CLICK HERE for a link to this site, which discusses feminism in relation to the canon. As noted below, this page (coauthored with Dr. Donna Freitas) may be applied to Taming of the Shrew.



Anger, Jane. Her Protection for Women (1589) is considered the first feminist tract in England.

Shakespeare, William. The Taming of the Shrew. Folger edition edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine. Washington Square Press, 1992, Reprinted 2002. [All citations are from this text].


Barber, C.L. Shakespeare's Festive Comedy. Cleveland, Ohio: Meridian Books, 1963.

Bloom, Harold, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. New York: Riverhead Books, 1998.

Crocker, Holly. Affective Resistance: Performing Passivity and Playing A-Part in The Taming of the Shrew. SQ 54:2 (2003 Summer), pp. 142-59.

Garber, Marjorie. Shakespeare After All. New York: Pantheon, 2004.

Garner, Shirley and Madelon Sprengnether. Tragedy and Gender. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1966.

Levin, Richard. Women in the Renaissance. SQ 40:2 (1989 Summer), pp. 165-4.

McKechern, Claire. Fathering Herself: A Source Study of Shakespeare's Feminism. SQ 39:3. (Autumn 1988), pp. 269-290.

Ranald, Margaret. "As Marriage Binds, and Blood Breaks": English Marriage and Shakespeare. SQ 30:1 (1979 Winter), pp. 68-81.

Thompson, Anne, Introduction to Taming of the Shrew: Updated Edition: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Volume 9 of SHAKESPEAREAN CRITICISM (Gale Group) devotes over 100 pages of critical excerpts devoted to T of S including an annotated bibliography, and Volume 55 devotes much space to feminist criticism.

On-Line Resources: The Education of Women:

On-Line Resources: feminism

Carol Iannone. Is There a Woman's Perspective in Literature?

Nina Taunton (Brunel University College, London) Patterns of Sadomasochism and Fashion-fetishism in The Taming of the Shrew

Paul Yachnin. (University of British Columbia) Personations: The Taming of the Shrew and the Limits of Theoretical Criticism

Interestingly enough, Barber's book (subtitled A Study of Dramatic Form and its Relation to Social Custom, first published in 1959), contains only 2 references to SHREW, neither of which approach feminism unless the citation on page 3 is unintentionally ironic in light of our present discussion. Barber begins Chapter 1 by citing the play's induction to include a definition of comedy as, "...a kind of history," (Induction II, l.144). Barber next adds, " is the kind that frames the mind to mirth." (p. 12), acknowledging that Shakespeare's comedic genius did not fully mature until MND. He continues, noting that Shakespeare's comedic genius began by fusing Classical, Renaissance and Medieval theatrical traditions with Renaissance holidays, May day for example, when to be festive made sense: "In making drama out of rituals of state, Shakespeare makes clear their meaning as social and psychological conflict, as history. So too with the rituals of pleasure, of misrule, as against rule: his comedy presents holiday magic as imagination, games as expressive gestures. At high moments it brings into focus, as part of the play, the significance of the Saturnalias [think Hamlet on Caudillos] form itself as a paradoxical human need, problem and resource." (P. 15)

So if art mimes reality, the reality of the late 1950's did not recognize feminist pedagogy as means of reflection. As Hamlet reminds us, though art holds a mirror up to nature, allowing us to see ourselves. Shakespeare did just that, but more subtly shifted the classical perspective, thereby fusing comedy and tragedy. Indeed they are not separate as anyone seeing Lear or the Henry plays know. Thus Bloom asserts Falstaff as a true hero. (See this web sites' notes on the Henry plays). The implications for feminist interpretations will be significant.

A Critical Perspective:

1-Aristotle and a "Shakespearean" read: In Section I of the Poetics, Parts II-V, Aristotle speaks of comedy and tragedy in the general context of mimesis when tracing the origin of poetry:

Part II

Since the objects of imitation are men in action, and these men must be either of a higher or a lower type (for moral character mainly answers to these divisions, goodness and badness being the distinguishing marks of moral differences), it follows that we must represent men either as better than in real life, or as worse, or as they are. ..

Now it is evident that each of the modes of imitation above mentioned will exhibit these differences, and become a distinct kind in imitating objects that are thus distinct. Such diversities may be found even in dancing, flute-playing, and lyre-playing. So again in language, whether prose or verse unaccompanied by music. Homer, for example, makes men better than they are...The same distinction marks off Tragedy from Comedy; for Comedy aims at representing men as worse, Tragedy as better than in actual life.

Part III

There is still a third difference- the manner in which each of these objects may be imitated. For the medium being the same, and the objects the same, the poet may imitate by narration- in which case he can either take another personality as Homer does, or speak in his own person, unchanged- or he may present all his characters as living and moving before us.

These, then, as we said at the beginning, are the three differences which distinguish artistic imitation- the medium, the objects, and the manner. So that from one point of view, Sophocles is an imitator of the same kind as Homer- for both imitate higher types of character; from another point of view, of the same kind as Aristophanes- for both imitate persons acting and doing...

Part IV

Poetry in general seems to have sprung from two causes, each of them lying deep in our nature. First, the instinct of imitation is implanted in man from childhood, one difference between him and other animals being that he is the most imitative of living creatures, and through imitation learns his earliest lessons; and no less universal is the pleasure felt in things imitated. We have evidence of this in the facts of experience. Objects which in themselves we view with pain, we delight to contemplate when reproduced with minute fidelity: such as the forms of the most ignoble animals and of dead bodies. The cause of this again is, that to learn gives the liveliest pleasure, not only to philosophers but to men in general; whose capacity, however, of learning is more limited. Thus the reason why men enjoy seeing a likeness is, that in contemplating it they find themselves learning or inferring, and saying perhaps, 'Ah, that is he.' For if you happen not to have seen the original, the pleasure will be due not to the imitation as such, but to the execution, the coloring, or some such other cause.

Imitation, then, is one instinct of our nature. Next, there is the instinct for 'harmony' and rhythm, meters being manifestly sections of rhythm. Persons, therefore, starting with this natural gift developed by degrees their special aptitudes, till their rude improvisations gave birth to Poetry.

Poetry now diverged in two directions, according to the individual character of the writers. The graver spirits imitated noble actions, and the actions of good men. The more trivial sort imitated the actions of meaner persons, at first composing satires, as the former did hymns to the gods and the praises of famous men. A poem of the satirical kind cannot indeed be put down to any author earlier than Homer; though many such writers probably there were. But from Homer onward, instances can be cited- his own Margites, for example, and other similar compositions. The appropriate meter was also here introduced; hence the measure is still called the iambic or lampooning measure, being that in which people lampooned one another. Thus the older poets were distinguished as writers of heroic or of lampooning verse.
As, in the serious style, Homer is pre-eminent among poets, for he alone combined dramatic form with excellence of imitation so he too first laid down the main lines of comedy, by dramatizing the ludicrous instead of writing personal satire... But when Tragedy and Comedy came to light, the two classes of poets still followed their natural bent: the lampooners became writers of Comedy, and the Epic poets were succeeded by Tragedians, since the drama was a larger and higher form of art...

Part V

Comedy is, as we have said, an imitation of characters of a lower type- not, however, in the full sense of the word bad, the ludicrous being merely a subdivision of the ugly. It consists in some defect or ugliness which is not painful or destructive. To take an obvious example, the comic mask is ugly and distorted, but does not imply pain.

The successive changes through which Tragedy passed, and the authors of these changes, are well known, whereas Comedy has had no history, because it was not at first treated seriously. .. Comedy had already taken definite shape when comic poets, distinctively so called, are heard of. Who furnished it with masks, or prologues, or increased the number of actors- these and other similar details remain unknown...

For Shakespeare, we may extrapolate the following:

1. Art represents men of either a lower or higher type. (Shakespeare represents men and women of both as dramatized in the same play)

2.Imitation is natural to the human condition, and we delight in seeing the painful dramatized. (Shakespeare does this in his comedies and tragedies).

3. Aristotle associates comedy with a kind of negative mimesis--seeing men as worse than they are. Men behave ludicrously (a subdivision of the ugly), but without the pain associated with Tragedy. (Shakespeare knew better: Ophelia for example: (CLICK HERE)

Probably one of the reasons Shakespeare modifies Aristotle concerns the changing role of the imagination (See Sidney's Defense of Poetry--British Literature web page). MND, rightly noted by Barber as his first mature comedy, address the role of the imagination in V,i:

    The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are of imagination all compact:
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,
That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt:
The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush supposed a bear!

Such might be a theme passage for any mature tragedy and comedy:

  1. line 1 = Hamlet and Ophelia
  2. line 2= Hamlet and Macbeth
  3. lines 3 & 4= Othello, Lear
  4. line 5= Othello and Desdemona
  5. lines 13 &14= Petruchio and Katherina

It would be well to recall, for example, that although in the Shakespearean sense of a comedy having a happy ending (wedding, opposites reconciled etc.) the path to such is often fraught with agony. In Act III, scene ii, we may laugh at Hermia, but recalling Aristotle, is not the pain of the rejected and possibly battered woman real? (III,ii)

Lysander: Away you Ethiope!...Hang off, thou cat, thou burr! vile thing, let loose, Or I will shake thee from me like a serpent...

Hermia: Do you not jest?...

Lysander: What, should I hurt her, strike her? Kill her dead? Although I hate her, I'll not harm her so.

As a parallel, recall a scene in a major tragedy with a similar impact.

2-Transition to a feminist perspective: Although Harold Bloom would appear to be no friend of feminist interpretations, he did not fail to observe the "delicious irony" in Kate's advice to women in Act V, of Taming of the Shrew, adding that Shakespeare, "..who clearly preferred his women characters to his men (always excepting Falstaff and Hamlet), enlarges the human, from the start, by subtly suggesting that women have the truer sense of reality." (p. 35). Did Ophelia? Cordelia? Desdemona?...have a truer sense of reality? What is Kate's?

In Tragedy and Gender, Garner and Sprengnether reject allegiance (their word) to the Bradley perspective that rests, "...on the assumption of a unified, universal, male subjectivity..." (p. 17.) Does Bloom's thesis sustain Garner and Sprengnether? Regarding Taming of the Shrew, Carol Neely (as included in Tragedy and Gender) notes that, the instructions to the page in the Induction employ gender-stereotypical language due to casting protocols (men played women's roles) (Documents in Madness, p. 95), and Garner, in Shakespeare in my Time and Place, notes (p. 298) that one of her woman students was "shocked" that Shakespeare would write such a play, and in a footnote Garner observed that the remark reminded her of the "harsher side" of the play. Garner loves / hates Shakespeare, and this concluding essay in her book is worth the read from a perspective of her still coming to grips with the man who :"invented the human"--the man who did!

3- Toward Feminist perspective: POINT, COUNTER POINT...

Carol Iannone: Is There a Woman's Perspective in Literature?

Carol Iannone, Ph.D., is a professor of literature and writing at New York University's Gallatin Division. She is a vice-president of the National Association of Scholars (NAS), an organization formed to combat the politicization of higher education, a phenomenon now commonly known as political correctness. She is a consulting editor of Academic Questions, the journal of NAS, and has written for Commentary and other periodicals.


Donna Freitas, Ph.D., is a professor of Philosophy and Theology at St. Michael's College in Vermont. Advocating a liberal perspective, her interests are mysticism and feminism. She has contributed to my web pages substantially and has coauthored with Jason King, Save the Date a provocative discussion of the spirituality of dating in a secular society.


Iaonne argues that the feminism has been so radicalized that its academic credibility seems threatened by paradoxes feminists are unwilling to recognize. She notes, "Would anyone dare suggests that only female writers can portray convincing females, with Shakespeare...on the literary scene? ... The greater the writer, the greater the capacity to transcend particularities." Further, she observes when commenting on our play, "But the particular distortions of our time have prevented us from seeing the important role men play in centering and stabilizing women--The Taming of The Shrew being an extreme comic variant of this scenario."

Bloom's difficulties stem from the same perspective. Shakespeare embraces particulars but transcends them to define what it means to be human. Iaonne argues that feminist parochialism diminishes what it endorses: "Thus it is not surprising that what has emerged as feminist criticism digs itself deeper and deeper into its trenches, is how much at odds with the sensibility of good writers, even, or especially, good woman writers, feminists are."

What might be applied to how Shakespearean comedy ends, marriage, Dr. Iaonne writes, "For example, feminists often decry the fact that so many novels about women end in marriage or death because they want to see more options realized for women in literature, and in life. This is silly. No one is telling the female to reader to marry or to die...Marriage for example can signify wholeness, the resolution of opposites, the continuity of the social order, the birth of new generation, the happy placement of the individual in society etc., etc."

Significantly, Iaonne goes on to state that such limitations circumscribe a moral perspective vital for substantiative art. Great writers, she maintains, are true feminists by definition, insofar as they have an appreciation for "...the particular strengths and vulnerabilities of womanhood, coupled with an insistence of women's capacity to travel their particular route toward participation in the universal moral life of mankind, seems to mark the view of may fine women writers and critics...[including] many fine men writers too."

PROJECT: apply this critique to your reading of Taming of the Shrew.

As my review of SAVE THE DATE noted, Drs. Freitas and King accomplished much by synthesizing opposites: hence feminism and mysticism are not bipolar. The book's ability to "reconcile opposites" such as sexuality and spirituality speak to a feminist interpretation of our play. Dr. Freitas would support Martha Nussbaum who, in Cultivating Humanity, suggests that "the prism of gender" perpetuates the very kind of stereotype Shakespeare inherited: "A prominent that the male head of household is a beneficent altruist who adequately represents the interest of all his family members, and can be relied to distribute resources fairly". (P. 189) Nussbaum believes that "any question which challenges deeply rooted habits seems threatening, especially when the challenge is to entrenched structures of power." (P. 190). In this case, the power is white and male: the Polonius - Capulet archetype. Does Shakespeare deconstruct the archetype, and if so how did he dramatize its intrinsic injustice? When applied to Taming of The Shrew, how can these questions be answered?

As noted elsewhere on this site, Dr. Freitas asks the following of Shakespeare ( and any writer):
"What commentary is Shakespeare making about women? Does Shakespeare's portrayal of women reflect reality? Is it mimetic. Is there such a thing as an authentic portrayal of women in literature?" She adds specifics:

I. The male author and women
A. Listening for silences--women need a voice
B. the need for a women's voice--to fill in the gaps

II. Literature and history
A. Literature as a "revealer" of history
B. reconstructing an understanding of gender through literature

III. Women as designed by sexuality
A. Women as wives and mothers--property
B. women as promiscuous: the prostitute
C. women as virgins--and liberation

IV. Women as defined by passion
A. Women as barred from becoming knowers.

V. Women and madness
A. Psychology and entering into the male-dominated, symbolic order: giving up one's self
B. conscious (symbolic order/ discourse) and unconscious (realm of repressed desire) and masculinity / femininity
C. Repression of the feminine and hysteria / madness / the irrational
D. Madness as a disruption of discourse

Dr. Freitas cites Tirol Moues Sexual, Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory: New York: Rout ledge, 1984, pp. 57-58:

"...the dominant patriarchal ideology presents artistic creativity as a fundamental male quality. The writer 'fathers' his text; in the image of the Divine Creator he becomes the Authorize sole origin and meaning of his work...Since creativity is designed as male, it follows that the dominant literary images of femininity are male fantasies too. Women are denied the right to create their own image of femaleness, and instead must seek to conform to the patriarchal standards imposed on them...the ideal woman is seen as a passive docile and above all selfless creature...But behind the angel lurks the monster: the obverse of the male idealization of women is the male fear of femininity. The monster women is the woman who refuses to be selfless, acts on her own initiative, who has a story to tell--in short, a woman who rejects the submissive role patriarchy has reserved for her."

To be noted is that these remarks were prepared for her lectures on Hamlet. If Bloom is correct and Shakespeare invented personality by transcending particulars and seeing combinations others have missed, then what can be said of Taming of The Shrew and feminism?

Certainly at first glance, Taming of the Shrew would enrage anyone but an entrenched misogynist. The plot suggests that a women must be tamed, controlled, shaped, molded and modified by a man to live a moral and socially acceptable life which men of course alone are qualified to determine. Animal imagery as a motif seems to support the that thesis:

1- Laced with bawdy humor, Kate exclaims to Petruchio:

If I be waspish, best beware my sting.

To which he replies,

My remedy is then to pluck it out.

(II,i, 222 ff)

Falcon imagery and the taming thereof sets the tone (as per Shakespeare's synthesizing comedy and tragedy), as it does in Macbeth. Petruchio observes,

My falcon now is sharp and passing empty;
And till she stoop she must not be full-gorged,
For then she never looks upon her lure.
Another way I have to man my haggard
To make her come and know her keeper's call
That is, to watch, her as we watch these kites
That bate and beat and will not be obedient...

(IV,i, 188 ff)

In Shakespeare's day as Macbeth makes clear, falcons were tamed by being chained by the leg to a post with their eyes sowed shut. What could be more misogynistic?


Generally, as Claire McEachern (Fathering Herself: A Source Study of Shakespeare’s Feminism), feminist criticism has placed the canon in a misogynist context emphasizing the male value of the culture, or a “proto-feminist” stressing either Shakespeare’s attention to “...the Renaissance’s general cultural emancipating of women, or to [his] own ahistorical transcendent genius, his freedom from his culture’s assumptions.” (P. 270). Probably Bloom would agree with the latter, which explains why he deconstructs attempts, feminist or otherwise, to render Shakespeare too parochial as he sees it.

What troubles Garner as noted is the belief that Shakespeare, however brilliant, was never able to achieve this transcendence regarding women, as supported for example, by Hamlet’s brutalization of Ophelia, Othello's of Desdemona, Lear of Cordelia etc. Regarding the comedies, McEachern notes, “Most proto-feminists...have found in Shakespeare’s women, particularly in the comedies, evidence of his culture’s incipient challenge to the patriarchy that, according to their readings, the text mirrors.” (P. 270). Contrastingly, however, she notes that Shakespeare's Patriarchal bias exposed a non-emancapatory view, especially in the tragedies.

Mc Each ern observes, however, that New HISTORICISM criticism locates Shakespeare in a context of shifting moral and social and historical values (“...changeable social constructs.” (P. 271). According to Professor Warren Hedges, the New Historicist Premises are:

Images and narratives do important cultural work. They function as a kind of workshop (or playroom) where cultural problems, hopes, and obsessions are addressed or avoided. Consequently, New Historicists argue that the best framework for interpreting literature is to place it in its historical context: what contemporaneous issues, anxieties, and struggles does the work of literature reflect, refract, or try to work through?

New Historicist criticism tries to relate interpretive problems (such as why Hamlet doesn't kill Claudius as he prays) to cultural-historical problems (such as contemporaneous debates about purgatory, transubstantiation, and salvation, as well as anxieties about what constituted legitimacy in the church, the monarchy, and succession to the throne).

New Historicists also tend to stress that authors and poets are not secular saints--that even though they may be more circumspect about their societies than the average citizen, they nonetheless participate in it. Consequently, New Historicist critics often point out places in artists' work where their attitudes do not anticipate our own, or may even be distasteful to us.

How does ToS relate to Renaissance cultural contexts? The trick is to locate a mean, if possible between a transcendent universality and Renaissance particularism. The key to this synthesis, you recall, is the MND passage on the imagination. The forms (universals exist) and are shaped by the poet’s pen to give “airy nothing, a local habitation...” Feminists debate how this is accomplished.

As you examine the play, apply the above to these observations and questions...Keep in mind that Shakespeare will often "put new wine in old bottles," thus a careful read shows him as transcending stereotypical conventions of gender.


A frame story as readers of Job, Chaucer and Conrad know invites irony and in this play, articulates the motifs essential to an appreciation of that irony. Motifs of course abound in the plays: disease in Hamlet, blood in Macbeth, predatory animal imagery in Othello and Lear. In Taming, pay particular attention to four essential motifs: clothing, animal imagery, dreaming and financial imagery. The patterns these motifs form when traced define both the play's hilarity and its sober meaning. Everyone knows how essential humor becomes in the mature plays-the Fool in Lear obviously and Falstaff in the Henry Plays; here Shakespeare is learning how to blend comedy and more serious themes.

Questions for discussion:

1-Ace Pilkington's (Look More Closely at the Period,) suggests that the frame device of a play within a play raises the question of what ultimate reality means, and whether indeed it can be determined, a question Shakespeare's male and female protagonists confront. See for example how much more perceptive Desdemona is than Othello about the true meaning of love.

2-Shakespeare begins with a reality he establishes in which the play will exist. What gender perspective is immediately established?

3-To what does the Lord really object? Why does he propose to do, and what does “practice” mean?

4-Paraphrase the Lord’s long speech of direction (ll. 46 ff) noting words such as JEST, WANTON, MUSIC, LUNATIC, DREAMS. Recall MND, V,i. What would a feminist think? Regarding dreams, remember Bottom's confusion in MND. Sly too initially relies on sense perception clues to understand reality, but like Bottom, learns such epistemological pathways can be dangerous and misleading. Macbeth too will appreciate such confusion. Note how Shakespeare comedically develops, as Bob Newhart does, a "philosophy of comedy."

5-What happens in terms of Renaissance hierarchy in the same lines? Remember that in Taming, the conflicts dramatized comedically reflect the social, political and marital tensions which Shakespeare confronted, embraced and sometimes feared. What do comedians thus do that the "establishment" finds dangerous? Recall the TV series Laugh In.

6-The Lord welcomes the players the way Hamlet does. Why are they wanted in each case? What does Hamlet say about art that might apply here?

7-In Shakespeare’s theater, women’s roles were played by young boys which in terms of a given script, gave disguises--women as men--a different and more complex perspective in terms of a feminist read. Recall Dr. Freitas’ comment about women having an authentic voice. What does the Lord want his male servant to do regarding Sly? Are there gender stereotypes in this scene? What is the irony?

8-What does the Lord really think funny as the first Induction ends?

9-Pay special attention to the motifs, especially clothing. Why does clothing matter? What does attire enable us to do that might indeed be viewed as humorous, sober and perhaps dangerous? Note what the Lord proposes to do with the drunken, stinking Sly:

O monstrous beast, how like a swine he lies!
Grim death, how foul and loathsome is thine image!
Sirs, I will practice on this drunken man.
What think you if he were conveyed to bed.
Wrapped in sweet clothes, rings put upon his

(Induction I, ll. 35-40)

Is this funny? Note how Sly will react. Importantly, this motif will bind the frame to the play's 5 act structure reinforcing the humor, social themes as ironically dramatized both in the main and sub-plot. Laws were passed regarding what one could wear: from A Homily Concerning Good Order:

Every man behold and consider his own vocation: in as much
as God hath appointed every man his degree and office…
Therefore all may not look to wear like apparel, but everyone
according to his own degree, as God hath placed him.

Why was the state so concerned? Should it be? Think about what argument might be advanced requiring wearing uniforms in a public school. Just for fun (and maybe more), click here.


1-What does the Lord want Sly to believe? Why? How does Sly describe himself in this scene? What do clothing and dreaming have to do with his perception? Notice his response,

"I am Christophero Sly, Call not me "Honor" nor "Lordship." I ne'er drank sack in my life...Ne'er ask me what raiment I'll wear, for I have no more doublets than backs, no more stockings than legs, nor no more shoes than feet..." (ll. 5-10)

Why is clothing significant? Note too that these lines will anticipate significant moments between Kate and Petruchio. See especially IV, iii, 175 ff.

2-Note the references to mythology, especially Io. What does art have the power to do? Think again of Hamlet and the ‘mechanical’ in MND. Note the animal motifs later used as well.

3-Characterize the ‘love-life” of Sly as described by the servants, noting the irony common to frame devices. What is the social commentary? Sly has been asleep for 15 years. Is he sane? How does one determine sanity? Such will matter very much to Othello, Macbeth, Lear and Hamlet. Sexuality of course is common to all of them, but with what differences or similarities? Is the comedic treatment here a prelude to the angst in Othello. Consider as well Hamlet and Ophelia...and Gertrude, and how would a feminist evaluate the 'love tests' in Lear and Macbeth?

4-The page (aka wife of Sly) seems to provide the proper “role” for married women that the play itself will dramatize--tame and subservient, but is that really the case? Shakespeare and irony are never far apart.

5-Note the reference to melancholy--recall Hamlet and love melancholy.

6-As noted above, Sly and we as audience are going to see a kind of history--note that the page (wife) (woman-man) has already determined its content? If we as audience form another frame, we have a frame inside a frame inside a frame. Bob Newhart noted that his routines were funny because the audience was imaginative enough to understand what he was implying, what was inferred on the "other end of the phone." Did Shakespeare understand this?

7-There is a carpe diem theme here--Recall Marvell’s Coy Mistress. Erasmus’ Praise of Folly would be worth a look.

8-Define the gender roles in both scenes of the Induction.

9-It will be important to note the connection between the induction and the play, especially in terms of the 'appearance vs. reality' theme--what is really real? Dreaming is a major motif. If Sidney argued that art should teach and delight, what should we learn watching Sly watch the play.

10-Connecting the Induction with the play Sly watches should be followed carefully lest we miss Shakespeare's irony. Compare Induction II, lines 40-45:

Lord: (disguised as an attendant) to Sly:
Dost thou love hawking. Thou hast hawks will soar
Above the morning lark. Or wilt thou hunt?



My falcon now is sharp and passing empty;
And till she stoop she must not be full-gorged,
For then she never looks upon her lure.
Another way I have to man my haggard
To make her come and know her keeper's call
That is, to watch, her as we watch these kites
That bate and beat and will not be obedient...

(IV,i, 190 ff)

and compare Induction II, lines 68 ff. with the perplexed Sly crying,

Am I a lord, and have I such a lady?
Or do I dream? Or have I dreamed till now?
I do not sleep: I see, I hear, I speak...
Upon my life I am a lord indeed
And not a tinker, nor Christopher Sly.


Curtis' comment about Kate in IV, i, 283 ff in which he
observes that she, "Knows not which way to stand, to look, to speak
And sits as one new-risen from a dream...

Hint...We will have to get to the "BOTTOM" of this!!


1-Why is the opening in an academic setting? Look especially at ll. 16 ff., and the later references to Aristotle and Ovid. Ovid's Art of Love is especially important and is a clue to many of the play's comedic scenes.

2-Throughout the play, Kate’s lines should be studied for their own sake as revealers of personality and values (universals), but also as derived from particulars. Does this scene thus reveal a source for her anger? Recall from a male perspective the opening of LEAR, and Polonius with Ophelia. In what sense is she in bondage? This motif will develop throughout the play until ironically reversed in Act V, scene ii. Significantly, humor can be painful when misdirected or intentionally directed toward one's vulnerabilities. At what do we most often seem to laugh?

3-Why are schoolmasters and education so important? (1.1 ff and 195 ff).If a generic definition of education is that which results in a behavior change, whose behavior will be modified when the play ends? (The following sources outline Renaissance educational theory and practice, noting especially the differences gender mattered:)

4-Evaluate the criticism of Gremio and Hortensio regarding Kate? "Husband?" "Devil?" Are they misogynistic? (ll.120 ff). Think about the kind of father Baptista is. He will anticipate someone with a daughter in Hamlet, even to the same kind of language both use. Hamlet will call him a "fishmonger." Is Baptista?

5-The love seems to be "at first sight," a device much perfected in MND but not without gothic overtones. Since as Jung would argue, the shadow archetype is innate to the human condition, how does Taming dramatize it?

6-Why perhaps by contrast does Lucentio love Bianca? If you know Dracula, a novel which dramatizes feminist and misogynistic behavior, does she remind you of Lucy, and does Kate in some ways suggest Mina Harker? Apply to what Dr. Freitas means by the "women's voice" in literature?

7-Note that the disguise motifs at the end of the scene characterize the early comedies. Later these motifs will be metaphoric.

8-As discussed above in the Induction, many motifs appear: dreaming, clothing, economic, and animals are four important ones. They help define an ambiguity in the text. Shakespeare wrote during a time of great political, social and religious upheaval. These tensions appear in the play, and if the recent biographies by Michael Wood (Shakespeare), and Stephen Greenblatt (Shakespeare: Will in the World), are correct, much autobiographical nuances are evidenced. Marjorie Garber's Shakespeare After All argues the crux of the bard's genius rests with his ability to be read from changing social perspectives: from the Renaissance to our day. Thus reading the text as feminist or not is contingent on what experience we bring to a performance. Bloom (Shakespeare the Invention of the Human), who is no feminist, can argue that Shakespeare's women are more intelligent than his men. Is Kate?

9-Scenes in Taming could be seriously dramatized. Bianca is immediately desired. Does she know it? How does she react? Can we blame Kate for her emotional responses? Note too of course the importance of clothing. When Lucentio and Tranio agree to change clothing so the 'master' can disguise himself as a 'servant' to court Bianca, what is at risk? Lucentio says,

We have not yet been seen in any house.
Nor can we be distinguished by our faces
For man or master. Then it follows thus:
Thou shalt be master Tranio, in my stead...

(I, i, 205-208 and SD: They exchange clothing)

It promises to be funny enough, but what is the risk?


1-Of the four classical humors that defined psychology in the Renaissance, which characterized the mind's operations, which suits Petruchio here? (Click here for background).

2-Petruchio and Hortensio's lines (51 ff) relate women to money and the dowry Recall the economic motif will be just as essential as clothing. Later in Hamlet, this so-called comedic scene will have more serious overtones in the Polonius-Ophelia-Hamlet relationship. Remember that Shakespeare is writing during a time of social unrest. The world truly is "turned upside down," as are gender relationships. The old order of marriage by parental consent and dowry contests marriage by the will of the parties. Think of Shakespeare's marital circumstances.

3-What is Petruchio's motive in wanting to marry? What kind of language is used in this scene? Is it the "men's voice" which by implication defines the "women's.." from which there is no alternative in a patriarchal world?

4-Point of view defines the way we see personality develop. (Think Dracula again. Remember that Universal Studios changed horror to comedy in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. What is the connection?). Does Petruchio's dialogue mime "the women's place," or does Shakespeare intend irony? Motivation is also important for Hortensio. Who is manipulating whom? How do the men treat women? The social consciousness of the parties is significant.

5-See :Petruchio (l. 189 ff), noting that if Kate's reputation is the only obstacle to marriage, a complication does not really exist. Why? How does he define his qualifications for marriage? Recall what Aristotle says about comedy--is his observation in evidence here? Recall also the frame story.

6-Find evidences in this scene of the emerging shadow archetype. A contemporary discussions of the relationship between the shadow and humor in Taming may be found in Dr. Marvin Krim's The Mind According to Shakespeare: Psychoanalysis in the Bard's Writings (Praeger, 2006). See my Gothic fiction web site for a discussion of the Jung archetypes. If you were Kate, how would you respond? Why are the scenes humorous?

ACT II: SCENE i--(It would be useful to know something of Renaissance marriage law--see links above.)

1-Act II, one scene only, dramatizes the initial meeting between Kate and Petruchio, (ll. 190 ff) How does it go? If Garber is correct, is what we bring to the scene important especially in terms of what we find funny? Imagine an avowed feminist and misogynist reading the same lines. What would each conclude? Dramatizing tensions is a key to understanding Shakespeare.

2-Irony is very important; what is your initial impression of Bianca? Kate? Compare / contrast with Petruchio?

3-What makes Kate especially angered in the beginning of the scene that she would strike her sister? This will be important IV, iii. Themes of bondage beyond the literal occur throughout the text. Once again humor and anguish seem to co-exist. In the pop culture, a long running TV comedy was set in a Nazi POW camp, Hogan's Heroes. Is a shadow emerging? We all have one, but it manifests in different forms. How does it show as the sisters rant?

4-Why does Kate seemed obsessed on revenge? For what? How should she feel?

5-Does the praise of Bianca imply a contrast? What is ironic in terms of gender roles? How stereotypically are they cast here? Note the references to Greek and Latin texts. Think about the Judgment of Paris, and the reason for the Trojan war. Why is Kate disliked so much and by whom vs. Bianca? From whose point of view must we examine the conflicts? Are Kate's responses out of proportion to the way she is being treated? Recall Dr. Freitas' remarks concerning authenticity in text written by a male.

6-II, i , 136 has Petruchio's assessment of relationships defined using fire imagery. In most Shakespeare plays, a so called theme passage exists wherein the play's essence emerges. Does this passage qualify? What would be its thematic intent? Do Sonnets 116 and 147 help? Recall also what we discussed regarding the COURTLY LOVE tradition in its Nominalistic and Realistic modes:

Sonnet 116:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Sonnet 147:

My love is as a fever longing still,
For that which longer nurseth the disease,
Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,
Th' uncertain sickly appetite to please:
My reason the physician to my love,
Angry that his prescriptions are not kept
Hath left me, and I desperate now approve,
Desire is death, which physic did except.
Past cure I am, now reason is past care,
And frantic-mad with evermore unrest,
My thoughts and my discourse as mad men's are,
At random from the truth vainly expressed.
For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,
Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.

If Kate and Petruchio were to read these Sonnets, how would each react? Does the answer depend on when? To what degree does Taming embody the relationship between the ethereal and temporal (116), and love and lust (147)?

7-Why is Kate so violent? What women in the canon (in a later tragedy), faces a similar situation, and how does she respond?

8-Would II, i, 177 ff by Petruchio be another theme passage or an expression of tactics? What does he plan to do and why? We have discussed that Bob Newhart felt comedy to be subversive. How is Shakespeare aware of this?

9-What can Kate do that none of the others seem to do as well? What later male has a similar ability--think Bloom's criticism. Her dialogue with Petruchio foreshadows why clothing imagery is so vital to the play's meaning: see IV, iii.

10-Note how Petruchio uses oxymoronic language. What is his intent? The use of "glass" is an important clue.

11-Examine lines 283-293 carefully. Petruchio pauses, and summarizes:

Thus in plain terms: your father has consented
That you shall be my wife, your dowry 'greed on.
...I am a husband for your turn.
For by this light, whereby I am a husband for your turn,
Thy beauty that doeth make me like thee well,
Thou must be married to no man but me.
For I am he an born to tame you, Kate,
And bring you from a wild Kate to a Kate
Conformable as other household Kates

Feminists will cringe, so keeping Garber's criticism in mind, how might we today read the lines? How universal is Shakespeare? Is the use of "tame" misogynistic? Why does he use language to characterize Kate that seems on the surface to be the opposite of her behavior? By comparison, think CHAUCER'S WIFE. As the scene continues, Petruchio advises Kate he will select appropriate apparel for the wedding (the clothing motif, line 334).

12-Line 313, the allusion to LUCRECE, is important. Shakespeare wrote a poem about her, to which he alludes in Macbeth. The poem dramatizes the rape of a virgin and its aftermath focusing on revenge. Does that apply here?

13-The wedding seems set? --lines 340 ff.-- is it? Does Kate consent?

14-Is there a difference between the way Bianca is wooed? The wooing of Kate vs. Bianca in comedic terms certainly dramatizes a changing sociology, perhaps subversive to the old order. What do you think? Certainly money surfaces in the negotiations, Baptista quite frankly plays "the merchant's part," (l. 345), and awards after a lengthy discussion of assets his daughter to Lucentio AKA Tranio.

15-It seems that marital arrangements must proceed from economic solvency, another of the motifs. Petruchio asks straight away, lines120 ff, about the dowry and when Baptista, perhaps uncharacteristically asked about love, Petruchio responds, "Why, that is nothing." (l. 137). Is Shakespeare simply miming a social convention? What motivates Petruchio? Since his wit, psychological dexterity and gift for ironic understatement predominates when describing himself (ll. 137 ff), does he love Kate, or does it matter? What do you think he really wants? Answer the same question from Kate's perspective? Would both a feminist and misogynist find their banter humorous, evidence of a rapidly developing affection, or offensive? Notice how quickly Lucentio has fallen in love with Bianca? Does he love her? Can he, or is Shakespeare honoring a convention? Remember he often sees beyond stereotypical behavior.


1-Are the love scenes with Bianca more sincere? Is Bianca flattered? Think of what happens to Lucy in Dracula, how she reacts, and what the consequences are? Note the scene begins with another educational metaphor, and note the references to music.

2-Does education in the Renaissance engender misogynistic behavior? Would you want your son or daughter to be educated by Aristotle or Ovid?


1-Why is recalling the frame story necessary to read this scene properly, and if educational and clothing motifs predominate, what is being taught, and to whom by whom? Petruchio's treatment of Kate as the scene opens, being late, his dress etc. certainly seem misogynistic. Is there real pain here, and if so, can the scene be humorously dramatized? Is Aristotle's belief noted above that comedy eschews pain applicable? What would a feminist believe? Compare Drs. Iannone and Freitas quoted at the top of this page.

2- How does Kate react to her circumstances? How strategically AND tactically would you evaluate Petruchio's treatment of Kate? Does he love her? See lines 113-129, and note the motif involved.

3-There is a moment in this scene that foreshadows Hamlet? What is the parallel keeping in mind the clothing motif again? Note that compositionally, Shakespeare will repeat himself--ideas and scenarios in the early plays will occur later with of course considerably more sophistication.

4-Madness is thematically important--see also Lear and Hamlet parallels. Always keep in mind point of view: Kate's, Petruchio's and Shakespeare's. Click here for background.

5-Examine Gremio's account of the wedding (l. 159 ff. for example) --how does Petruchio behave? Why doesn't Shakespeare dramatize the scene directly? The answer indeed involves what is subversive about comedy. What would have been illegal in Shakespeare's day, and how does he "get around" it? The scene cannot be read without noting the frequent references to clothing. Petruchio's apparel is shocking , but recall line 119: "To me she's married, not unto my clothes." Of course the scene is funny, but the motif has significant foreshadowing significance. In what sense, recalling another motif, is Kate in a dream world? Think ahead to Curtis' comment about Kate in IV, i, 283 ff in which he observes that she, "Knows not which way to stand, to look, to speak /And sits as one new-risen from a dream." Is she?

6-What is a powerful feminist line by Kate in this scene? Does Petruchio expect it or encourage it ? (See lines 225 ff).

7-Certainly lines 235 ff. by Petruchio seem misogynistic: "I will be master...", but how does the passage begin and end? Note there are several very misogynistic passages in the play involving property, falcons and the famous {or infamous} 'obedience' speech in V, ii. How can they be read?

8-The scene must be viewed in the context of Bianca's and Gremio's exchange. (l. 250 ff.) Do they understand the irony?


1-Note that events are described from differing points of view. Why? What motivates Petruchio's behavior? Social consciousness in important. Note throughout the text how masters treat servants. The use of disguises is very important.

2-What is the dramatic purpose of WINTER (l. 21) as a motif?

3-Does Grumio's account of the "horse-scene" reveal that Petruchio staged the scene? (l. 66 ff). Why did he do so? Is Curtis response correct, and is Petruchio really a misogynist? Your own perspective is important as Shakespeare will have Hamlet note in 1601.

4-Kate's response at line 153 is important--does the scene, according to the Pragmatic theory, have a didactic purpose? How about role reversal? See especially line 180 "He kills..." Killing is not on the surface funny, but...? Petruchio's conduct with the servants appears brutal. How does the clothing motif pose a threat to Elizabethan 'decorum' in these matters? Recalling as well the educational motif that anticipates the Macbeth's, how is role reversal ironically present? What does Petruchio intend, and how aware is Kate? Does she resist and/or go along? Do they love each other? Recall the sonnets.

5-What is the meaning of DREAM, (ll.186-187)? To whom does it apply and why? Recall a connection to the Induction with the perplexed Sly speaking,

Am I a lord, and have I such a lady?
Or do I dream? Or have I dreamed till now?
I do not sleep: I see, I hear, I speak...
Upon my life I am a lord indeed
And not a tinker, nor Christopher Sly.

(Induction II, l. 68 ff.)

6-Shakespeare's plays frequently employ animal motifs, (there are dozens in Lear), to dramatize macrocosmic and microcosmic events--the image here is often taken as definitive evidence for Petruchio's intent. There is a parallel reference in Macbeth that seems to confirm his intent. What is the image? What does he intend to CURB in Kate (l. 209)? Is this legitimate from a feminist perspective? Does he love Kate?

7-Of course this scene contains what feminists might site as the play's most notorious passage, the famous/infamous FALCON speech: (ll.188 ff)

Thus I have politicly begun my reign
And 'tis my hope to end successfully.
My Falcon now is sharp and passing empty,
And now, till she stoop, she must not be full-gorged..."

In Macbeth, Shakespeare alludes in a very gothic moment to light and goodness being sealed up with darkness the way a falcon's eyes would be sowed shut to tame the bird. Does this apply retrospectively here? Paraphrased do the lines argue, "My definition of success Kate is to control you the way one tames a pet bird, and you won't eat until that happens?" Indeed at supper, he seems to actualize that theory in practice. If the scene has didactic import, what is the lesson, and for whom?


1-What is the ART TO LOVE (ll. 8)? Recall Ovid.

2-Does the courtship ritual in this scene parallel Kate's? Is Hortensio hurt? (l. 22 ff) Does he deserve to be, and if so, how would one respond if the question were asked of Kate? Does gender matter? Of course he is being 'set up,' and note by whom!! What shadows lurk behind the humor?

3-What is the difference; see lines 35 ff., noting Hortensio's reference to KINDNESS and BEAUTEOUS. In Shakespeare, kind, (l. 41 ff.): "Kindness in women, not their beautious looks,/ Shall win my love" is a profound statement. Ontologically, kind refers to the essence of a being. What is the essence of a women here? Note a parallel interestingly enough spoken by Claudius just before the To Be soliloquy (III,i) in Hamlet, and recall Lady Macbeth's observation that her husband is too full of the "milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way."

4-Note again that the scene ends with a disguise motif (a Pedant aka Vincentio), a favorite comedic device in the plays of the first period. (See the end of II,i for the necessity of the disguise). What will really anger Vincentio? Think of parents who send their kids to college only to discover...

5-So for comic relief, but related to the main plot, Hortensio straight away learns who Bianca seems romantically to prefer, not knowing of course that Tranio-Lucentio have been manipulating her suitors from the beginning. What is the serious theme? Is humor employed to deflect an emerging 'shadow' that might threaten the social order. Tranio's line to Bianca that Kate is attending a 'taming school' (l. 55 ff.) link the two plots. Recall Tranio's social status and his intellect. Can they co-exist? The Merchant will soon be involved in his manipulations. Does the imprisoned shadow some Elizabethans fear the most lurk below the surface waiting, and will humor free it?


1-Does this taming scene continue the misogynistic theme, or does Shakespeare see deeper? The comedy of social conflict is evidenced again.

2-If Kate's lines which open the scene about never having to entreat (l. 1 ff) were spoken by a man (Were they in a later play?), how would they be evaluated? What didactic and classical themes are in evidence?

3-See line 78 ff and evaluate Kate's reaction to Petruchio's critique of her wardrobe. Clothing imagery is an important motif as Petruchio understands. Later, Shakespeare will use it in Macbeth. The most important lines regarding clothing, serving as a pedagogical theme passage for the motif, comes from Petruchio, lines 175 ff after he destroyed Kate's wardrobe. He cautions,

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.

If a theme in Taming is education, what "content" does Petruchio want Kate to acquire? Does gender matter? Suppose the genders were reversed. Recall the initial meeting of Kate and Petruchio, II,i,190 ff). How did the bantering anticipate these lines. Herein is a line that will be reused in 1 Henry IV. Knowing where and why might provide an important clue to the Feminist-misogynistic conflict in our play. Recall Bloom's comment on irony and what he believes about women in Shakespeare.


1-How is this scene in ironic juxtaposition with the rest?

2-The scene dramatizes the old order regarding marriage, but there is a "wink" in the stage directions. (at line 59). Why? Recall the threat posed by clothing to the master-servant relationship and indeed the chain of being which the aristocracy tried to sustain.


1-Shakespeare continues to mold the sub-plot to the main one. One plot summary of this scene says the conquest of Kate is completed when Petruchio cajoles Kate into confusing the sun and moon, but is that what happens? What is the irony? Do you agree with conquest?

2-What would a feminist director advise? ...a misogynistic one? Tone of voice becomes imperative? What emotions are present?

2-As further evidence of irony, there is a line that will be used in Romeo and Juliet with great poetic beauty, and for our purposes we might recall who is the more intelligent in that play? Interestingly Petruchio has the lines which begin, "Tell me sweet Kate..." (l. 31 ff).


1-Here the Vincentio / Lucentio disguise is exposed; does the literal appearance vs. reality theme prefigure how Kate - Petruchio's relationship has been REALLY evolving, and how it will end? Lines 125 ff offer a clue. Notice that the sub-plot humorously dramatizes the consequences of not knowing socially and politically who is who. Clothing imagery predominates as Vincentio quarrels with Biondello and is outraged that Tranio (disguised as his son--willing suspension of disbelief), accuses his 'father' of madness. In what sense is madness a serious theme?

Tranio's rejoinder, "Why Sir, what 'cerns it you if I wear pearl and gold?" (l. 76 ff) in many respects humorously attempts to sustain the sociologically complex Elizabethan society which conservatives feared was in flux. Tactically, Shakespeare could simply argue, "I was only kidding," but one wonders with how much circumspect joy he welcomed the change and deftly used his art to facilitate it. Comedy is subversive.


1-In a Shakespeare comedy such as MND, confusion becomes bliss when the lovers, confused in the forest, find their way back to Athens (reason) where they are married, but the marriage in a tragedy such as R&J ends disastrously. Marriage in the comedies usually suggest a happy reconciliation of opposites. The conventional read suggests that Kate is 'TAMED" by her husband as evidenced by her obedience speech, and all live 'happily ever after' in a misogynistic universe; do you agree, and does what you bring to a reading influence your perspective?

2-Music imagery opens the scene--recall Troilus and Cressida.

3-What qualities are most in evidence as the couples banter?

4-There is in this scene a LOVE TEST anticipating Lear. What are the rules, and who wins? Is this a misogynistic play? Ironically, much is reversed in this scene. Who is the feminist? What does Bianca, using bawdy imagery, threaten to do? How about Kate? Are we prepared?

5-Does Kate's assessment of marriage reflect her "taming?" (l. 152 ff). Would an ironic interpretation sustain that perspective? A good parallel would be to revisit The Wife from Bath's Tale. What did the Wife want minus the dramatic irony implicit in her Tale. Add the Tale, and what changes? The narrative technique in A Modest Proposal could also be paralleled.

6- We wonder what happened to Sly, but in a play entitled A Pleasant Conceited History, Called The Taming of A Shrew, one exists that takes us out to the Induction again. This play's relationship to Shakespeare is debated (draft? pirated copy?), but regardless, would its addition to our play change meaning:


Question: Let us assume that Shakespeare dropped these lines which do not appear in F1. Why did he? Does the F1 version we read gain or lose from the deletion?

7- Provide a feminist and misogynist reading of Taming. Is Kate tamed? Is there love? Why is directorial perspective so important? What do you want the play to mean, to see as humorous and as painful? The contemporary movie CRASH offers similar parallels, and in the 20th century, the Nazis used Merchant of Venice to justify their racist agenda culminating in the holocaust, but what did Shakespeare intend?