The Taming of the Shrew

Type: 
Comedy
First Performed: 
1593-94
First Printed: 
1623
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There's small choice in rotten apples.

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Bianca and Katherine are the daughters of Baptista Minola, one of the richest gentlemen in Padua. While Bianca (the younger daughter) has many suitors, she is forbidden to marry until her older sister, Katherine, is first wed. Unfortunately, prospects for a match for Katherine are slim as she has gained a well-earned reputation for her nasty temper and tongue. A dismayed and desperate Bianca takes matters into her own hands to find a mate for her sister, so that she might pursue her own romances. Two of her suitors, Gremio and Hortensio, agree to help her. Lucentio then arrives in Padua, falls immediately in love with Bianca, and uses tricks and disguises of his own to woo her.

Hortensio entices his friend Petruchio to pursue Katherine's affections. An undaunted Petruchio takes up the challenge, wooed by the large dowry that a marriage to Katherine would bring him. While Petruchio claims to all who will listen that he finds Katherine to be charming and delightful, behind the scenes he is mercilessly breaking her down with constant contradictions and exhausting tricks. An exhausted Katherine is finally “tamed” and settles into a docile, wedded domesticity.

At the play's conclusion, three couples gather (Petruchio and Katherine, Bianca and Lucentio, and Hortensio, who has married the town's elderly widow). Petruchio wagers that his wife is the most obedient of the three and wins the proposition when the now-submissive Katherine lectures her sister on the virtue of a good and loving wife.