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Vincentio 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.

Vincentio is the father of Lucentio, a key character in William Shakespeare's wild comedy, 'The Taming of the Shrew.' Find out about this character and his surprise impersonator!

What's in a Name?

It was Shakespeare himself who most famously posed the question 'what's in a name?' through the character of Juliet. Well, the answer seems to depend on the circumstances, even for Shakespeare.

In The Taming of the Shrew the name Vincentio holds a great deal of importance. It comes up in scene after scene, well before the actual character arrives on stage.

Although the play is a comedy, it offers valuable insights into the way power works in a world of status based upon wealth and family lineage. In fact, Vincentio's name winds up carrying more weight and authority than the man himself does when the consequences of ongoing disguise and deception come to a head in the final act.

Vincentio's Appearance

Before meeting him, we know that Vincentio is the father to the protagonist Lucentio, who is scheming to marry the woman of his dreams by dressing in disguise. When the actual Vincentio makes his appearance at the end of Act 4, he is immediately drawn into the confusion that drives the comedy of the play.

Vincentio meets Petruchio, Kate, and Hortensio on the road to Padua, and before his name can establish him, Petruchio, who has been using a kind of contrary reality to moderate Kate's willfulness and resistance, tests her by referring to Vincentio as a young woman. Kate immediately follows his lead, at which point Petruchio shifts it back to reality and asks her how she could mistake an elderly man in that way. Again, Kate rolls with it, and addresses Vincentio accordingly.

While obviously caught off guard, Vincentio treats the exchange as a bit of fun and introduces himself as Lucentio's father, and as Vincentio. With that, Petruchio curtails his shenanigans, and shows Vincentio the respect his name commands. They continue on toward Padua together.

What Vincentio doesn't know is that his son is pretending to be a tutor while his servant Tranio pretends to be Lucentio and another servant pretends to be Tranio. Meanwhile, a pedant (traveling scholar for hire) pretends to be Vincentio. All this to help the real Lucentio become the husband to a girl of his fancy.

This plot feature, revolving around disguise and mistaken identity, is a frequent trope or device in Shakespeare, in other words, a recurring technique or formula used for effect, regardless of the unique story or characters involved.

Vincentio's Near Arrest

When the group arrives at Lucentio's home in Padua, the real Vincentio is in for a surprise. Being in the home associated with the name Lucentio, the pedant has the more convincing claim to the name Vincentio, and he plays up the part to the hilt. The other disguised servants, even though they recognize the real Vincentio, back the pedant in order to remain loyal to Lucentio and his scheme. The Vincentio impostor calls for the authentic Vincentio to be arrested as an impostor, to the approval of most of the crowd assembled.

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