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.
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.
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.)