares Christopher Sly, who is in a drunken stupor, to death (metaphor).
In making the comparison, the lord addresses death (apostrophe).
Irony, Dramatic: Situation in which the audience or reader knows what a character does not know.

Here are examples: (1) In the Induction, Christopher Sly is unaware that he is the victim of a practical joke. (2) Most of the time, Katharina is unaware that Petruchio is using deceit to "tame" her. (See Deceit, above, for additional information.)

Irony, Verbal

You have show’d a tender fatherly regard, 
To wish me wed to one half lunatic. (2.1.288-289) 


Master, master! news! old news, and such news as you never heard of! (3.2.33)

cold comfort (4.1.13)
And if the boy have not a woman’s gift
To rain a shower of commanded tears,
An onion will do well for such a shift. (Induction, Scene 1, Lines 123-125)
The Lord uses a metaphor to compare the crying of a woman to a rainstorm. This passage suggests that actors in Shakespeare’s day—and perhaps Shakespeare himself when he performed in plays—used onions to coax reluctant tears from their eyes in emotional scenes.

Thinkest thou, Hortensio, though her father be very rich, any man is so very a fool to be married to hell? (1.1.115)

Gremio compares Katharina to hell incarnate.

There’s small choice in rotten apples. (1.1.118)
Hortensio compares Katharina to a rotten apple.

And tell me now, sweet friend, what happy gale 
Blows you to Padua here from old Verona? (1.2.37-38)
Hortensio compares Petruchio's purpose in coming to Padua to a "happy gale."

     Where two raging fires meet together 
They do consume the thing that feeds their fury (2.1.127-128) 
Petruchio compares himself and Katharina to raging fires.

A woman mov’d is like a fountain troubled,
Muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty. (5.2.160-161)
Katharina compares a woman moved to the muddy waters of a fountain.

Animal Imagery
Shakespeare frequently uses imagery that compares Katharina to animals. For example, the title is a metaphor comparing Katharina Minola to a shrew, a mouse-like mammal that is extremely mean-tempered. Other metaphors compare her to animals that require considerable training before they are docile enough to serve their masters. These animals include hawks, falcons, asses (known for their obstinacy), and horses. Shakespeare also uses Imagery that compares Katharina to objects, such as flowers and hazel nuts. Both types of imagery appear when when Petruchio says:
I will be master of what is mine own:
She [Katharina] is my goods, my chattels; she is my house,
My household stuff, my field, my barn,
My horse, my ox, my ass, my any thing. (3.2.211-214)
Later, Petruchio compares Katharina to birds of prey:
My falcon now is sharp and passing empty [very hungry], 
And till she stoop she must not be full-gorg’d, 
For then she never looks upon her lure. 
Another way I have to man my haggard, 
To make her come and know her keeper’s call; 
That is, to watch her, as we watch these kites
That bate and beat and will not be obedient. (4.1.128-134) 

In his plays, Shakespeare occasionally uses stichomythia (stik uh MITH e uh), a literary device that occurs frequently in ancient Greek drama. Stichomythia consists of brief, alternating lines of dialogue in which characters argue, express strong emotions, and/or exchange insults. The following example presents dialogue between Petruchio and Katharina. Note the wordplay centering on the heraldic terms arms and crest.

PETRUCHIO:   Come, come, you wasp; i’ faith you are too angry. 
KATHARINA:   If I be waspish, best beware my sting. 
PETRUCHIO:   My remedy is, then, to pluck it out. 
KATHARINA:   Ay, if the fool could find it where it lies. 
PETRUCHIO:   Who knows not where a wasp does wear his sting? 
In his tail. 
KATHARINA:   In his tongue. 
PETRUCHIO:   Whose tongue? 
KATHARINA:   Yours, if you talk of tails; and so farewell. 
PETRUCHIO:   What! with my tongue in your tail? nay, come again. 
Good Kate, I am a gentleman. 
KATHARINA:   That I’ll try.  [Striking him.] 
PETRUCHIO:   I swear I’ll cuff you if you strike again. 
KATHARINA:   So may you lose your arms: 
If you strike me, you are no gentleman; 
And if no gentleman, why then no arms. 
PETRUCHIO:   A herald, Kate? O! put me in thy books. 
KATHARINA:   What is your crest? a coxcomb? 
PETRUCHIO:   A combless cock, so Kate will be my hen. 
KATHARINA:   No cock of mine; you crow too like a craven. 
PETRUCHIO:   Nay, come, Kate, come; you must not look so sour. 
KATHARINA:   It is my fashion when I see a crab. 
PETRUCHIO:   Why, here’s no crab, and therefore look not sour. 
KATHARINA:   There is, there is. 
PETRUCHIO:   Then show it me. 
KATHARINA:   Had I a glass, I would. 
PETRUCHIO:   What, you mean my face? 
KATHARINA:   Well aim’d of such a young one. 
PETRUCHIO:   Now, by Saint George, I am too young for you. 
KATHARINA:   Yet you are wither’d. 
PETRUCHIO:   ’Tis with cares. 
KATHARINA:   I care not. (2.1.209-240) 


Several puns appear in the above passage on stichomythia, such as those centering on tongues and tails, as well as arms and heraldry. In puns, the meaning of a word often changes when it is repeated in a conversation, creating a humorous effect. Note, for example, how the meaning of the word bear changes in successive lines spoken by Petruchio and Katharina in the following passage. 

KATHARINA:   Asses are made to bear, and so are you.  (Bear here means to carry a burden.)
PETRUCHIO:   Women are made to bear, and so are you.  (Here bear means to give birth to a child.)
KATHARINA:   No such jade as bear you, if me you mean. (In this line, bear takes on a double meaning: No jade (harlot) will copulate with him or tolerate him.)


Shakespeare's use of allusions to ancient mythological and historical figures early in the play demonstrate his knowledge of classical literature and the ancient world. The following are among the allusions.

Apollo: (Induction, 2.22): God of prophecy, music, poetry, and medicine. His alternate name, Phoebus, means brightness, and he was thus also considered the god of the sun.
Aristotle (1.1.34): Greek philosopher (384-322 BC) whose works in logic, metaphysics, literature, science, ethics, politics, and other fields profoundly influenced the development of philosophy in the western world.
Cytherea (sith er E uh) (Induction, 2.38): Another name for Venus (Greek name: Aphrodite), the goddess of love.
Daughter of Agenor (1.1.142): Reference to Europa, daughter of Agenor, the king of Phoenicia. She was very beautiful.
Dian (2.1.259): Diana (Greek name: Artemis) goddess of the moon, hunting, and virginity.
Echo (Induction, 1.21): In Ovid's Metamorphoses, a mountain nymph who offended Juno (Greek name: Hera), the queen of the gods. In retaliation, Juno took away Echo's ability to speak except to repeat the words spoken by another. In the Induction, the Lord argues that his hunting dog is faster than Echo—that is, it can run faster than an echo reverberating back to a listener. Her beauty attracts Jupiter (Greek name: Zeus), the king of the gods, who took her to Crete. There, she bore him three sons.
Daphne: Daughter of a river god. She rejected the advances of Apollo. When he persisted, she prayed to her father for help, and he changed her into a laurel tree to keep her from Apollo's clutches.
Hic ibat . . . celsa senis (3.1.30-31): Latin quotation from Heroides, by the Roman poet Ovid. Lucentio quotes the line when he is supposedly teaching Latin to Bianca. However, he has no idea what the quotation means but only pretends to know. The quotation describes a scene in the aftermath of the Trojan War, saying, "Here flowed the Simois River, and here was the Sigeian land. Here stood the great palace of Priam (king of Troy). 
Io (Induction, 2.41): Young woman with whom Jupiter (Greek name: Zeus), the king of the gods, fell in love but turned into a heifer to disguise her from his jealous wife, Juno (Greek name: Hera).
Jove (1.1.143): Jupiter (Greek name: Zeus), king of the gods.
Lucrece (Latin name: Lucretia (2.1.298): Beautiful wife of a Roman soldier named Collatinus. When she refuses to yield to the advances of Sextus Tarquinius—the son of the king of Rome—he rapes her. For more information, see Shakespeare's narrative poem, The Rape of Lucrece.
Minerva (1.1.87): Goddess of wisdom and war. (Her Greek name was Athena.) She was born fully grown in a suit of armor, issuing from the forehead of Jupiter (Zeus). The Greeks highly revered her and built many temples in her honor.
Ovid (AH vid) (1.1.34): One of ancient Rome's greatest poets. Ovid (43 BC-AD 17) was most famous as the author of Metamorphoses.
Semiramis (suh MEER uh mis) (Induction, 2.26): Legendary queen of Babylonia, famed for her beauty.
Socrates (1.2.60): Greek philosopher (469-399 BC) whose methods and ideas profoundly influenced the philosophical and moral tenor of western thought over the centuries. His refusal to compromise his intellectual integrity in the face of a death sentence set an example for all the world to follow. 
Xanthippe (1.2.60): Wife of Socrates. She was believed to be quarrelsome and shrewish.

What Was a Dowry?

In Europe, it was customary for a bride or her family to provide the groom a dowry. In The Taming of the Shrew, Baptista Minola offers a generous dowry to the man who marries his daughter, Katharina. Generally, a dowry was a grant usually consisting of real estate, valuables, or money. It was not an outright gift to the husband. Rather, it was a reserve asset with any or all of the following purposes:

  • To insure fair treatment of the wife by the husband. For example, if a husband committed a serious wrong against his wife, he had to forfeit the dowry. He also had to forfeit it to her or her family if he divorced her.
  • To provide income for household necessities as the husband and wife were beginning their marriage.
  • To provide the wife income if the husband died.
The husband controlled the dowry. Although he could not transfer it to another person, he could accrue investment income from it for the family. 

Did Shakespeare Visit Italy?

Shakespeare's writings suggest that he visited Italy, although no other evidence is available to indicate that he ever set foot outside of Britain. As for the evidence in his writing, consider that more than a dozen of his playsincluding The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, All's Well That Ends Well, Othello, Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing, and The Winter's Tale all have some or all of their scenes set in Italy. Consider, too, that plays not set in Italy are often well populated with people having Italian names. For example, although The Comedy of Errors takes place in Ephesus, Turkey, the names of many of the characters end with the Italian ''o'' or ''a'':Angelo, Dromio, Adriana, Luciana. In Hamlet's Denmark, we find characters named Marcellus, Bernardo and Francisco. Practically all of the characters in Timon of Athens bear the names of ancient RomansLucullus, Flavius, Flaminius, Lucius, Sempronius, Servillius, Titus, Hortensius. Of course, it is quite possible that Shakespeare visited Italy only in his imagination.

Study Questions and Essay Topics

1.....Baptista Minola arranges marriages for his daughters, Katharina and Bianca. How widespread was the practice of arranged marriages in the age of Shakespeare? 
2.....Do any countries observe this practice today? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this practice? 
3.....How does the divorce rate in arranged marriages compare with the divorce rate in marriages of people who choose their spouses?
4.....How important is (or was) money in your choice of a spouse?
5.....How import are (or were) position and social status in your choice of a spouse?
6.....Which character in the play do you most admire? Which character do you least admire?
7.....In an essay, analyze the psychology that Petrucchio uses to tame Katharina.
8.....In an essay, argue that the courting customs of today are just as silly as those in the time of the fictional Petruchio and Katharina. (Or argue that these customs are beautiful and memorable.)
9.....Write an essay comparing and contrasting Katharina and Bianca.
10...Write an essay comparing and contrasting Petruchio with Bianca’s successful suitor, Lucentio. 
11...At the end of the play, are Petrucchio and Katharina in love?