The Taming of the Shrew
The Taming of the Shrew is a play by William Shakespeare about two parallel courtships with very different results. The main plot is about how Petruchio tames a shrewish woman called Katherine to become a submissive and pleasing wife. The play was written in approximately 1593.
The play actually is framed as a play within a play, involving an induction sequence. A Lord, while hunting, finds a drunkard named Christopher Sly, lying outside a tavern. He arranges to play a trick on him and pretend he is a great Lord, who has forgotten himself these past few years. Christopher Sly is surprised with this treatment and they propose for his health's sake to watch a play. (Sly disappears after the first scene of the Act wishing the play was over.)
The play opens with the arrival of Lucentio of Pisa to the city of Padua to study. He and his servant, Tranio, stumble across a contention arising. Baptista Minola is determined not to marry his younger daughter, Bianca, until he has married his elder, Katharine. Two suitors, Hortensio and Gremio want to marry Bianca, but Katharine prevents them by being very shrewish and uncontrollable. Minola, while refusing their offers of marriage, gives them leave to offer musicians and teachers to instruct Bianca. Hortensio and Gremio decide to undertake the task of marrying someone to Katharine. Meanwhile, Lucentio with only a glance is head-over-heels in love with Bianca. He arranges to become her schoolmaster, while Tranio, his servant, plays the part of Lucentio and arranges the marriage with Minola.
In the next scene, Petruchio of Verona arrives to visit his friend, Hortensio. Petruchio is a forceful character beating his servant for not knocking him at the gate. He states his intentions are to marry "wealthily in Padua." Hortensio recommends marrying Katharine and Petruchio is up to the challenge. Hortensio also intends to enter in a disguise to teach Bianca as a musician. Gremio also has found Lucentio and intends to have Lucentio teach Bianca. They arrive at Baptista's house shortly after a row with Katharine. Petruchio immediately begins to court Katharine, while Baptista arranges the marriage of Bianca with Tranio and Gremio.
The rest of the play follows the two romances. Petruchio undertakes to tame Katherine, and promptly ascribes her the name "Kate." He begins to act in a very shrewish manner himself. He arrives at the wedding in a ridiculous outfit, behaves rudely in the ceremony and leaves before the banquet for his home. In his house at Verona, Petruchio is discontent with everything, until Katharine submits to him. Meanwhile, Lucentio plans to elope with Bianca. However, he needs to have a father to arrange matters with Baptista. Tranio finds a Pedant from Mantua and convinces him to play the part. Things go well until Vincentio, Lucentio's actual father, arrives and finds Tranio playing Lucentio, Lucentio married to Bianca and a Pedant playing Vincentio.
After all the disguises are sorted out, the play ends in a banquet. Petruchio and Katharine are there and Hortensio (who gave up on Bianca earlier) and his new wife. During the dinner, the ladies retire to another room. Petruchio proposes a wager, where the husband who calls his wife and gets the best answer wins. Bianca refuses much to Lucentio's shock. Hortensio sends word, but his wife gives an even worse answer. Petruchio sends and Katharine comes right away. She then brings in Bianca and Hortensio's wife and makes a speech on marriage. She says, "Such duty as the subject owes the prince even such a woman oweth to her husband." Petruchio and Katharine leave the feast triumphant.
Probably the most famous adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew is the 1967 adaptation by Franco Zeffirelli. The film stars Richard Burton as Petruchio opposite Elizabeth Taylor as Katharina. The film was nominated for two Oscars: Best Art-Set Direction and Best Costume Design.
- Great Books, Shakespeare: Vol, 1, by William George Clarke and William Aldis Wright, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1952, pp. 199-228.
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