What happens to Christopher Sly?

Christopher Sly is the victim of a random prank. He passes out drunk outside a tavern and a local lord passing by decides to take him home, dress Sly up in his own clothes, and have his whole household act as though Sly is the ruler of the house. The lord also dresses up one of his servants as a woman to pretend to be Sly’s wife. The lord’s servants do as he says, and Sly wakes up in a lavish bed with a rich robe and servants waiting on his every need. At first, Sly objects, telling the servants he is not who they think he is, but when his “wife” is mentioned, he starts agreeing that he is a lord. The real lord then brings a troupe of actors to Sly’s bedchamber to put on a play. That play constitutes the main story of Taming of the Shrew.

How does Petruchio "tame" Katherine?

Petruchio utilizes different techniques to “tame” Katherine. After proving himself as a quick-witted match, he tells Baptista that she has already agreed to marry him when, in fact, she has not. At the wedding, Petruchio humiliates Katherine by wearing absurd clothing, arriving late, and riding a broken-down horse, and then he exerts his authority over her by forcing her to leave immediately. When they reach his house, he pretends he cannot allow her to eat his inferior food or sleep on his bed because he cares for her greatly. Katherine grows tired and hungry as a result and must depend on Petruchio’s goodwill to fulfill her needs, reinforcing in her mind the idea that he controls her.

What does Bianca study?

When Baptista forbids Bianca to have suitors but openly seeks tutors for both his daughters, Bianca’s would-be suitors use teaching as their opportunity to get in the door and woo her. Baptista specifically states Bianca most enjoys studying “music, instruments, and poetry.” Lucentio, disguised as Cambio, gives Bianca a Latin lesson. Hortensio, as Litio, teaches music. Neither lesson is particularly instructive as they are guises for the men to express their interest to Bianca directly.

How does Katherine change?

At the beginning of the play, Katherine is generally seen as undesirable because of her strong will and quick temper. She is vocal and consistent about her refusal to submit to men. Petruchio makes it his challenge to “tame” Katherine, so he marries her and then proceeds to keep her away from her community, food, and rest until she agrees to everything he says. He does this under the guise of the doting husband role, giving her only the best. Worn down, Katherine begins to agree with Petruchio and even speak out about how women should submit to their husbands in everything. At the end of the play, she appears completely submissive and tamed.

How is the play relevant to modern society?

The Taming of the Shrew presents perhaps Shakespeare’s most controversial take on gender roles, but such a contentious play provides rich opportunities to discuss gender historically and today. Trying to grapple with the ostensibly sexist material, actors and directors have interpreted and performed the play a number of different ways over the centuries. While modern audiences can justifiably balk at the depictions of a violent patriarchy and outdated stereotypes, engaging with such a controversial text opens space to discuss the role of gender in society. Whether or not Shakespeare himself was endorsing traditional gender roles, the play allows modern audiences to grapple with the misogyny they see on stage and critique it.