Frame Story

The Taming of the Shrew


William Shakespeare

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The Taming of the Shrew: Frame Story 1 key example

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Frame Story
Explanation and Analysis—Christopher Sly:

The Taming of the Shrew contains two narratives: the first is the frame story, and the second is the primary narrative, which follows the parallel courtship of Katherine and Bianca. The frame story follows Christopher Sly, an intoxicated beggar found unconscious in a ditch by an unnamed English lord. The lord takes the beggar to his house and resolves to play a prank on him, having all of his household staff treat the beggar like nobility once he awakens from his drunken coma. It is within the context of this farce that a troupe of entertainers performs a play for Sly—the contents of that play being, of course, the second and main narrative of The Taming of the Shrew. Curiously, Christopher Sly's narrative does not serve as a complete bookend for the main story: it begins but does not conclude.

Sly's narrative may seem an odd addition to The Taming of the Shrew. At first glance, this frame story may appear extraneous to certain audience members, especially given the fact that it does not conclude. Sly's frame narrative does, however, hold thematic importance for the play as a whole. Through the characters of Christopher Sly and the unnamed English lord, Shakespeare introduces the audience to the themes of performance and concealed identity, priming those watching (or reading) for what will come later in the course of the second and primary narrative.