Shakespeare's The Taming Of The Shrew: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Debbie Notari
'The Taming of the Shrew' is one of Shakespeare's most loved comedies! It's the story of a strong-minded woman, Katharina, who yields to an equally stubborn man. Once again, Shakespeare explores the arena of love, delighting audiences throughout the centuries.

Taming of the Shrew

The play The Taming of the Shrew begins in an unusual way; we see a drunk commoner, Sly, being tricked by a wealthy lord into thinking he is a lord. Sly begins to believe the trick that has been played on him, and settles down to watch a play, The Taming of the Shrew. This seemingly random introduction has nothing to do with the actual plot of the play.


The setting of The Taming of the Shrew is Padua, Italy, where an extremely wealthy merchant named Baptista Minola resides with two lovely daughters, Katharina (or Kate) and Bianca. Although both daughters are beautiful and of marrying age, the younger of the two, Bianca, is sweet-tempered, while the older, Katharina, is ill-tempered. In fact, Katharina is known for her verbal insults, hot temper, and physical violence. Baptista decides that Katharina must marry before Bianca. He is well aware that no man is interested in a 'shrew,' but stands firmly in his decision.

Meanwhile, a suitable, rich young man, Lucentio and his servant, Tranio, arrive in Padua where Lucentio's father owns a home. Lucentio has planned to study in this fair city, but is sidetracked when he instantly falls in love with the beautiful Bianca. However, two other suitors, Hortensio, a young man, and Gremio, a rather old man, vie for her love. Bianca isn't interested in either suitor, and her father, feeling smugly secure that no one will marry Katharina any time soon, decides to provide tutors to educate Bianca until she can marry. Lucentio overhears the situation and decides to masquerade as a poor tutor, while his servant Tranio masquerades as Lucentio. Lucentio intends to win Bianca's heart as he tutors her. Tranio will pretend to pursue Bianca, just to throw off any suspicion over Lucentio's true intentions.

While this is going on, Hortensio and Gremio scheme to find someone to marry Katharina. As luck would have it, Hortensio's friend, Petruchio, arrives in Padua seeking a wife. Hortensio honestly explains that although he has a girl in mind for Petruchio, she is ill-tempered and practically impossible to woo. Petruchio is a stubborn, bold man, and he is attracted to challenge of winning Kate from the start. He decides to pursue her in his own, odd way, much to everyone's surprise.

A Strange Courtship

The first meeting with Petruchio and Kate does not go well, as one might predict. He has already declared to Baptista that he intends to marry Kate, and the date is set for the following Sunday; although Petruchio flatters Kate, she returns his compliments with predictable insults and even strikes him. However, Petruchio makes it clear that she will marry him whether she likes it or not. He states:

Marry, so I mean, sweet Katharina, in thy bed:

And therefore, setting all this chat aside,

Thus in plain terms: your father hath consented

That you shall be my wife; your dowry 'greed on;

And, Will you, nill you, I will marry you.

Now, Kate, I am a husband for your turn;

For, by this light, whereby I see thy beauty,

Thy beauty, that doth make me like thee well,

Thou must be married to no man but me;

For I am he am born to tame you Kate,

And bring you from a wild Kate to a Kate

Conformable as other household Kates.

Here comes your father: never make denial;

I must and will have Katharina to my wife (2.1).

To which Kate replies, 'I'll see thee hang'd on Sunday first'(2.1). However, it seems Kate has no choice.


This proposal frees Bianca's suitors to pursue her, and they do. Both Lucentio and Horensio disguise themselves as tutors, and the two compete for her love. In fact, Hortensio, Gremio and Tranio (pretending to be Lucentio) approach Baptista with offers for marriage. Baptista asks each suitor what he can offer Bianca, and Gremio is ruled out. So, at the moment, two suitors are left pursuing Bianca's hand. Baptista states that the winner will marry Bianca the Sunday after next. Lucentio wins Bianca's heart, and the two kiss passionately. Tranio and Horensio spy on the couple, and in disgust, Horensio decides to drop his pursuit of Bianca and marry a local widow, instead. Tranio pretends to be insulted that Bianca would choose a common tutor over him, but of course, Lucentio is the true master.

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