The Taming of the Shrew reveals a plot by suitors to marry the younger sister, once the older and more willful sister is married first; they succeed in finding her a suitor and winning the younger sister’s affections behind her father’s back. In the end, the older sister has been tamed, which the men declare is a success.
Katherina (Kate) is the eldest daughter of Baptista Minola of Padua. She is strong-willed, stubborn, and disobedient, making her an unfit choice for marriage by most of the men at the time. On the other hand, her younger sister Bianca was beautiful and much more agreeable. However, Baptista will not marry off Bianca until Katherina is married, so Bianca’s suitors begin to plot to find her a husband. Lucentio devises a plan to become Bianca’s tutor, and he sends his servant Tranio to pose as him when petitioning Baptista for Bianca’s hand.
A wealthy man from Verona named Petruchio arrives in Padua looking for a wife. Hortensio uses this opportunity to make him a suitor for Kate. Petruchio counters Kate’s remarks with kindness and flattery, and she finally agrees to marry him. Tranio petitions Baptista (still in disguise) and promises more than Lucentio actually possesses. They devise a plan to find someone to pose as Lucentio’s father Vincentio, to promise the dowry to Baptista.
Petruchio, once he is officially married to Kate, begins to “tame” her by refusing her food and clothing and disagreeing with everything she says until she finally agrees with everything he says, even the most ridiculous statements. Finally, she is completely obedient and submissive to him.
Lucentio and Tranio convince a man to pose as his father, and Baptista gives his blessing for the marriage; Bianca and Lucentio elope. Vincentio arrives and meets the man posing as him, and is confused because that man keeps saying that Tranio is Lucentio. Lucentio and Bianca arrive from their secret wedding and explain everything.
Lucentio throws a banquet. Hortensio, Bianca’s previous suitor, has since married a rich widow instead. Petruchio challenges Hortensio and Lucentio to see whose wife is more obedient. Each man sends for his wife, but only Kate returns immediately. He instructs her to bring Bianca and the widow back, where she then delivers a speech on how wives are supposed to be obedient to their husbands. All of the men are in awe of Petruchio’s success in taming Kate.
Date Published: 1591
Major Themes: Marriage; gender roles; hidden identity and disguise; social classes
Famous Quote: “Nothing comes amiss; so money comes withal.”
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