From the outset, the play presents Bianca as the perfect candidate for a sixteenth-century wife. She is meek, agreeable, and beautiful in contrast to her older sister Katherine who is loud, contrarian, and rebellious. Bianca has a line of suitors, but her father has forbidden anyone to marry her until Katherine is married first. Despite her father and sister’s outspoken opinions, Bianca’s meekness does not mean she is a moldable pawn in the hands of either Katherine or Baptista. In fact, she leverages their expectations to act outside their knowledge for her own gain.

Bianca has a volatile relationship with her sister. At times, Katherine defends Bianca as more than chattel, and at other times, Katherine is jealous of Bianca to the point of violence. When Katherine sees the number of suitors waiting to court Bianca, she ties Bianca’s hands and tries to force her to tell Katherine who is her favorite. Despite Katherine’s changeable attitude toward her sister, Bianca seems to appreciate Katherine, or at least to stay out of her way. She pleads with Katherine to leave her alone and, when that fails, enlists Baptista to help her. Because Baptista has a clear preference for his more traditionally feminine and supposedly mild-mannered daughter, he saves Bianca from Katherine’s mocking.

Baptista also insists the girls have tutors, but he emphasizes Bianca’s love of learning as the main reason, rather than the general education of both his daughters. He hires tutors who claim specific knowledge in Bianca’s greatest interests—classical languages and music—and leaves the tutors alone with Bianca after Katherine becomes exasperated and leaves the lesson. The tutors immediately take the opportunity to reveal themselves to Bianca as suitors for her hand in marriage, and she plays along with their disguise to suit her own interests.

While her suitors flirt with her under the guise of teaching, Bianca flirts back. She knows their intentions and uses the opportunity to form and communicate her opinions of them. In coming to Bianca with their affections, her suitors also afford her more agency than Katherine. Likewise, Baptista defers to Bianca’s opinion about her potential suitors even as he makes his conditions for her marriage clear. Bianca makes her choice about who she is interested in, whereas Katherine is dragged into a marriage with no say in the matter. All the men in the play are afraid of Katherine’s scorn, but it does not drive them to respect or listen to her. Conversely, though the same men talk about their chances with Bianca as if they are winning a bet or a piece of property, they will not make decisions about her future without her express consent.

After Bianca makes her decision and marries Lucentio, she keeps her sense of agency by refusing to leave her social circle at her husband’s whim. A “tamed” Katherine lectures Bianca and Hortensio’s wife about their duties to their husbands and brings them to join Lucentio and Hortensio. Notably, even though Bianca comes with Katherine to hear this lecture, she does not appear to change her mind about her decision. The play ends with the men agreeing that Petruchio has the best wife because she is the most subservient. By play’s end, Katherine and Bianca have reversed roles, where Bianca is perceived as haughty and stubborn while Katherine is the model of feminine mildness and charm.