Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

Petruchio’s Wedding Costume

The ridiculous outfit Petruchio wears to his wedding with Kate symbolizes his control over her. Simply by wearing the costume, he is able to humiliate her. It may be shameful for Kate to be matched to someone in such attire, but she knows she has no choice if she does not wish to become an old maid. She consents to let the ceremony proceed, even with Petruchio dressed like a clown, and thus yields to his authority before the wedding even begins.

The outfit also symbolizes the transient nature of clothing. Petruchio declares that Kate is marrying him, not his clothes, indicating that the man beneath the attire is not the same as the attire itself. Thus, Lucentio, dressed as a tutor, cannot escape the fact that he must return to his true identity. By the same token, when Kate plays the role of a dutiful wife, she remains, essentially, Kate.

The Haberdasher’s Cap and Tailor’s Gown

The cap and gown that Petruchio denies Katherine, despite the fact that she finds them truly appealing, symbolizes yet again his power over her. The outfit functions as a kind of bait used to help convince Kate to recognize and comply with Petruchio’s wishes. Only he has the power to satisfy her needs and desires, and this lesson encourages her to satisfy him in return.


Katherine is compared to various animals throughout the play. Many men in the play refer to her as a shrew, which is where the play’s title comes from. A shrew is a small long-nosed mouse, but it was also an Elizabethan insult for a temperamental woman. Out of all of the men in the text who compare Katherine to an animal, Petruchio is perhaps the biggest culprit. In 2.1 he puns on her name and refers to her as a wild cat, and in 3.2 he refers to her as a horse, an ox, and an ass. The most famous example occurs in 4.1, in which Petruchio compares Katherine’s combative nature to a wild falcon that needs to be tamed.  

Katherine is symbolically linked to animals for two significant and related reasons. Animals are considered possessions. Shakespeare indicates that Katherine, and women in general, are their husbands’ property by associating them with livestock. This is even more significant because it symbolizes the commodification of women in an economic marriage. When readers first meet Petruchio, he admits that he wishes to get married so that he can make his fortune. Shakespeare showcases to the reader that Petruchio was successful in obtaining wealth via marriage because he has Petruchio refer to Katherine as his livestock immediately after they are wed. The link between Katherine and animals also symbolizes Petruchio's desire to change Katherine. As the title of the play suggests, Petruchio wishes to tame Katherine’s true nature the same way a person might domesticate a wild animal.