Tranio in The Taming of the Shrew

Instructor: John Gonzales

John has 20+ years experience teaching at the college level in areas that include English and American literature, Humanities, and Interdisciplinary Studies.

Get acquainted with the character of Tranio from William Shakespeare's ~'The Taming of the Shrew.~' No one could have a more loyal companion and wing man.

Lucentio's Second Self

The 1996 big screen comedy Multiplicity has Michael Keaton's character repeatedly cloning himself to make life easier. It's a comedy, so of course things go wrong, very wrong. But, hey, it's a comedy--it all works out in the end.

While William Shakespeare had no such science fiction gimmick to draw on when he wrote The Taming of the Shrew, he creates a sort of clone or second self for the character of Lucentio through his devoted servant, loyal friend, and full-time wing man, Tranio.

Tranio is so much an alter ego of Lucentio that he ends up impersonating him. In some aspects and situations, in fact, Tranio is Lucentio's better self, yet even that self is a barely contained, impractical romantic. Tranio still takes Lucentio's comic extremes to their extreme. But again, hey, it's a comedy--it all works out in the end.

Trading Places

Lucentio and Tranio open the play, arriving in Padua just before the audience meets the Minola sisters. Lucentio takes on a serious stance in this moment, all dedication and studiousness. Tranio tells Lucentio to benefit from his scholarly pursuits, but also remember that 'No profit grows where is no pleasure ta'en. / In brief, sir, study what you most affect.'

What Lucentio most affects (likes) almost immediately is Bianca. Tranio continues to function as something like a second brain for Lucentio, keeping him focused and reminding him what it will take to win the prize he has his eye on. In fact, the only original idea that comes directly from Lucentio after Tranio concocts a scheme for Lucentio to impersonate a tutor is that Tranio will take his place.

This indirectly highlights Tranio's contentment in his roles as servant, which is further reinforced when another servant of Lucentio's, Biondello, arrives on the scene confused that they have traded clothing. Tranio emphasizes that the masquerade will be all for the sake of Lucentio, and that when they are alone Biondello should continue to call him Tranio.

Tranio is Comfortable in His Role

It is interesting to note, however, that Tranio seems so natural acting as a privileged member of the wealthy elite. Shakespeare puts his own spin on the concept of a doppelganger, an often shadowy or mystical mirror image of a person. Possibly Shakespeare was suggesting that status is really no more meaningful than being a dressed up servant playing a part.

Just how comfortable Tranio is in his part becomes clear in the next scene, when he injects himself directly in the mix as Lucentio, immediately rubbing elbows with Padua's affluent merchant class. Unlike Grumio, whose lack of education works for laughs, Tranio speaks multiple languages, including scholarly Latin, and seems to be the intellectual equal of those he has just joined on a higher rung of the social ladder.

Tranio Bids for Bianca

When he introduces himself to Baptista, Tranio is once more all sophistication and graciousness. Lucentio's family name doesn't hurt, but Tranio understands exactly how to wield it. He does so when Petruchio declares his intent to marry Kate, putting Bianca back on the market as far as suitors Gremio and Tranio are concerned, who bargain for her in a bidding war.

Tranio obviously gets carried away and offers a far larger dowry than Baptista ever expected or Gremio believes is possible. So large in fact that Baptista asks for confirmation from Lucentio's father, Vincentio. This leaves Tranio, who might finally be in over his head, with the problem of finding an impostor to play Lucentio's highly esteemed father. But where Lucentio's heart is concerned, Tranio knows no restraint.

Petruchio's Wedding and Vincentio's Entrance

During the hilarious and well-known wedding scene in Act 3, Tranio works for Lucentio's best interests by being Petruchio's biggest advocate. When Petruchio shows up late for his own wedding in the most ridiculous garb imaginable, Tranio is the voice of reason, and is the most insistent when it comes to urging Petruchio to get it together.

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