Themes in Taming of the Shrew

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The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy written in the early 1590’s by William Shakespeare. This play within a play starts when a powerful lord plays a prank on a poor, drunken man named Christopher Sly. The lord convinces the poor man that he is actually a lord himself and that the troop of actors that have arrived are there to perform a play for him. This play that the troop of actors performs is the story of Petruchio, who wants to marry for money, and Katherina, the shrew. The two actually marry and Petruchio uses his skills to “tame” Kate. This comedy of Shakespeare’s covers the themes of disguise, marriage, and transformation.

The first recurring theme throughout The Taming of the Shrew is disguise. This theme is demonstrated by multiple characters in both the outer play and the inner. In the outer play, the lord dresses Sly up as a lord and makes the page boy dress as a wife to Sly, “I know the boy will well usurp the grace, Voice, gait, and action of a gentlewoman. I long to hear him call the drunkard ‘husband’.” lines 128-130. Characters in the inner play who dress up in disguise include Lucentio, who dresses as a tutor named Cambio, Hortensio, who also dresses as a tutor, and Tranio, who dresses as Lucentio. These aforementioned characters all try to change their appearance in a plot to gain the love of the beautiful and succumbing younger sister of Kate, Bianca. Lucentio and Hortensio believe that by becoming a tutor to Bianca, they can win her affections. As Lucentio illuminates it, “And let me be a slave t’achieve that maid, Whose sudden sigh hath thrilled my wounded eye.” lines 214-215. Tranio, Lucentio’s servant is forced to dress as Lucentio to try to get permission for Lucentio to marry Bianca from Bianca’s father. As explained by Victor Cahn, “virtually no one in the cast proceeds honestly except Petruchio, whose early protestations about Katherine’s beauty and good nature turn out to be uncannily accurate,” (10.) To that idea, Cahn claims...
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