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Synopsis



The Taming of the Shrew

 

Lucentio, a young man from Mantua, arrives in Padua to study at the city’s great university. Lucentio glimpses Bianca, the young daughter of a merchant, and immediately falls in love.

 

Bianca’s father, Baptista, has another daughter, Katherine, who is outspoken and has a violent temper. People call her "Katherine the Shrew." Bianca appears sweet and docile. In addition to Lucentio, two other men want to marry Bianca—Hortensio and Gremio. Baptista orders that the younger daughter cannot wed before the older daughter. He asks the men to search for a husband for Katherine and to find tutors for both daughters.

 

Lucentio determines to use Baptista’s request for tutors to gain access to Bianca. Lucentio changes clothes with his servant, Tranio, and presents himself as a Latin tutor. His servant, now dressed in his master’s elegant clothes, goes to speak to Baptista. Dressed as Lucentio, he convinces the merchant that Lucentio is wealthier than Bianca’s other suitors.

 

Another newcomer arrives in Padua. Petruchio, looking for a wealthy bride, is steered by Bianca’s suitors to Baptista’s house. Petruchio tells the merchant that everyone has sung the praises of his eldest daughter and asks for her hand. Baptista, thinking Petruchio not well informed about Katherine’s true nature, promises to pay Petruchio 20,000 crowns if he will marry Katherine. Petruchio meets Katherine, whom he calls Kate. She hurls insults at him, but he turns everything she says into a term of endearment. Petruchio tells Kate that they will be married on Sunday. Baptista is thrilled. Kate is not.

 

On their wedding day, Petruchio arrives so late that Katherine feels humiliated. When he finally arrives Petruchio is dressed like a clown. He tells Kate that she is marrying him, not his clothes. After the ceremony, he carries Kate off on an old horse before she can enjoy the wedding feast. Once home, Petruchio does not allow his new wife to eat, though she is hungry, or to sleep, though she is tired. His plan is to break her of her shrewishness through deprivation.

 

Back in Padua, Bianca is being wooed by her suitors. Hortensio pretends to be a music teacher while Gremio discovers a Latin "tutor" for her who is actually the disguised Lucentio. Bianca falls in love with him, and Hortensio and Gremio see them kissing. The men declare they will never marry a woman so fickle. Hortensio instead marries a wealthy widow. Lucentio and Tranio persuade an old man from Mantua to be Lucentio’s father to negotiate the marriage of his "son" to Bianca. Baptista agrees to give Bianca’s hand in marriage to Lucentio—or to Lucentio’s servant, who is still disguised as his master.

 

Kate is excited to return home for her sister’s wedding. Petruchio orders Kate a new hat and dress for the wedding. Though Kate is pleased with both, Petruchio rips them to pieces. He and his wife will go as they are to Padua. Worn down, Kate agrees to everything her husband says. If Petruchio says the sun is the moon, then it is so. On the journey to Padua, they see an old man. Petruchio greets the man as if he were a young woman, and Kate does, too. Then Petruchio says the traveler is actually an old man, and Kate agrees. The man, bewildered, joins them; he is Vincentio, the real father of Lucentio, traveling to Padua to see his son.

 

Vincentio is nearly arrested as an imposter when he is accused of deception by the man impersonating him. Bianca and Lucentio arrive, having been secretly married, and reveal all.

 

At the wedding feast, Petruchio is teased about his shrewish wife. Petruchio bets the other recently married men that his wife is the most obedient. First, Lucentio sends for Bianca. She refuses to come. Then, Hortensio sends for his wife. She refuses as well. Finally, Petruchio sends for Kate who comes immediately. He tells her to fetch the other two women, which she does. Petruchio orders her to instruct thewomen about their duties of obedience. Kate delivers a speech that amazes everyone. The play ends with Lucentio vowing to tame his wife, Bianca, if he can. Kate and Petruchio leave with their winnings.


James Dromgole Linton. Taming of the Shrew. Katherine and Petruchio. Watercolor, late 19th century




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