The Taming of the Shrew

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Christopher Sly Character Analysis

Christopher Sly is a drunken beggar, who begins the play by being thrown out of a tavern. A noble lord passing by decides to play a joke on him and dresses him up in noble clothes. Sly awakes in a lavish room, and the lord and his attendants pretend that Sly is a nobleman who has recently been mad and had forgotten his real identity. Sly accepts his new identity and enjoys a play put on by a group of traveling players, which turns out to be the real play of The Taming of the Shrew.

Christopher Sly Quotes in The Taming of the Shrew

The The Taming of the Shrew quotes below are all either spoken by Christopher Sly or refer to Christopher Sly. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of The Taming of the Shrew published in 2004.
Induction, Scene 1 Quotes

What think you, if he were conveyed to bed,
Wrapped in sweet clothes, rings put upon his fingers,
A most delicious banquet by his bed,
And brave attendants near him when he wakes,
Would not the beggar then forget himself?

Related Characters: A Lord (speaker), Christopher Sly
Related Symbols: Clothing
Page Number: Ind.1.38-43
Explanation and Analysis:

The Taming of the Shrew begins with a strange "Induction," in which a drunken Christopher Sly, a beggar, refuses to pay what he owes, gets kicked out of a bar, and passes out. A Lord enters after finishing a hunt and notices Sly, unsure if he is "dead, or drunk." Finding the drunkard to be breathing, the Lord begins making fun of Sly and devises a prank to humiliate him.

The prank turns out to be more of a social experiment. In the quote, the Lord wonders what would happen if the sleeping Sly were brought to a nice bed, dressed in "sweet clothes" (which symbolize social status), brought delicious food, and given servants to tend on him when he woke up. What would happen, the Lord wonders, if Sly suddenly woke up and found himself in the position of a nobleman? "Would not the beggar then forget himself" and think that he truly was a wealthy nobleman? The Lord orders his men to orchestrate this elaborate plot, directing them like a troupe of actors. He asks them to do as he has described and refer to Sly as "your Honor" and "your Lordship" when he wakes. He also arranges for his page Bartholomew to crossdress (a common occurrence on the Elizabethan Stage, as all parts, male and female, were played by men) and pretend to be Sly's fictitious wife.

Just as the Lord is setting up his plan, a troupe of players (actors) enter. He asks them if they will put on a play for a Lord so that they will perform for Sly during the ruse. Their performance will be the actual play, the Taming of the Shrew. Thus Shakespeare stages scenes filled with theatricality, acting, performance, and changing identities to introduce a play within a play which is also filled with theatricality, performance, and changing identity.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Taming of the Shrew quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Induction, Scene 2 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Christopher Sly (speaker), Bartholomew the Page
Page Number: Ind.2.68-73
Explanation and Analysis:

The Lord's preparations have been made and Sly has woken up; he is extremely confused. To complete the inversion of the social hierarchy, the Lord is dressed up as a servant, and addresses Sly as a lord. When Sly denies his new identity, the Lord tells the confused Sly to stop acting crazy and to remember his noble birth, cataloging the privileges that the new position offers and mentioning Sly's 'beautiful wife.' Here Sly begins to question his identity and reality, wondering, as the Lord predicted, if he really is a lord. 

"Do I dream?" Sly asks, "or have I dreamed till now?" This line describes the profound uncertainty that comes with being unsure if you are dreaming, or have woken up into your real life from a long, convincing dream. Sly concludes he is not asleep, reporting "I see, I hear, I speak, / I smell sweet savors, and I feel soft things." Trusting his sensory experiences, he determines that he is indeed a lord, not Christopher Sly. He forgets himself. The Lord's ruse is successful, and 'lord' Sly, alongside his crossdressed wife, ultimately sits down to watch the rest of the play.

Note that this experience is a favorite of Shakespeare's: characters often enter identity crises, lose themselves, awake from and live strange dreams, or find themselves suddenly somewhere and someone else. Sly's acceptance of his new role can be seen as a statement on the fluidity of identity; social roles, gender, and self are all performance and subject to change.

Get the entire The Taming of the Shrew LitChart as a printable PDF.
The taming of the shrew.pdf.medium

Christopher Sly Character Timeline in The Taming of the Shrew

The timeline below shows where the character Christopher Sly appears in The Taming of the Shrew. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Induction, Scene 1
Social Hierarchy Theme Icon
The play opens with a beggar named Christopher Sly getting thrown out of a bar by a hostess. Sly refuses to pay for some... (full context)
Social Hierarchy Theme Icon
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
...enters, having just finished a hunting trip, along with several hunstmen. He notices the sleeping Sly and decides to play a prank on him. He wonders if the beggar would "forget... (full context)
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
...traveling players (that is, actors) arrive. The Lord asks them to perform for a lord (Sly). He then orders a servant to tell his page Bartholomew to dress like a woman... (full context)
Induction, Scene 2
Social Hierarchy Theme Icon
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
Christopher Sly awakes and is confused when servants address him as a lord, offering him fancy food... (full context)
Social Hierarchy Theme Icon
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
The Lord tells Sly, "O noble lord, bethink thee of thy birth," (Induction 2.30) and catalogues all the luxuries... (full context)
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
Sly begins to question his own identity and finally agrees that he is indeed a wealthy... (full context)
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
...group of players the Lord earlier hired is ready to perform. The messenger says that Sly's doctor thinks it will be good for him to see a play. Sly asks the... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 1
Social Hierarchy Theme Icon
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Christopher Sly is watching the play (just like Shakespeare's audience). One of his servants nudges him and... (full context)