The Taming of the Shrew Characters

Instructor: Laura Foist

Laura has a Masters of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition and has taught college Science.

In this lesson we will introduce the characters in ''The Taming of the Shrew''. We will also analyze some of these characters and what these characters mean to the play.

Baptista Minola's Household

Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew centers around Baptista Minola's household. Baptista is a wealthy man with two daughters. He refuses to let the younger daughter marry before the elder one is married.

The elder daughter Katherine has a sharp tongue and is ill-tempered. She is the 'shrew' referred to in the title of the play. She is feared and disliked by all men in the area, and she has even been known to lash out physically against those around her.

Katherine knows everyone around her dislikes her; she is fiercely independent but wants to be respected. The sad thing is that in her time period she must get married to gain this respect. However, she knows that no man will ever want to marry her. She is ultimately 'tamed' through marriage and gains this respect by the end of the play, and her independence is largely lost, which was seen as a good thing at the time. Remember, the values in this play are different than those we have today.

The younger daughter, Bianca, is sweet and patient, an ideal Elizabethan-era woman. When her father says she can not marry until Katherine is married, Bianca humbly complies. She takes the time to improve herself through study and practicing instruments. Her mild personality makes her highly desirable, and Bianca has several suitors, while Katherine has none.

Everyone expects Bianca to be the perfect wife, and it appears that Baptista favors her. However, once she is married, Bianca seems to become the more selfish and prideful of the two sisters. It leaves us wondering if Bianca was more like Katherine than we originally thought, but was simply hiding her real personality to appear more attractive.

Ultimately, we are left wondering how successful Bianca's marriage will be. When tested, Bianca is actually less willing to obey her husband than Katherine is, making Katherine appear to be a better wife in a time when women had to obey their husbands.

Petruchio, Katherine's Husband

Since Bianca's suitors have no hope until Katherine is married, they search out someone who would be willing to marry Katherine despite her faults. They find Petruchio, who agrees to woo and marry Katherine for the dowry that he will receive, making it seem that his motivations are purely financial. After Petruchio marries Katherine he begins the process of 'taming' her by being unkind, depriving her of food and sleep. He ends up being able to force Katherine into submission.

In the end of the play Katherine is the perfect wife
Katherine in the end

Petruchio is difficult to analyze because his motivations are never made perfectly clear. He could truly love Katherine and know that the only way to have a happy marriage in is to suppress her independence. Under this interpretation of the play, Katherine's shrewish tendencies can be seen as the antagonist, and the play on the whole is a humorous exploration of marriage psychology. On the other hand, Petruchio could be interpreted to be a greedy, uncaring man who simply loves the act of domination. Under this interpretation, Petruchio is the antagonist and the play is a dark view of marriage and women's place in society.

Bianca's Suitors

Bianca has three suitors: Lucentio, Hortensio and Gremio. Unlike Petruchio, Lucentio is idyllic and poetic when it comes to love. He carefully woos Bianca and ends up winning her heart.

Lucentio also has several servants and family members who play a minor role in the play. His servant, Tranio, impersonates his master during an elaborate ruse for Lucentio to earn Bianca's love.

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