The Taming of the Shrew


William Shakespeare

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The Taming of the Shrew Themes

Read our modern English translation.
Themes and Colors
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy Theme Icon
Theater, Performance, and Identity Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Marriage Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Taming of the Shrew, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Gender and Misogyny

Issues related to gender are hugely important in this play, which centers around Petruchio "taming" Katherine and forcing her into the traditionally submissive role of a wife. The play is filled with characters who fit and don't fit traditional gender roles—particularly the idea of the male as dominant and the female as submissive. The quiet, mild-mannered Bianca, for example, plays the traditional role of a woman well, while Katherine rebels against this stereotype with…

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Social Hierarchy

Women are just one socially oppressed group in the play; another is the class of servants that are continually beaten, abused, and insulted by the likes of Petruchio, Vincentio, and other noblemen. In fact, the play begins with a scene not about the relation between men and women, but between men of different social classes, as the Lord plays a practical joke on the poor Christopher Sly. Social standing is arguably a…

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Theater, Performance, and Identity

The Taming of the Shrew is a play that thinks a great deal about theater itself. This kind of self-reflexivity and theater about theater (often called meta-theater), allows the play to raise questions about performance. To begin, the central plot involving Baptista's daughters and their suitors is a play within a play, performed by a group of traveling actors for Christopher Sly and a small audience who are themselves acting, pretending to be the attendants…

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Shakespeare's comedy has many scenes of instruction, but tends to poke fun at formal education. Lucentio arrives in Padua as a young scholar ready to pursue his studies, but when Tranio tells him to study what he likes the most, he follows his heart... to the beautiful Bianca. "Cambio" and "Litio" (really Lucentio and Hortensio) are supposed to teach Bianca, but this teaching is merely an excuse to get close to her and…

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The plot of The Taming of the Shrew hinges on the marriages of Baptista's two daughters. Over the course of the play, there is a significant tension between different understandings of what marriage is. One understanding of marriage is that it is simply a union of two people in love. This is what Lucentio seems to desire with Bianca and, as the two develop affection for each other, their relationship seems to exemplify this idealistic…

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