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The Taming of the Shrew

The Taming of the Shrew begins with an "induction" in which a nobleman plays a trick on a beggar, Christopher Sly, treating Sly as if he is a nobleman who has lost his memory. A play is staged for Sly—the play that we know as The Taming of the Shrew.

In the play, set in Padua, Lucentio and other suitors pursue Bianca, but are told by her father, Baptista, that her bad-tempered older sister, Katherine, must marry first. They encourage Petruchio, who has come to Padua to find a wealthy wife, to court Katherine and free Bianca to marry.

Petruchio negotiates marriage terms with Baptista, then has a stormy meeting with Katherine, after which he assures Baptista that the two have agreed to marry. Petruchio arrives late to their wedding dressed in strange clothes; he behaves rudely and carries Katherine away before the wedding dinner. At his home, he embarks on a plan to "tame" Katherine as one would tame a wild hawk. Starved and kept without sleep, Katherine eventually agrees with everything Petruchio says, however absurd. He takes her back to Padua, where they attend Bianca's wedding. There Katherine proves more obedient to her husband than the other wives, whom she chastises before she and Petruchio go off to consummate their marriage.

Early printed texts

The Taming of the Shrew was first published in the 1623 First Folio, and that text is generally the source for subsequent editions. The only complication is a 1594 quarto titled The Taming of A Shrew that is not ascribed to Shakespeare and which has an uncertain relationship to The Shrew. While there are plot similarities, much of A Shrew is different from The Shrew, including character relationships, names, and much of the language. But since the framing story of Sly is continued throughout A Shrew, instead of being dropped after the initial scenes as in The Shrew, editors sometimes wish to include those Sly scenes in their edition. The Folger edition, like all modern editions, is based on F1, and does not include any additions from A Shrew.

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Item Title: 
Works. 1623] Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, & tragedies : published according to the true originall copies.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22273 Fo.1 no.68
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1623

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Item Title: 
[Taming of the shrew] A wittie and pleasant comedie called The taming of the shrew.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22327 copy 1
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1631

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Item Title: 
Mr. VVilliam Shakespeares comedies, histories, and tragedies. : Published according to the true originall copies.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22274 Fo.2 no.07
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1632

Picturing The Taming of the Shrew

As part of an NEH-funded project, the Folger digitized thousands of 18th-, 19th-, and early 20th-century images representing Shakespeare’s plays. Some of these images show actors in character, while others show the plays as if they were real-life events—telling the difference isn't always easy. A selection of images related to The Taming of the Shrew is shown below, with links to our digital image collection.

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Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford as Petruchio and Katherine (1929)

Item Title: 
Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford in the Taming of the Shrew
Item Call Number: 
Ball Coll. Taming of the Shrew (1929) folder 2
Item Date: 
1929

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Lily Brayton as Katherine (early 20th century)

Item Title: 
Miss Lily Brayton as Katharina in the Taming of the shrew [graphic].
Item Call Number: 
ART File B827 no.3 PHOTO (size XS)
Item Date: 
[London] : J. Beagles & Co., [between 1904 and 1916?]

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E.H. Sothern as Petruchio (early 20th century)

Item Title: 
[3 photographs of E.H. Sothern as] Petruchio [in Shakespeare's Taming of the shrew] [graphic] / White.
Item Call Number: 
ART File S717.5 no.43 PHOTO (size M)
Item Creator: 
White Studio (New York, N.Y.), photographer.
Item Date: 
New York : [s.n., between 1905 and 1921]

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John Philip Kemble and Marie Thérèse Kemble as Petruchio and Katherine (1802)

Item Title: 
Catherine & Petruchio, act II, scene 1 [i.e. Taming of the shrew, act 3, scene 2] Mr. Kemble & Miss De Camp as Catherine & Petruchio, Fear not, sweet wench, ... [graphic] / Buck, del. ; Alais, sc.
Item Call Number: 
ART File K31.4 no.9 copy 1 (size XS)
Item Creator: 
Alais, J., printmaker.
Item Date: 
[London, England] : J. Roach, 1802.

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Hostess and Sly (early 19th century)

Item Title: 
Taming of the shrew, Hostess and Sly [graphic] / [J. Coghlan].
Item Call Number: 
ART Box C678 no.11 (size S)
Item Creator: 
Coghlan, J., active early 19th cent., artist.
Item Date: 
[early 19th century?]

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Petruchio rejects the bridal dinner (Act 4, scene 1; late 19th century)

Item Title: 
[Taming of the shrew, act 4, scene 1] [graphic] / Fr. Schwoerer, del. ; G. Goldberg, sc.
Item Call Number: 
ART File S528t1 no.42 (size M)
Item Creator: 
Goldberg, Georg, 1830-1894, printmaker.
Item Date: 
[Germany? : s.n., mid- or late 19th century]

More images of The Taming of the Shrew can be seen in our digital image collection. (Because of how they were cataloged, some images from other plays might appear in the image searches linked here, so always check the sidebar to see if the image is described as part of a larger group.)