The Taming of the Shrew

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The Taming of the Shrew Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of William Shakespeare
Shakespeare's father was a glove-maker, and Shakespeare received no more than a grammar school education. He married Anne Hathaway in 1582, but left his family behind around 1590 and moved to London, where he became an actor and playwright. He was an immediate success: Shakespeare soon became the most popular playwright of the day as well as a part-owner of the Globe Theater. His theater troupe was adopted by King James as the King's Men in 1603. Shakespeare retired as a rich and prominent man to Stratford-upon-Avon in 1613, and died three years later.
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Historical Context of The Taming of the Shrew
The play is set in an unspecified time in Renaissance Italy, which forms the cultural backdrop for Lucentio as a young scholar and the assortment of wealthy, noble families in separate Italian cities of which Baptista and Vincentio's families are examples.
Other Books Related to The Taming of the Shrew
The Taming of the Shrew has basic similarities to other Shakespearean comedies and can be seen as following in the tradition of ancient Roman comedy, especially those of the playwright Plautus, whose plays are filled with clever slaves tricking their masters and star-struck young lovers whose plans for marriage are delayed and obviated but ultimately fulfilled.
Key Facts about The Taming of the Shrew
  • Full Title: The Taming of the Shrew
  • When Written: Early 1590s
  • Where Written: England
  • When Published: 1623
  • Literary Period: English Renaissance (also called the early modern era)
  • Genre: Elizabethan Comedy
  • Setting: The main action occurs in Padua, Italy and Petruchio's country home. (Though the main action is actually a play-within-a-play, and the frame of the play regarding Christopher Sly occurs at the home of an anonymous English lord.)
  • Climax: There are multiple climaxes for the various plot-threads of the play. For Petruchio and Katherine, the climax comes when they are journeying to Padua and Petruchio makes her say that the sun is the moon, showing that he has achieved complete mastery over Katherine's wild nature. For the rest of the characters, it is in act five, scene one, when Lucentio's real father Vincentio confronts the merchant who was disguised as Vincentio at Lucentio's house in Padua. Lucentio is forced to reveal his true identity (and the identity of Tranio) to Baptista. All of the characters' various disguises are put aside, and Baptista and Vincentio approve of the marriage between the real Lucentio and Bianca.
  • Antagonist: For Lucentio, the antagonists are all those who stand between him and Bianca: Hortensio, Gremio, and Baptista. Petruchio and Katherine may be said to be each other's antagonist, as Petruchio tries to tame her and she struggles against his abusive dominance.
Extra Credit for The Taming of the Shrew

Adapting the Shrew. The Taming of the Shrew has been prone to adaptations since the 17th century. In the early 1600s, John Fletcher wrote a sequel called The Tamer Tamed in which Petruchio is himself tamed by a new wife. In 1948, Cole Porter adapted Shakespeare's play into a musical comedy called Kiss Me, Kate. And in more recent years, the 1999 movie 10 Things I Hate About You moved Shakespeare's romantic comedy from Renaissance Italy to Padua High School, where characters scheme to take the sisters Kat and Bianca to the prom.