While The Taming of the Shrew is not one of the Shakespearean
plays traditionally taught in English courses, the lively comic plot and
appealing characters make it an excellent introduction to the Bard. Because
the play deals with relationships between several different "courting"
couples, it can capture the attention of adolescents and spark lively
debate on the age-old "battle of the sexes."
Less able readers can enjoy the action and intrigue of the story.
They will also be able to appreciate the theme of the play: the problems
that arise when people are expected to conform to the roles society expects
them to play. More able readers will understand the contradictions between
plot and subplot and the role of deception. All students will be able
to compare the play to modern versions of the story, while more able students
can look for parallels in literature. Study of The Taming of the Shrew
offers students the opportunity to compare social customs surrounding
courtship and marriage from Elizabethan England to those of other countries
and to modern America. The play can promote important discussions about
the role of respect, deception, romance, caring, and violence in the relationships
between men and women.
This teacher's guide is divided into several parts: (1) a brief literary
overview, including a synopsis and commentary on the play; (2) suggestions
for teaching the play, including activities, discussion questions, and
writing topics to be used before, during, and after reading the play;
(3) ideas to extend students' learning beyond the play, including ways
to address its themes, ideas for teaching literary analysis, techniques
for using the play as a bridge to other works, and ways to use the play
in interdisciplinary study; (4) bibliographies, including additional pedagogical
sources, other works of literature addressing similar themes, and interdisciplinary
Throughout this study guide, attention will be given to the ability
level of the students, and specific activities, discussion questions,
and topics will be labeled as to
*Appropriate for all students.
+Most appropriate for nonacademic students.
#Most appropriate for above average students.
~Most appropriate for academic students.
The scene opens in an English country alehouse in the late 1500s. A nobleman
discovers Christopher Sly, a drunken beggar, and decides to play a trick
on him. He orders his men to take the passed out Sly to his own bedroom,
dress the beggar in fine clothes, and tell him he is a nobleman who has
been very ill for many years (Ind, i.) [pp. 45-50]. When Sly awakes, he
proudly protests that he is no lord. Gradually, however, Sly comes to
believe in his nobility and begins taking on lordly airs. He agrees to
watch the performance of a wandering band of actors who have also been
enlisted in the lord's plot (Ind, ii.) [pp. 50-56].
The action of The Taming of the Shrew, the play-within-a-play,
begins in the Italian city of Padua. Lucentio, a young gentleman of Verona,
arrives accompanied by his servant Tranio. Lucentio's discussion of his
studies is interrupted by the appearance of Baptista Minola, his two daughters
Katherina (Kate) and Bianca, and two would-be suitors for Bianca's hand-Gremio,
an old man, and Hortensio, a gentleman of fashion. Baptista states that
no one will be permitted to court Bianca until her older sister, Kate,
has a husband. Gremio and Hortensio protest that no one wants to marry
the bad-tempered Kate. Baptista intends to keep Bianca in seclusion and
asks for tutors while she waits. While listening to this conversation,
Lucentio has become totally smitten with Bianca. He plans to get to know
Bianca by posing as a tutor while Tranio pretends to be Lucentio and joins
the ranks of Bianca's "official" suitors (I, i.) [pp. 57-66].
Another young gentleman of Verona, the bold Petruchio, arrives at
the home of his friend Hortensio proclaiming he has come to Padua to find
a wealthy wife. Hortensio replies he knows a lady, Katherina Minola, who
is both rich and beautiful, but unfortunately she is a terrible shrew.
Petruchio does not care just as long as she is rich. Hortensio agrees
to introduce Petruchio to Kate's father if Petruchio will help him gain
access to the younger sister. The old suitor Gremio has found Cambio,
a Latin tutor for Bianca. Cambio is really Lucentio. The ranks of the
suitors for Bianca increase when Tranio makes his grand entrance posing
as Lucentio. All three-Hortensio, Gremio, Tranio/Lucentio-agree to finance
Petruchio's courtship of Kate since his success will open the way for
them (I, ii.) [pp. 66-77].
Baptista must intervene in a fight between Kate and Bianca. When he
chides Kate for her actions, she claims her father likes her younger sister
best. Petruchio arrives, accompanied by various suitors and tutors. He
immediately inquires about the hand of Baptista's daughter Kate, assuring
Baptista he is from a good family. Petruchio presents Hortensio, now posing
as the music tutor Litio. Not to be outdone, Gremio introduces the Latin
tutor, Lucentio/Cambio. Baptista welcomes the tutors and sends them to
meet their pupils while Tranio/Lucentio officially becomes a candidate
for Bianca's hand. Baptista decides Petruchio's offer of marriage is a
good one, but he must win Kate's love first. Petruchio is confident he
can do so.
Petruchio's first encounter with Kate generates sparks as the two
engage in rough-and-tumble verbal sparring. Petruchio announces that he
is the perfect husband for Kate and tells Baptista and the others not
to take note of her behavior; they have agreed she will still pretend
to be shrewish in public even though she really loves him madly. Sunday
is set for the wedding day. Since Kate now seems to be spoken for, Gremio
and Tranio/Lucentio face off to negotiate for Bianca's hand. Baptista
is impressed by Tranio/Lucentio's promises of enormous riches, but, to
be on the safe side, he wants Tranio/Lucentio's father, Vincentio, to
make good his son's offer. Tranio realizes the "supposed Lucentio" must
now get busy and find a "supposed Vincentio" to pose as his father (II,
i) [pp. 78-93].
In the garden of Baptista's home, the disguised suitors begin their
covert courtship of Bianca. Lucentio/Cambio, between the lines of a Latin
lesson, tells Bianca who he really is. Bianca is cautious, but does not
discourage Lucentio's attentions. Their actions raise the suspicions of
Hortensio/Litio (III, i.) [pp. 94-97].
Everyone but the groom gathers for the much anticipated wedding of
Petruchio and Kate. Kate is humiliated to think she has been left standing
at the altar. When Petruchio arrives both his dress and his behavior are
outrageous. Baptista protests, and Petruchio replies that Kate is marrying
him, not his clothes, and he drags her off to the church. Tranio meanwhile
brings Lucentio up to date on his plan to find someone to pretend to be
Vincentio. When the wedding party returns, Petruchio announces they have
to leave right away and will not be staying for the wedding feast. Although
everyone objects to his plan, Petruchio says he will be master of what
is his, especially of his wife. He sweeps her up and carries her away
from her father's house (III, i i.) [pp. 98-107].
The journey to Petruchio's home is not a pleasant one. Petruchio and
Kate arrive cold, dirty, tired, and hungry. Petruchio, furthermore, is
in a rage and declares the supper to be unfit. He decides he and Kate
will fast, and he packs her off to bed. Petruchio announces his plan to
tame Kate as he would a falcon, starving her into submission. But every
time he denies her sleep or sends back her food, he will claim it to be
done in loving care of her. Thus will he "kill a wife with kindness" (IV,
i.) [pp. 108-116].
Hortensio/Litio and Tranio/Lucentio give up their quest for Bianca's
hand when they discover her kissing Lucentio/Cambio, a common tutor. Hortensio
decides instead to marry a wealthy widow. With one suitor now out of the
way, Tranio finds an old man to pretend to be Vincentio and thus secure
his "suit" (IV, ii.) [pp. 116-120]. Kate, meanwhile, is showing signs
of wear from Petruchio's "kindnesses." Petruchio surprises her by announcing
they will go back to Padua for her sister's wedding. Kate's hopes for
new clothes for the occasion are dashed because she has not mastered her
temper. Petruchio decides they will go back to her father's dressed as
they are. After all, clothes will not change who they are inside (IV,
iii.) [pp. 121-128].
The seesaw action returns to Padua where Lucentio and Bianca have
run away to get married (IV, iv) [pp. 129-133]. Meanwhile on the road
back to Padua, Petruchio is about to win the battle he has been waging
with Kate. He declares the moon is shining brightly. When Kate disagrees
with him, he announces they will return home. At last Kate sees the point
and says it is the moon or the sun, or whatever he wants it to be. They
are joined by an elderly man, the real Vincentio, on his way to Padua
to check up on his son Lucentio (IV, v) [pp. 133-136].
While Lucentio and Bianca go to the church, the real Vincentio arrives
at his lodgings. The poor man does not know what is going on because Lucentio's
servants swear they have never seen him before. Vincentio is rescued by
the real Lucentio who shocks everyone with the news he and Bianca are
married. Everyone, but Petruchio and Kate, heads to Baptista's house to
sort matters out. Petruchio demands a kiss from Kate. Kate balks at first,
but at last grants his request. The battles appear to be over (V, i) [pp.
The mood is festive at the wedding feast for the three newly married
couples, but everyone agrees Petruchio has the worst of the wives. Petruchio
suggests the three men wager to see whose wife is the most obedient. Bianca
and the Widow refuse to come when summoned by their husbands. Kate, on
the other hand, not only comes when summoned, but also lectures the other
wives on the kind of duty each owes her husband-to make him a happy home
while he works to take care of them both. The assembled crowd is amazed
at Kate's transformation. Petruchio and Kate have won both the bet and
the battle the other two couples are just now beginning. Or have they?
(V, ii) [pp. 143-151].
The play contains three stories of deception. In the Induction, the
drunkard Sly is tricked into believing he is a nobleman because he is
dressed and treated as one. Later, in the play-within-a-play, Petruchio
pretends to be a male counterpart to the shrew, beating and berating his
servants and yet treating Kate with exaggerated kindness. His object is
to give her a taste of her own medicine, while at the same time allowing
her to take on the role of a gentlewoman. Deception and disguise are integral
parts of the Lucentio-Bianca plot where four characters assume someone
else's identity in order to gain access to Bianca. Bianca also pretends
to be sweet and submissive, but in reality she shows signs of being self-centered
and willful. While students may find the Lucentio-Bianca plot difficult
to follow, they should see how the outcomes of the stories differ. Which
man, Lucentio or Petruchio, will have the more suitable wife?
Modern audiences can laugh at the actions of Kate, especially when
she is getting the better of the foppish suitors; however, her behavior
toward her sister, Petruchio's treatment of her, and her last speech,
pose problems. Students should understand that the play mirrors societal
attitudes of Shakespeare's time. The shrew was a standard character in
comedy. Noah's wife, for example, was often portrayed as shrewish in the
cycle plays popular just before Shakespeare's time. A later example of
the shrew is the character of Joe's wife in Dickens' novel Great Expectations.
The shrew was a woman who was out of control, unreasonably angry, and
sometimes cruel. In the comic convention, she usually got what she deserved.
Shakespeare treats his shrew with a little more dignity. Kate is, after
all, the title character of his play. Petruchio sets out to tame her much
as the sportsman of his day tamed his falcon or the cowboy of this time
breaks in a horse. Kate learns not only to play Petruchio's game but also
to enjoy it. In the final analysis, it is left to the audience to interpret
Kate's last speech: Has she truly been tamed or is she just playing the
Below are several techniques you can use to introduce The Taming of
the Shrew to students:
(1) Tell the story of the play, introduce the main characters and
explain how the Induction and Bianca-Lucentio subplots fit into the Kate-Petruchio
story. You may want to refer students to the Dramatis Personae to help
them identify characters and their relationships.*
(2) Ask students to think about ways society expects them to behave.
Ask the students: Do you ever feel torn between the expectations of others
and your own expectations for yourself? Do teachers expect unfair or uncomfortable
behavior from you? When faced with peer, society, or school pressure to
conform, how do you react?*
(3) Discuss the title The Taming of the Shrew. Ask the students
to define shrew. Webster defines shrew as "a vexatious, scolding, or brawling
woman." Kate is also described in the play as headstrong, cursed, mad,
and choleric. Ask the students: What images do you get from the word taming?
Webster defines tame as "changed from the wild state, domesticated." Ask:
What is suggested by the word domesticated? Webster offers, "converted
to the home life; tame." Students can see that the play will be about
"a scolding, brawling woman who is changed from the wild state and converted
to home life." That idea alone ought to prompt a lively classroom discussion.
(4) Like most of Shakespeare's plays, The Taming of the Shrew
was based on familiar plots and employed theatrical conventions (accepted
practices) Shakespeare's audiences understood that may seem strange to
modern viewers. It is important to help students identify and understand
these conventions before they read the play.
a. The play mixes English comedy with Italian comedy heavily influenced
by Commedia dell'arte.
b. Both styles are considered to be farce, a broad comedy employing
simple plots, stereotyped characters, and physical comedy or slapstick.
Today, many movies and TV situation comedies are farces. Cartoons and
short films, such as the Three Stooges, use slapstick, a kind of action
where there is a lot of violence, but no one actually gets hurt. Ask students
to identify farcical films, sit-coms, or cartoons. Discuss the comedy
found in them to determine the elements of a farce. This discussion will
enable students to better visualize the action of the play as they read
c. It might be helpful to provide students with a brief introduction
to and picture of traditional Commedia productions. Commedia dell'arte
was an improvisational theatre. Companies presented a series of standard
plots or scenarios. Each actor and actress specialized in a particular
type of character called a stock character: sweet and innocent lovers-juvenile,
male lover and ingenue, female lover; the stingy old man-Pantaloon, generally
after the sweet young thing; the Braggart Soldier-more talk than action;
befuddled parents; impertinent servants; and tricksters. Students can
look for these stock characters as they read the play.# ~
(5) Most students are familiar with the idea of conventional plot.
Ask the students: What do you expect to see in a buddy film or a disaster
movie? What do you think are the conventions of romantic comedies? What
do you think of when you hear the term battle of the sexes? Students can
use their answers to anticipate the action in The Taming of the Shrew.*
More mature students can identify and discuss elements of sexual tension
existing between characters in romantic comedies on TV or film. Ask the
students: What elements combine to create these tensions? Why and how
do relationships between characters change when they become sexual? (Later,
students can discuss why Kate and Petruchio apparently do not consummate
their marriage until the end of the play.)#
The Taming of the Shrew also includes a subplot-the courtship of Bianca.
Ask students to consider how this plot, which follows a more traditional
romantic comedy format, fits the title The Taming of the Shrew.*
(6) If this is the first Shakespearean play students have read, they
should be introduced to the conventions of the Elizabethan stage.* Below
are ones you may wish to introduce:
a. The play-within-a-play--A play performed as part of the story for
some dramatic purpose. For example, in Hamlet, Hamlet asks a group of
players to perform a play with a plot similar to what he suspects are
the actual events of his father's murder. The main action of The Taming
of the Shrew is a play-within-a-play.
b. The use of disguises-A character puts on a disguise to hide, trick,
or spy on others. Shakespeare's audience accepted the fact that none of
the other characters ever recognized the person disguised. Students can
look for examples of this in the play.
c. Love at first sight-This is a common device in romantic comedies.
Lucentio falls head over heels the minute he sees Bianca. Students
asked to look for other examples in the play.
d. Fluid action-Shakespeare's stage used little in the way of set
or props; everything was portable. Modern critics called Shakespeare's
plays filmic, since the action can move quickly from one locale to another
in much the same way a movie script can. The action of this play shifts
between various locations in Padua and Petruchio's house.
e. Asides-Shakespeare's characters often make comments to each other
or to the audience the other characters never hear. These asides usually
comment on the action. For example:
•Hortensio. I promised we would be contributors and bear his
charge of wooing, whatsoe'er.
•Gremio. And so we will, provided that he win her.
•Grumio. [Aside] I would I were as sure of a good dinner. -
(I, ii, 214-217) [p. 74]
f. Soliloquy-Speeches in which characters think out loud, alone on
for the benefit of the audience. Sometimes they are talking directly
audience, sometimes not. Petruchio does this prior to his first meeting
I'll attend her here
And woo her with some spirit when she comes.
Say that she rail, why then I'll tell her plain
She sings as sweetly as a nightingale.
Say that she frown, I'll say she looks as clear
As morning roses newly washed with dew.
Say she be mute and will not speak a word,
Then I'll commend her volubility
And say she uttereth piercing eloquence.
If she do bid me pack, I'll give her thanks
As though she bid me stay by her a week.
If she deny to wed, I'll crave the day
When I shall ask the banns and when be married.
But here she comes, and now, Petruchio, speak. - (II, i, 168-181)
(7) Students unfamiliar with reading plays may need help in learning
how to read dialogue. Because characters are usually active, students
need to visualize what they are doing. Shakespeare helps by suggesting
their action in the dialogue. Show students an example and discuss it
But for my bonny Kate, she must with me.
Nay, look not big, nor stamp, nor stare, nor fret;
I will be master of what is mine own.
She is my goods. . . .
And here she stands. Touch her whoever dare,
I'll bring mine action on the proudest he
That stops my way in Padua. Grumio,
Draw forth thy weapon, we are beset with thieves.
Rescue thy mistress, if thou be a man.
Fear not, sweet wench; they shall not touch thee, Kate.
I'll buckler thee against a million. - (Petruchio, III, ii, 227-239)
Ask the students: What are Petruchio, Kate, and Grumio doing during
(8) Shakespeare's language is often a formidable obstacle. Most students
need help in learning how to use footnotes to interpret unfamiliar words
and phrases. It is useful to introduce students to typical Shakespearean
a. Banter/plays on words/puns - dialogue with a double meaning:
Kate. I pray you, sir, is it your will
To make a stale of me amongst these mates?
Hortensio. Mates, maid? How mean you that? No mates for you
Unless you were of gentler, milder mold. - (I, i, 57-60) [p. 59]
Often the banter has bawdy (sexual) tone:
Petruchio. Myself am moved two woo thee for my wife.
Kate. Moved! In good time, let him that moved you hither
Remove you hence. I knew you at the first You were a movable.
Petruchio. Why, what's a movable?
Kate. A joint stool.
Petruchio. Thou has hit it; come sit on me.
Kate. Asses are made to bear and so are you.
Petruchio. Women are made to bear and so are you.
Kate. No such jade as you, if me you mean. - (II, i, 194-201) [p.
Characters can deliberately misunderstand each other:
Petruchio. Here, sirrah Grumio, knock, I say.
Grumio. Knock, sir? Whom should I knock? Is there any man has rebused
Petruchio. Villain, I say, knock me here soundly.
Grumio. Knock you here sir? Why, O sir, what am I, sir, that I should
knock you here, sir?
Petruchio. Villain, I say, knock me at this gate. And rap me well
or I'll knock your knave's pate. - (I, ii, 5-12) [p. 67]
b. Invective - vivid expression of anger:
O monstrous arrogance!
Thou liest, thou thread, thou thimble,
Thou yard, three-quarters, half-yard, quarter, nail!
Thou flea, thou nit, thou winter cricket thou!
Braved in mine own house with a skein of thread!
Away, thou rag, thou quantity, thou remnant,
Or I shall so bemete thee with thy yard
As thou shalt think on prating whilst thou liv'st.
I tell thee, I, that thou hast marred her gown. - (Petruchio, IV,
iii, 106-114) [p. 125]
c. Scenes which take place offstage - description of offstage action:
Tell thou the tale. But hadst thou not
crossed me thou shouldst have heard how her
horse fell and she under her horse. Thou shouldst
have heard in how miry a place, how she was be-
moiled, how he left her with the horse upon her,
how he beat me because her horse stumbled, how
she waded through the dirt to pluck him off me;
how he swore, how she prayed that never prayed
before; how I cried, how the horses ran away, how
her bridle was burst, how I lost my crupper, with
many things of worthy memory which now shall
die in oblivion, and thou return unexperienced to
thy grave. - (Grumio, IV, i, 68-80) [pp. 110-111]
d. Types of language - Prose is generally reserved for servants or
other low-born characters. Sly, when he believes that he is himself, speaks
What, would you make me mad? Am not I Chris-
topher Sly, old Sly's son of Burton-heath, by birth
a peddler, by education a cardmaker, by transmu-
tation a bearherd, and now by present profession
a tinker? Ask Marian Hacket, the fat ale-wife of
Wincot, if she know me not. If she say I am not
fourteen pence on the score for sheer ale, score
me up for the lying'st knave in Christendom. - (Ind, ii, 17-24) [p.
But when he thinks he's a gentleman, he speaks in poetry, the language
of the well born:
Am I a lord, and have I such a lady?
Or do I dream? Or have I dreamed till now?
I do not sleep: I see, I hear, I speak,
I smell sweet savors and I feel soft things.
Upon my life, I am a lord indeed
And not a tinker nor Christopher Sly. - (Ind, ii, 67-73) [p. 53]
Most of the time, Shakespeare's dialogue is written in blank verse,
unrhymed iambic pentameter. The rhythm of iambic pentameter (unstressed
syllable, stressed syllable) is considered to be closest to conversational
speech. Occasionally the characters speak in rhymed verse or couplets.
A couplet often ends an act or a scene:
Have to my widow, and if she be froward,
Then hast thou taught Hortensio to be untoward. - (Hortensio, IV,
v, 78-79) [p. 136]
Shakespeare's plays are meant to be performed. The more students visualize
the characters and action, the more they will understand and enjoy the
play. The activities presented below are designed to help students visualize
and become actively involved with the play as they read.
(1) Because the action can be confusing when characters adopt disguises,
suggest students wear hats or masks to represent certain characters as
they read the play aloud. They can change the hat or mask as the character
adopts a disguise, becoming a new character.
(2) Choose some scenes for students to read aloud; assign parts prior
to the reading so students can prepare.* Or, have students assume the
role of a character walking through the action as you summarize the scene.+
(3) Divide students into groups, each of which has responsibility
for presenting the major action of a particular scene or act in story
theatre form. One student should be the narrator while the other students
pantomime the action of the scene or use brief dialogue to convey the
sense of the speeches.*
The following scenes are good for the creative drama activities suggested
a. Ind, ii, 1-143 (Sly, 3 Servingmen, Lord, Page, Messenger) Sly is
convinced he is a lord. [pp. 50-56]
b. I, i, 47-145 (Baptista, Gremio, Kate, Hortensio, Tranio, Lucentio,
Bianca) Baptista declares Bianca off-limits until Kate is married. [pp.
c. II, i, 1-36 (Bianca, Kate, Baptista) Kate and Bianca fight. [pp.
d. II, i, 182-355 (Kate, Petruchio, Baptista, Gremio, Tranio) Petruchio's
first meeting with Kate. [pp. 85-92]
e. III, i, 1-90 (Lucentio, Hortensio, Bianca, Messenger) Lucentio
tells Bianca who he really is. [pp. 94-97]
f. III, ii, 1-252 (Baptista, Kate, Tranio, Biondello, Petruchio, Grumio,
Lucentio, Bianca, Gremio, Hortensio) Kate and Petruchio's wedding. [pp.
g. IV, ii, 72-121 (Biondello, Tranio, Lucentio, Pedant) Tranio brings
the Pedant into the plot. [pp. 119-120]
h. IV, iii, 61-194 (Grumio, Kate, Petruchio, Hortensio, Tailor, Haberdasher)
Petruchio orders new garments for Kate. [pp. 123-128]
i. IV, v, 1-79 (Petruchio, Kate, Hortensio, Vincentio) Kate and Petruchio
meet an old man on the road. [pp. 133-136]
j. V, ii, 1-189 (The entire cast) The wedding feast. [pp. 143-151]
(4) To help keep the characters and actions clear, construct an action
line for each plot line (Kate-Petruchio, Bianca-Lucentio, Christopher
Sly). Allow groups to represent different characters and add to the action
line each day.*
(5) Suggest that students present a "News Update" of events of the
day's assigned reading commenting on issues raised by the events (as in
Nightline which presents a current event and then explores some aspect
of it). For example, students can recount the events of the Induction
and then comment on the ethics of the lord's practical joke on commoner
(6) Have students choose a particular character to study in depth
by doing one or more of the following:
a. Keep a list of words used to describe the character or that the
character uses to describe him/herself. For example, Kate is referred
to as mad, cursed, and suffering from too much choler. Look up these words
in a standard dictionary, one of the special Shakespeare glossaries (such
as C. T. Onions' A Shakespeare Glossary), or use the footnotes in the
b. Imagine that you are going to portray this character in a production
of the play. Keep a written journal of what the character feels, the reasons
for the character's actions, and what his/her goals are in each scene.#
(7) Several issues or themes explored by the play offer possibilities
for small group or class discussion:*
a. Power relationships-Discuss how power is used, abused, or subverted
in each of the following relationships:
4. Nobility-lower class
b. Courtship/dating-Discuss how these issues affect events in the
play and current opinions of each:
1. Male ideas on courtship/dating
2. Female ideas on courtship/dating
3. Boyfriend/girlfriend as a status symbol or possession
4. Parental interference in courtship/dating
5. Romantic love/love at first sight
6. Male/female expectations in relationships
7. Honesty and deception in relationships
c. Sisters-Discuss how Shakespeare draws on realistic conflicts between
sisters in these situations:
2. Resentments of comparison
d. Deception-Discuss the roles deception and disguise play in each
of the following characters' relationships and examine if each is more
deceptive or deceived:
e. Social roles and society's expectations about them-Discuss how
pressure to conform affects the characters.
(8) All of the plot elements are in place by the end of II, i. Divide
the class into small groups and ask each group to predict how the Bianca-Lucentio
and Petruchio-Kate plots will develop and be resolved. Remind students
that they must have a reasonable basis for their predictions. As the students
read the play, have them return to their predictions and adjust them showing
what actually happened and why.*
(9) Ask students to bring one factual and one discussion question
to class based on the assigned reading for that day. Form small groups
and have students answer each other's questions. At the end of the small
group discussions, have the students present their answers to the class.*
(10) At the end of each class, have students briefly write about the
day's reading. Students can use this opportunity to react to events, predict
what might happen next, or ask questions about what they do not understand.
These responses can provide a quick check for student comprehension and
enjoyment of the play and can be used in class discussion.*+
(11) As the scenes are read in class, ask students to determine what
is funny in each scene, why it is funny, and what kinds of humor Shakespeare
used. Provide students with these examples: verbal humor (plays on words,
puns, double entendres); wit (humorous comments, repartee, banter); action
(physical gestures or movement, slapstick); situational (plot developments,
i.e. Sly begins to believe he is a lord); and character (foolish or repeated
Below are some suggested assignments to be completed by individuals or
as small groups.
Activities for Writing and Discussion
(1) Write an essay using notes and ideas collected during the reading
of the play on one or more of the following topics.
a. Develop a character sketch for the character you chose in #6a above.
Use three or four of the words from your list, explain each word, and
give examples of the character's actions to support your interpretation
of the character.*
b. Using the notes made for #6b, describe what you would emphasize
if portraying a character. Use quotations from the play as examples and
explain how the character would deliver them. What actions will the character
use? What is the meaning of the quote?#
c. Explain how the play is an example of comedy. Use the definitions
of comedy discussed in class.*
d. Analyze one of the issues or themes in #7 above.*
(2) Rewrite Kate's final speech in modern language or update her speech.
Deliver the speech to the class.*
(3) Read one of the feminist commentaries following the Signet Classic
edition of The Taming of the Shrew (Germaine Greer's excerpt from
The Female Eunuch or Linda Bamber's essay "Sexism and the Battle of Sexes
in The Taming of the Shrew") and write a response to the author.~
(4) Suppose that Kate and Petruchio each decide to write an advice
column. Write a letter from a modern figure who asks for advice on marriage
or dating, and then write the reply that Kate and Petruchio would give.
(For example, what would Kate and Petruchio tell Roseanne of TV sitcom
(5) Suppose that Lucentio and Bianca, Petruchio and Kate, and Hortensio
and the widow meet again one year after their marriage to celebrate their
anniversaries. What might they say to each other? In small groups, write
an anniversary banquet scene.* (Or improvise this second banquet scene.)+
(6) Petruchio says that he is "rough and woo[s] not like a babe" (II,
i, 137) [p. 83]. How violent is he? We have a different understanding
of domestic violence now. Would he be considered abusive today? Imagine
that Kate has him arrested. Write a newspaper report of the arrest and
the charges.* Or as a TV newsperson, report the events including interviews
with Kate, Petruchio, the servants, etc.+
(7) Kate and Bianca do not particularly get along. Imagine that you
are a family counselor who has interviewed both women. Write a summary
of Kate's complaints about Bianca and also a summary of Bianca's complaints
about Kate. Suggest changes to each woman to help them improve their relationship.*
Or play out a counselling session bringing Kate and Bianca together with
other family members.+
(8) Write a last scene for the play explaining what happens to Sly,*
or, as Sly, tell a newspaper reporter what happened.+
(1) Improvise scenes from the play or related to the play.* (See "While
Reading the Play" #2 for suggested scenes.)
(2) With a small group, rehearse and formally present one of the scenes
using some costumes or properties. Lines may be read or memorized.* (Note
to teachers: The banquet scene is good to present under your direction;
it can involve the entire class in performance and/or in technical jobs
such as finding props, costumes, music, food, or video taping the performance.)
(3) The Fifteen Minute Shrew. With a small group, select lines from
each act emphasizing important actions, plot elements, and characters.
Condense the action and speeches to include the most important points.
Prepare the script and rehearse it to present to the class.#
(4) Memorize one of the monologues and perform it for the entire class.#
Some suggested monologues are listed below:
a. Lord-Ind, i, 44-68 [p. 47]
b. Sly-Ind, ii, 5-12, 17-25 [p. 51]
c. Lucentio-I, i, 148-158 [p. 62]
d. Petruchio-II, i, 168-181 [p. 84]
e. Kate-III, ii, 8-20 [p. 98]
f. Biondello-III, ii, 43-63 [pp. 99-100]
g. Gremio-III, ii, 158-165, 167-183 [pp. 104-105]
h. Petruchio-III, ii, 222-239 [pp. 106-107]
i. Grumio-IV, i, 68-80,82-90 [pp. 110-111]
j. Petruchio-IV, i, 182-205 [pp. 115-116]
k. Kate-V, ii, 136-179 [pp. 150-151]
(5) View one of the films of The Taming of the Shrew and discuss
the changes and interpretation of the director. How do the costumes, scenery,
and appearance of the actors affect your response to and understanding
of the play?~
(1) Using pictures from magazines or newspapers, construct a collage
representing one of the characters. Explain how each of the pictures relates
to the character.*
(2) Prepare a collage to illustrate Kate's final speech; be sure each
picture refers to a line or idea in the speech.*
(3) Plan a modern dress production of The Taming of the Shrew.
Using magazines and catalogs, find pictures of the clothing of each of
the character. Prepare a portfolio containing pictures for each character
and explain how the costume reflects the character. If a character undergoes
a change, a second costume should reflect that change.#
(4) Draw two pictures for any or all of these characters: Petruchio,
Kate, Bianca, Lucentio. One picture should represent the public image
the character presents and the other the private self.*
(5) Present a debate on this topic: "Americans should return to the
custom of arranged marriages."* Or debate this question as characters
in the play.*
(6) Create a video version of scenes from the play.*
(7) Working in small groups, create a game based on The Taming
of the Shrew. The game can be created entirely by the group or based
on existing games; for example, a board game (i.e.: Trivial Pursuit),
a card game (i.e.: Old Maid), a TV game show (i.e.: Jeopardy, Family Feud,
or The Dating Game.) Group members are expected to teach their game to
(8) In small groups, prepare a narrative version of the play using
popular music to represent events and/or characters.+
(9) Create a musical version of the play writing your own words and
music or finding popular songs and writing your lyrics to fit events in
(10) In the manner of Saturday Night Live, create a parody of The
Taming of the Shrew.
Studying the classics offers the opportunity to extend learning to literature
and other content areas. Below are suggested activities to be used before,
during, or after reading the play.
Research on the Elizabethan Period
(1) In Petruchio's speech IV, i, 184-191 [p. 115], he compares his
method of taming Kate to that of taming a falcon. Female hawks were the
ones taught to hunt. Explore the sport of falconry. How appropriate is
the comparison?# If Petruchio lived in modern times, what sports comparison
might he make when planning his taming? Rewrite the speech using this
(2) Queen Elizabeth I ruled England when The Taming of the Shrew
was first presented. Her life shows the limits of a woman's role during
that time as well as the unusual freedom her position gave her. Research
her life with particular focus on the many political marriages that were
proposed for her.#
(3) Gremio is called a pantaloon, a character found in Commedia dell'arte.
Some readers and directors have found the Commedia dell'arte style reflected
in The Taming of the Shrew and have designed productions emphasizing
it. Research Commedia to discover how it relates to this play.~
(4) By the end of the play, three couples have married for various
reasons. Courtship and marriage are the social structures around which
the play is built.
a. Research Elizabethan practices in marriage and courtship to see
how typical the three couples are.*
b. What was the understanding of the duties and role of a husband
and wife in Elizabethan England? Do Petruchio and Kate fit this ideal?
Do Lucentio and Bianca? How would the characters fare in today's society?*
(5) Research the Globe Theatre and how plays were produced in the
Elizabethan period.* Decide how The Taming of the Shrew was probably
produced when it first appeared.#
(6) Research Shakespeare's life with a particular focus on his own
marriage and his relationship to his daughters.#
(7) Research the sources Shakespeare used for The Taming of the
Shrew. What alterations did he make? Share your findings with the
(8) Music played a prominent part in the production of Shakespeare's
plays. Research the music of the period and find selections that might
have been or could have been used in The Taming of the Shrew.*
Reading Other Literature
(1) The Taming of the Shrew presents a play-within-a-play.
Other Shakespearean plays that present a play-within-a-play are Hamlet
and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Read one of them and compare its dramatic
structure to The Taming of the Shrew.~
(2) Disguise and deception are parts of many Shakespearean comedies.
Read As You Like It or Twelfth Night and compare its use of disguise and
deception to The Taming of the Shrew.~ Find examples of movies
which use disguise and deception as part of the plot and compare them
to The Taming of the Shrew (i.e.: Some Like it Hot, Mrs. Doubtfire,
Overboard, True Lies.)+
(3) Analyze Kate and Bianca's relationship as sisters and compare
it to sisters in other works such as Chekhov's Three Sisters, Beth Henley's
Crimes of the Heart, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, or Louisa May
Alcott's Little Women.* Compare Kate and Bianca's relationship to sisters
in movies or TV situation comedies or dramas.+
Relating the Play to Other Subjects
(1) Arranged marriages and the importance of a dowry are characteristic
of many societies. Research marriage customs in other times or in other
societies for comparison.*
(2) Retell The Taming of the Shrew as if it took place in contemporary
America. Make sure that your modern version reflects today's customs for
courtship and marriage.+
(3) What advice do women receive nowadays on "how to get a man"? Survey
some current magazines offering advice on this topic. How might this advice
relate to Kate or Bianca?*
(4) Despite the fact that the play is called The Taming of the
Shrew, most of the action is presented from Petruchio's and Lucentio's
points of view. Retell the events as Bianca or Kate might have seen them.*
a. See a videotape of the musical Kiss Me Kate. What parts of Shakespeare's
play are used? What is left out? What seems to be the message or purpose
of the musical?#
b. Listen to the recording of Kiss Me Kate. What scenes or lines of
The Taming of the Shrew are the inspirations for the songs? Are
any of Shakespeare's actual lines used in the lyrics? What other Shakespeare
plays are referred to in the lyrics? Choose one of the songs to play for
the rest of the class and explain how it fits into the story of The
Taming of the Shrew.~
(6) The battle of the sexes has a long history as a theme in comedy.
a. Read other literature with this theme, such as Aristophanes' Lysistrata,
Chaucer's "Wife of Bath's Tale," Congreve's The Way of the World, and
Shaw's Man and Superman. Who wins and who loses?~
b. Bantering couples are a staple of some Hollywood films of the 1930s
and 1940s. View one of these and compare it to the Kate and Petruchio
story (i.e.: It Happened One Night, His Girl Friday, The Thin Man, The
Philadelphia Story, the numerous films starring Spencer Tracy and Katherine
Hepburn, and just about anything with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara).*
c. Find examples of bantering couples from modern movies or TV situation
d. Find examples of stories, such as The African Queen, where the
woman tames the man.*
(7) Suppose Petruchio and Kate or Bianca and Lucentio were to visit
a modern TV talk show. What might happen? Plan and portray their appearance.+
The Signet Classic edition of The Taming of the Shrew has several
excellent annotated bibliographies related to Shakespeare, his times,
his theatre and the play. Therefore, no additional references on these
topics will be included here.
Davis, Ken. Rehearsing the Audience: Ways to Develop Student Perceptions
of Theatre. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 1988.
Edens, Walter et al. Teaching Shakespeare. Princeton, NJ: Princeton
Epstein, Norrie. The Friendly Shakespeare: A Thoroughly Painless Guide
to the Best of the Bard. NY: Viking, Penguin, 1993.
McMurtry, Jo. Understanding Shakespeare's England: A Companion for
the American Reader. Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1989.
Robinson, Randal. Unlocking Shakespeare's Language: Help for the Teacher
and Student. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 1988.
Southeastern Ohio Council of Teachers of English. "Teaching Shakespeare,
II". Focus, Fall 1985.
Spolin, Viola. Improvisation for the Theatre: A Handbook of Directing
Techniques. Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 1963.
Themes and Ideas in the Play
Barranger, Milly S. Theatre Past and Present: An Introduction. Belmont,
CA: Wadsworth, 1984.
Brockett, Oscar. History of the Theatre. 5th ed. Boston: Allyn &
Cheney, Sheldon. The Theatre: Three Thousand Years of Drama, Acting
and Stagecraft. NY: Tudor, 1929.
Duchartre, Pierre Louis. The Italian Comedy. Trans. Randolph T. Weaver.
1929. New York, NY: Dover, 1966.
Lea, K.M. Italian Popular Comedy. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1934. 2
Rolfe, Bari. Commedia dell'arte: A Scene Study Book. Oakland, CA:
Persona Books, 1977.
Berry, Edward. Shakespeare's Comic Rites. Cambridge: Cambridge UP,
Chartier, Roger, ed. Passions of the Renaissance: A History of Private
Life. Vol 3. Eds. Philippe Aries and Georges Duby. Cambridge, MA: Belknap
Press of Harvard UP, 1987.
Cook, Ann Jennalie. Making a Match: Courtship in Shakespeare and His
Society. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1991.
The Role of Women in Elizabethan England
Hogrefe, Pearl. Tudor Women: Commoners and Queens. Ames, Iowa: Iowa
State UP, 1975.
______. Women of Action in Tudor England. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State UP,
Jardine, Lisa. Still Harping on Daughters: Women and Drama in the
Age of Shakespeare. Totowa, NJ: Barnes and Noble, 1983.
Prior, Mary, ed. Women in English Society: 1500-1800. New York: Methuen,
Rose, Mary Beth. Women in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: Literary
and Historical Perspectives. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 1986.
Interpretations of Kate
Boose, Lynda, E. "Scolding Brides and Bridling Scolds: Taming the
Woman's Unruly Member." Shakespeare Quarterly 42 (Summer 1991): 179-213.
Deer, Harriet A. "Untyping Stereotypes: The Taming of the Shrew."
The Aching Hearth: Family Violence in Life and Literature. Ed. Sarah Munson
Deats and Lagretta Tallent Lenker. NY: Plenum, 1991. 63-78.
Holderness, Graham. Shakespeare in Performance: The Taming of the
Shrew. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1989.
Rutter, Carol. Clamorous Voices: Shakespeare's Women Today. London:
The Women's Press, 1988.
Brunvand, Jan Harold. The Taming of the Shrew: A Comparative
Study of Oral and Literary Versions. NY: Garland, 1991.
Other Literature Dealing with Themes in The Taming of the Shrew
Arranged Marriages in Other Times or Other Cultures
Buck, Pearl S. The Good Earth. Pocket, 1994. *
Emecheta, Buchi. The Bride Price. New York: George Braziller, 1976.
Lampman, Evelyn Sibley. Bargain Bride. An Aladdin Book. Atheneum,
Staples, Suzanne Fisher. Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind. NY: Alfred
A. Knopf, 1989. *
Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. NY: Ivy Books; Ballantine, 1989. (see
also The Kitchen God's Wife.)*
Turner, Ann. Third Girl from the Left. Macmillan, 1986. *
Relationships between Sisters
Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women. Signet Classic, 1983. *
Atkins, Dale V. Sisters. NY: Arbor House, 1984. *
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Signet Classic, 1961. *
Faber, Doris. Love and Rivalry. Viking, 1983. *
Fishel, Elizabeth. Sisters: Love and Rivalry Inside the Family and
Beyond. NY: Morrow, 1979. *
Paterson, Katherine. Jacob Have I Loved. NY: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1980.*
Tharp, Louise Hall. The Peabody Sisters of Salem. 1950. NY: Book of
the Month Club, 1977. ~
Voigt, Cynthia.D Dicey's Song. NY: Atheneum, 1982. +
______. Homecoming. NY: Atheneum, 1981. +
Queen Elizabeth I
Stolz, Mary. Bartholomew Fair. NY: Beech Tree Books, 1990.+
Luke, Mary M. A Crown for Elizabeth. NY: Coward-McCann, 1970.*
______. Gloriana: The Years of Elizabeth I. NY: Coward, McCannz, and
Geoghegan, 1973. *
Dating, Peer Pressure
Blume, Judy. Forever. NY: Bradbury, 1975. +
Bridgers, Sue Ellen. Keeping Christina. NY: Harper & Row, 1993.
Cormier, Robert. The Chocolate War. NY: Pantheon, 1974. *
Hamilton, Virginia. A White Romance. NY: Philomel, 1987. *
Mazer, Harry. The Girl of his Dreams. NY: Crowell, 1987. +
Mazer, Norma Fox. Up in Seth's Room. NY: Delacorte, 1979. +
Oneal, Zibby. In Summer Light. NY: Viking, 1985. *
Video and Audio Resources
The Taming of the Shrew. 2 cassettes. Caedmon, 1990.
The Taming of the Shrew. 1929, 66 min. Directed by Sam Taylor. Starring
Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks
The Taming of the Shrew. 1967, 126 min. Directed by Franco Zeffirelli.
Starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
Kiss Me Kate. 1953, 109 min. Directed by George Sidney. Starring Kathryn
Grayson and Howard Keel.
PENGUIN USA's Signet Classic Shakespeare series never grows old. We offer
the best of everything-unforgettable works edited by eminent Shakespeare
scholars, comprehensive notes on the text, an essay on Shakespeare's life
and times, source material, critical commentaries, extensive bibliographies,
and footnotes. And there's more-
THE SIGNET CLASSIC SHAKESPEARE SERIES is the ONLY paperback series
•To grow with the times by including both historical and thoroughly
contemporary critical commentary on such issues as feminist, political,
and theatrical interpretations of the plays-with recent full-length essays
by such respected scholars as Frank Kermode, Carolyn Heilbrun, Michael
Goldman, Linda Bamber, and many others.
•To provide more bibliographic listings and more up-to-date
and relevant listings of pertinent books and articles in the Suggested
Reference Section than the competition offers.
•To feature essays on the Performance or Stage History of each
play, written by Sylvan Barnet.
HENRY IV, PART I Edited by Maynard Mack
HENRY IV, PART II Edited by Norman Holland
HENRY V Edited by John Russell Brown
HENRY VI, PARTS I, II, & III Edited by Lawrence V. Ryan, Arthur
Freeman, and Milton Crane respectively
KING JOHN and HENRY VIII Edited by William Matchett and Samuel Schoenbaum
RICHARD II Edited by Kenneth Muir
RICHARD III Edited by Mark Eccles
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA Edited by Barbara Everett
CORIOLANUS Edited by Reuben Brower
FOUR GREAT TRAGEDIES (Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, Othello)
HAMLET Edited by Edward Hubler
JULIUS CAESAR Edited by William and Barbara Rosen
KING LEAR Edited by Russell Fraser
MACBETH Edited by Sylvan Barnet
THE MERCHANT OF VENICE Edited by Kenneth O. Myrick
OTHELLO Edited by Alvin Kernan
ROMEO AND JULIET Edited by Joseph Bryant
TITUS ANDRONICUS and TIMON OF ATHENS Edited by Sylvan Barnet and Maurice
TROILUS AND CRESSIDA Edited by Daniel Seltzer
ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL Edited by Sylvan Barnet
AS YOU LIKE IT Edited by Albert Gilman
THE COMEDY OF ERRORS Edited by Harry Levin
FOUR GREAT COMEDIES (The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night's
Dream, Twelfth Night, The Tempest)
LOVE'S LABOR'S LOST Edited by John Arthos
LOVE'S LABOR'S LOST, TWO GENTLEMAN OF VERONA, and THE MERRY WIVES
Edited by John Arthos, Bertrand Evans, and William Green respectively
MEASURE FOR MEASURE Edited by S. Nagarajan
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM Edited by Wolfgang Clemen
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING Edited by David Stevenson
PERICLES, CYMBELINE, and THE TWO NOBLE KINSMEN
Edited by Ernest Schanzer, Richard Hosley, and Clifford Leach respectively
THE TAMING OF THE SHREW Edited by Robert Heilman
THE TEMPEST Edited by Robert Langbaum
TWELFTH NIGHT Edited by Herschel Clay Baker
THE WINTER'S TALE Edited by Frank Kermode
POETRY AND TITLES OF RELATED INTEREST
THE SONNETS Edited by William Burto
THE SONNETS AND NARRATIVE POEMS The Complete Non-Dramatic Poetry Edited
by William Burto and William Empson
STORIES FROM SHAKESPEARE Marchette Chute (Meridian)
TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE Charles Lamb and Mary Lamb
A DICTIONARY OF QUOTATIONS FROM SHAKESPEARE
Edited by Margaret Miner and Hugh Rawson (Signet)
SHAKESPEARE His Life, His Language, His Theater S. Schoenbaum
TEACHER'S GUIDES FOR THE SIGNET CLASSIC SHAKESPEARE
HAMLET Patti McWhorter
JULIUS CAESAR James R. Cope
MACBETH Linda N. Underwood
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM Hazel Davis
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING Jeanne M. McGlinn, Ph.D. and James E. McGlinn,
ROMEO AND JULIET Arthea J. S. Reed, Ph.D.
TAMING OF THE SHREW Carol J. Luttner and Lauren McCammon
TEACHING IDEAS TO USE WITH THE SIGNET CLASSIC SHAKESPEARE SERIES Arthea
J.S. Reed, Ph.D.
About the Guide Author
Currently Associate Professor of English at Pellissippi State Technical
Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee, Carol J. Luther has taught
first and second year composition and literature at the college level
for more than fifteen years. She received degrees in English from Emory
and Henry College (B.A.), Vanderbilt University (M.A.), and Emory University
(Ph.D.). In June of 1993 she was part of a delegation sponsored by the
NCTE and People to People that visited schools in New Zealand and Australia
to observe English teaching and meet with English teachers at levels from
elementary school through college. Before teaching at Pellissippi, she
taught at Hiwassee College, where she was also co-director of drama. Her
appreciation of Shakespeare has been enhanced by working as an actress
or co-director in Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet,
Love's Labor's Lost, and Much Ado about Nothing. She has also worked professionally
as an actress in outdoor drama and has been active in community theatre
in acting and costuming.
For fifteen years Laura A. McCammon taught speech and drama and English
for the Blount County Schools in Maryville, Tennessee. She has directed
numerous plays (including The Taming of the Shrew) and musicals
and coached winners of national, state, and regional awards in forensic
and drama competitions. The Tennessee High School Speech and Drama League
named her Outstanding Speech and Drama Educator in 1988. Several of her
former students are now working in theatre, broadcasting, theatre and
communication education, and related fields. She has worked both in professional
and community theatre as a director and an actress. She received her B.A.
and Ed.D. in Secondary Education from Arizona State University and her
M.A. in Speech and Theatre from the University of Tennessee. She has twice
won the American Alliance for Theatre and Education research award. Currently
she is Assistant Professor of Secondary Education at East Tennessee State
University in Johnson City, Tennessee.
Holderness, Graham. Shakespeare in Performance: \par The Taming of
the Shrew. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1989. \par
Rutter, Carol. Clamorous Voices: Shakespeare's Women Today. \par London:
The Women's Pres