Set in the idyllic town of Padua, The Taming of the Shrew tells the story of the timeless battle of the sexes. Bianca Minola, the beautiful daughter of a lord, is eligible for marriage but cannot be courted until her elder sister, Katherina, finds a husband. Katherina’s quick temper and acerbic wit, however, frighten off every potential suitor. Feeling that they are running out of options, two suitors hire a newcomer named Petruchio to seduce and “tame” Katherina. After their exchanges of wisecracks and double entendres, Petruchio succeeds in dragging Katharina to the altar then away to his country home. Once there, the taming process begins, with both sides unwilling to yield.
From its earliest productions at the Globe to Michael Bogdanov’s 1978 production at the RSC to Gil Junger’s modern retelling, 10 Things I Hate About You, The Taming of the Shrew has adapted with each generation. The story, with its domestic power plays and controversial depiction of marriage, has been the subject of multiple operas and the backdrop for Cole Porter’s Tony Award winning musical Kiss Me Kate.
“This is the way to kill a wife with kindness.” – The Taming of the Shrew, Act 4, Scene 1
Prologue, Scene 1 Before an alehouse on a heath.
A lord comes across a drunken Christopher Sly and decides to bring him back to his house and treat him as a nobleman.
Prologue, Scene 2 A bedchamber in the Lord’s house.
The lord convinces Sly that he has come to his senses after a long illness, and a passing troupe of players perform a play for him.
Act I, Scene 1 Padua. A public square.
Lucentio and his servant Tranio have just arrived. Baptista and his daughters Katherine and Bianca appear with Bianca’s suitors Gremio and Hortensio. Baptista tells them they cannot pursue Bianca until Katherine is married. Gremio and Hortensio agree to find Kate a husband so they can pursue Bianca. Lucentio falls in love with Bianca too and has his servant Tranio pretend to be him, so he can pose as Bianca’s tutor.
Act I, Scene 2 Padua. Before Hortensio’s house.
Petruchio arrives with his servant Grumio to see his friend Hortensio who mentions Kate. Petruchio vows to marry her. Hortensio decides to pretend to be a schoolmaster and instruct Bianca in music. Tranio then arrives and announces that he (as Lucentio) will be a suitor to Bianca.
Act II, Scene 1 Padua. A room in Baptista’s house.
Petruchio arrives with Hortensio (as Litio) and Gremio arrives with Lucentio (as Cambio). Petruchio meets Kate, and he announces that they are to be married on Sunday, though Kate protests. Baptista tells Tranio (as Lucentio) and Gremio that the one with the highest dowry will get Bianca. Tranio declares that he has more wealth than Gremio because he will eventually inherit his father’s wealth, but Baptista insists that Lucentio’s father comes in person to assure that he will pass on his wealth to his son and daughter in law to be in the event that his son dies before him.
Lucentio (as Cambio) and Hortensio (as Litio) school Bianca, and both reveal their intentions for her love.
Act III, Scene 2 Padua. Before Baptista’s house.
Petruchio arrives late for his own wedding and is dressed in a fool’s clothes. He acts irrationally at the wedding, then immediately leaves town with Kate.
Act IV, Scene 1 Petruchio’s country house.
Grumio arrives and tells Curtis, another servant, of how Kate and Petruchio have been fighting the entire way there. When they arrive, Petruchio rants and raves at his servants. He finds fault with their dinner and begins a tirade, sending Kate to bed without eating.
Act IV, Scene 2 Padua. Before Baptista’s house.
Tranio admits to Hortensio that Bianca exhibits an interest in Cambio (the real Lucentio). Hortensio vows he will foreswear Bianca and marry a wealthy widow. Lucentio and Tranio convince a pedant from Mantua that his life is in danger, and he agrees to disguise himself as Vincentio and confirm the dower offered to Baptista.
Act IV, Scene 3 A room in Petruchio’s house.
Kate attempts to convince Grumio to bring her some food to no avail. Petruchio and Hortensio arrive, and Petruchio calls forth a tailor and haberdasher with garments for Kate. He proceeds to berate their work and send them away.
When Kate corrects Petruchio about the time, he postpones their trip back to Padua.
Act IV, Scene 4 Padua. Before Baptista’s house.
Tranio (as Lucentio) introduces the Pedant who is impersonating Lucentios’s father Vincentio to Baptista, and the pedant confirms the dower. Tranio plans to arrange a fake wedding so Lucentio can marry Bianca that night.
Act IV, Scene 5 A public road.
Petruchio and Kate travel back to Padua to celebrate Bianca’s wedding. On their way, they meet the real Vincentio. Petruchio gets Kate to declare Vincentio is a woman to his face.
Act V, Scene 1 Padua. Before Lucentio’s house.
Vincentio arrives and asks to see Baptista, but the Pedant (as Vincentio) and Tranio (as Lucentio) call for him to be arrested. Lucentio and Bianca arrive and set things straight, then announce that they’ve been married. Baptista, Vincentio, and Lucentio come to an agreement.
Act V, Scene 2 Padua. Lucentio’s house.
The three marriages are celebrated: Petruchio and Kate, Lucentio and Bianca, and Hortensio and the widow. Petruchio wins a wager by demonstrating that Kate is now more obedient than Bianca or the widow. He celebrates, and Kate lectures the other women on the merits of wifely obedience.
Aquila Theatre Company will perform William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew at the Norton Center on Friday, February 15, 2013. For more information or to buy tickets, visit NortonCenter.com