The Taming of the Shrew

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Hortensio Character Analysis

Hortensio is another suitor of Bianca. He disguises himself as the music teacher Litio in order to get closer to her. When he sees Bianca kissing her other teacher Cambio (Lucentio in disguise), he gives up on Bianca and marries a wealthy widow, instead. This quick spousal change suggests that he is more interested in money than love in marriage. Hortensio also accompanies Katherine and Petruchio on their journey to Padua, and remarks upon Petruchio's successful taming of Katherine, seeing Petruchio as an exemplary husband worth imitating. At the end of the play, though, he lacks the control Petruchio has over his wife, as illustrated when the widow refuses to come after he calls for her.

Hortensio Quotes in The Taming of the Shrew

The The Taming of the Shrew quotes below are all either spoken by Hortensio or refer to Hortensio. 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.
Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

I can, Petruchio, help thee to a wife
With wealth enough, and young and beauteous,
Brought up as best becomes a gentlewoman.
Her only fault, and that is faults enough,
Is that she is intolerable curst,
And shrewd and forward, so beyond all measure
That, were my state far worser than it is,
I would not wed her for a mine of gold.

Related Characters: Hortensio (speaker), Katherine, Petruchio
Page Number: 1.2.86-93
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Hortensio tells Petruchio that there is a potential wife for him, "With wealth enough, and young and beauteous." She is attractive and will cary a large dowry, and she is of an acceptable social status. But there is a problem with her: "she is intolerable curst"; she is a shrew. Hortensio says that even if he were poor, he would not wed Katherine "for a mine of gold." Kate's shrewishness and unwomanliness make her an unacceptable choice for Hortensio and other male suitors, but all that Petruchio cares about is wealth. What's more, he seems eager to take on the challenge of interacting with, marrying, and ultimately taming Katherine. 

Here we see the characterization of Kate as a shrew continue to develop. It's important to recognize what the characteristics of a "shrew" were: speaking out of turn, forwardness, self-confidence, and basically any behavior by a woman that involved her not obeying the men in her life (father or husband). In other words, the idea of a "shrew" would certainly be seen today as profoundly sexist. Yet in the world of the play, it is taken as a simple matter of course that Katherine must be changed and brought under control.

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Act 5, Scene 2 Quotes

Let's each one send unto his wife,
And he whose wife is most obedient
To come at first when he doth send for her
Shall win the wager which we will propose.

Related Characters: Petruchio (speaker), Katherine, Bianca, Petruchio, Hortensio, Widow
Page Number: 5.2.68-71
Explanation and Analysis:

This is in the final scene of the play; the marriages are done, the plot has been mostly resolved. All that remains is this bet, and the test of "whose wife is most obedient." Petruchio suggests that each man send for his wife, and that the man whose wife comes first when sent for wins the bet. This demeaning experiment is meant to demonstrate Petruchio's mastery, and remind the other males in the play that Petruchio is the head of the taming school. More broadly, the bet, with its emphasis on wifely obedience, implies that all women are "shrews" who must be trained, that any woman who does not show total obedience to her husband is a shrew.

The wager also sets up Katherine's controversial final speech

Now, go thy ways, thou hast tamed a curst shrew.

Related Characters: Hortensio (speaker), Katherine, Petruchio
Page Number: 5.2.205
Explanation and Analysis:

The wager is over, the speech is done; everyone is awed at Katherine's transformation, and the field seems to be won. After Petruchio leaves with his wife, Hortensio says that his friend has "tamed a curst shrew." While our interpretation is debatable, it is clear that the characters within the play believed the final speech to be in earnest. Katherine has become Kate, an obedient woman without any concrete beliefs or identity other than those of her husband.

Note also that Christopher Sly and the outer play are here forgotten. The play within the play ends, and with it the entire play ends. Whether forgotten by the playwright or simply considered superfluous at this point, audiences and readers are left to consider Katherine's harrowing final speech. And, in fact, there are many very different interpretations of the play. Some critics argue that it is, simply, horribly misogynistic. Others argue that the "cruelty" of the play is in fact a kind of play, a back and forth both characters, having met their match, enjoy. Still others argue that the misogyny represented in the play is supposed to make an audience reflect on the misogyny in their society; that the play is forcing an audience to see and be horrified by society's expectations for women.   

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Hortensio Character Timeline in The Taming of the Shrew

The timeline below shows where the character Hortensio appears in The Taming of the Shrew. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Marriage Theme Icon
Baptista enters with his two daughters, Katherine and Bianca. Two men, Gremio and Hortensio, enter as well, seeking to woo Bianca. Baptista reminds them that he has decided not... (full context)
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Marriage Theme Icon
...go inside, and she is polite and deferential, in contrast to Katherine's rudeness. Gremio and Hortensio protest Baptista's condition for the marriage of Bianca, but he says that his mind is... (full context)
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
...schoolmasters in his house, to instruct Bianca in music and poetry. He asks Gremio and Hortensio if they know of any teachers, then exits, telling Katherine to stay. Katherine is offended... (full context)
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Marriage Theme Icon
Gremio insults Katherine, then says that he would gladly find a teacher for Bianca. Hortensio agrees, but also tells Gremio that they should cooperate in finding Katherine a husband, since... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
Social Hierarchy Theme Icon
Petruchio arrives in Padua with his servant Grumio, to see his friend Hortensio. Petruchio tells Grumio, "knock me here" (i.2.8) at Hortensio's gate, meaning knock on the door... (full context)
Marriage Theme Icon
Hortensio tells Petruchio to end his quarrel with Grumio and asks what has brought Petruchio to... (full context)
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
Hortensio tells Petruchio that he must accompany him to Baptista's house, since he is in love... (full context)
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Marriage Theme Icon
Hortensio greets Gremio, who tells him that he is on the way to Baptista's house, to... (full context)
Marriage Theme Icon
...Lucentio, with his servant Biondello. Tranio asks the group how to get to Baptista's house. Hortensio asks if he is a suitor of one of Baptista's daughters. Gremio and Hortensio each... (full context)
Marriage Theme Icon
...until her older sister, whom he wants as his wife, is married. Tranio agrees with Hortensio that Petruchio's pursuit of Katherine is in all their best interest. Tranio encourages all the... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
Gremio enters with Lucentio (disguised as Cambio). Petruchio enters with Hortensio (disguised as a tutor named Litio). Tranio (disguised as Lucentio) enters with Biondello. Petruchio introduces... (full context)
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Marriage Theme Icon
Hortensio enters (still disguised as the music-teacher Litio), pale and with an injury on his head.... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Education Theme Icon
Within Baptista's household, Lucentio (disguised as Cambio) and Hortensio (disguised as Litio) instruct Bianca. The two squabble for Bianca's attention, Hortensio wanting to teach... (full context)
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
...his true identity to Bianca and tells her that he is in love with her. Hortensio says his instrument is ready, but Bianca pretends it sounds out of tune so that... (full context)
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy Theme Icon
Marriage Theme Icon
Bianca declares that she is ready for her music lesson now, and Hortensio sends Lucentio away. Under the pretense of teaching Bianca musical scales, he encourages Bianca, "take... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Marriage Theme Icon
Petruchio enters, along with Katherine. Bianca, Baptista, Hortensio, and Grumio. Petruchio announces that he will leave now, skipping the traditional wedding feast that... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
Social Hierarchy Theme Icon
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Marriage Theme Icon
Back in Padua, Hortensio (disguised as Litio) leads the person he thinks is Lucentio (in reality Tranio) to spy... (full context)
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Tranio goes forward to Bianca and Lucentio and tells them the news about Hortensio. He also tells them that Petruchio is a master at taming shrews. Biondello arrives and... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 3
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy Theme Icon
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
Petruchio and Hortensio enter. Petruchio has brought a large portion of meat with him, and demands that Katherine... (full context)
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
Marriage Theme Icon
...deny that the gown is as they ordered. Petruchio sends the tailor away, but has Hortensio go and tell the tailor that he will be paid tomorrow. (full context)
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
Marriage Theme Icon
...o'clock. Petruchio tells her, "It shall be what o'clock I say it is," (iv.3.202) and Hortensio marvels at how he orders her around. (full context)
Act 4, Scene 5
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Marriage Theme Icon
Petruchio, Katherine, Hortensio, and some of Petruchio's servants are making the journey from Petruchio's house to Padua. Though... (full context)
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
Marriage Theme Icon
...the sun and Katherine is wrong. Katherine agrees with him that the sun is shining. Hortensio comments that Petruchio has tamed Katherine and that "the field is won," (iv.5.26). (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Marriage Theme Icon
...is playing a joke on him. They all continue their journey to Padua together, with Hortensio commenting on how remarkably Petruchio tamed Katherine. (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
Marriage Theme Icon
...are all present. The servants Tranio, Grumio, and Biondello are there as well, as are Hortensio and the widow he has married. Lucentio welcomes everyone to the banquet, calls Petruchio and... (full context)
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Marriage Theme Icon
In response to all this teasing, Petruchio proposes a bet. He, Lucentio, and Hortensio will call their wives, and the husband whose wife comes first will win a wager... (full context)
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
Marriage Theme Icon
...her to kiss him, which she does. As they leave together to go to bed, Hortensio and Lucentio marvel at Petruchio's ability to tame Katherine. (full context)