The Taming of the Shrew
Study Questions & Essay Topics
1. Disguise plays a crucial role in The Taming of the Shrew, throughout both the Induction and the main story. While most of the disguises are removed in the end, those who use them to achieve a specified goal generally succeed—particularly Lucentio and Tranio. What can we infer about Shakespeare’s take on the effects of disguise? Can clothes really make the man?
2. The Induction plays a mysterious role in the play. In fact, we never see the conclusion of the trick played on Christopher Sly. What is the purpose of the Induction, structurally, narratively, or thematically? In the end, does the Induction serve merely a cursory role in introducing the play proper, or does it provide commentary on the themes throughout?
3. What techniques does Petruchio employ to “tame” Katherine? Why do they work? Is Petruchio’s manipulation of Kate plausible?
Suggested Essay Topics
1. How do gender roles affect the attitudes of the characters, and how do these roles surface in the play? Most of the men seem to have a particular idea about how a wife should behave, but do their preconceptions extend to all women? How do the women react to these expectations? Are the women systematically oppressed, or do they subtly balance the men’s power?
2. The play is essentially a comedy, and yet more serious questions about social issues often overshadow its comic features. How does humor function in The Taming of the Shrew? Note especially the two wooing scenes, by Petruchio (Act II, scene i) and Lucentio (Act III, scene i). Why does Shakespeare include so many of the play’s best comic devices in these scenes?
3. Examine the characters of Hortensio and Gremio. Why do they fail where Petruchio and Lucentio succeed? Does their failure stem from their reasons for wanting to get married or from other facets of their personalities?
4. In general, the plots of Shakespeare’s plays follow a certain pattern, in which Act III contains a major turning point in the action and events that “inevitably” lead to the climax of action and the wrap-up of plot lines in the fifth and final act. How does The Taming of The Shrew conform to, or deviate from, this pattern? How substantially do the events of the third act—the marriage scene between Petruchio and Kate, and the wooing scene between Lucentio and Bianca—affect the action of the rest of the play?
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