The Taming of the Shrew

Clothing Symbol Analysis

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Clothing Symbol Icon

The Taming of the Shrew is filled with scenes involving the importance of clothing. In the Induction, Christopher Sly is dressed by the unnamed lord in wealthy clothes, while the Page dresses up as a woman. In the play proper, numerous characters—Lucentio, Tranio, Hortensio, and the merchant—dress up in various disguises. And while Petruchio does not wear a disguise, he wears a costume of sorts when he purposely wears bizarre clothes to his own wedding. He also refuses to let Katherine wear the dress and hat that he has had made for her for Bianca's wedding banquet. All this emphasis on clothing points out the significance of appearance and performance in establishing an identity, showing identity to be fluid and changeable.

By merely putting on expensive clothes, Christopher Sly becomes noble in his own mind, while the Page is able to assume a female identity through clothes. Clothing is thus particularly important for signaling gender and class identity. This is evident when Petruchio rejects the hat that has been made for Katherine: when she says, "gentlewomen wear such caps as these," (iv.3.74) Petruchio replies, "When you are gentle, you shall have one too," (iv.3.75). For Petruchio here, clothing is importantly linked to one's identity and character. Clothing in the play thus symbolizes how identity is constructed through appearances and performance, how being someone is often a matter of looking like or acting like that someone. When Katherine is upset by Petruchio's outlandish outfit at their wedding, he may tell everyone, "To me she's married, not unto my clothes," (iii.2-119) but throughout the play Shakespeare shows that it is often the clothes that make the man (or woman).

Clothing Quotes in The Taming of the Shrew

The The Taming of the Shrew quotes below all refer to the symbol of Clothing. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer 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:

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Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

Thou shalt be master, Tranio, in my stead
Keep house, and port, and servants, as I should.

Related Characters: Lucentio (speaker), Tranio
Related Symbols: Clothing
Page Number: 1.1.208-209
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

To me she's married, not unto my clothes.

Related Characters: Petruchio (speaker), Katherine
Related Symbols: Clothing
Page Number: 3.2.119
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 4, Scene 3 Quotes

Well, come, my Kate, we will unto your father's.
Even in these honest mean habiliments.
Our purses shall be proud, our garments poor,
For ‘tis the mind that makes the body rich,
And as the sun breaks through the darkest clouds,
So honor peereth in the meanest habit.

Related Characters: Petruchio (speaker), Katherine
Related Symbols: Clothing
Page Number: 4.3.175-180
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute iru

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Clothing Symbol Timeline in The Taming of the Shrew

The timeline below shows where the symbol Clothing 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
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
...1.43) if the Lord had him carried away to a bed, dressed him in expensive clothes, and gave him an entourage of attendants. He tells the hunters to do this and... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 1
Social Hierarchy Theme Icon
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
...Lucentio is the teacher. Lucentio tells Tranio to pretend to be him. The pair exchange clothes, so that Tranio looks like a nobleman. Lucentio's servant Biondello enters and is confused to... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
Biondello enters and announces that Petruchio is coming, but he is dressed in bizarre and old clothes (including two mismatched... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
Social Hierarchy Theme Icon
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
The merchant agrees and thanks Tranio for helping him. As Tranio leaves to find suitable clothes for the merchant, he mentions that he will need Lucentio's "father" to make assurances about... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 3
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy Theme Icon
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
...and Hortensio enter. Petruchio has brought a large portion of meat with him, and demands that Katherine thank him for bringing her food. Katherine thanks him, and Petruchio allows her to... (full context)
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
Marriage Theme Icon
...(iv.3.79) but he sends the haberdasher off and asks the tailor to show them Katherine's gown. As with the hat, he acts as if the gown is hideous and unacceptable. The... (full context)
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
Marriage Theme Icon
Petruchio tells Katherine that they will go to her father's in their humble, everyday clothes, minimizing the importance of... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
Social Hierarchy Theme Icon
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
...to know Vincentio. Vincentio angrily beats Biondello, causing Biondello and the merchant to cry out that a madman is attacking them. Biondello leaves. Baptista and Tranio (still impersonating Lucentio) enter. Vincentio... (full context)