The Taming Of The Shrew Essay Introduction

Below you will find four outstanding thesis statements for “Taming of the Shrew” by William Shakespeare that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in “The Taming of the Shrew” by Shakespeare and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “Taming of the Shrew” in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot of “Taming of the Shrew” by William Shakespeare or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Taming of the Shrew” by William Shakespeare at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Power Structure of Relationships in The Taming of the Shrew

The theme of power in relationships is very strong in William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. The relationship between Lucentio, Tranio and Biondello is rather unorthodox, as Tranio presents himself as Lucentio to help him with Bianca. The roles of the nobility and the lower class, as well as the parent and child relationship dichotomy are also fully explored throughout the text. Are the roles in these relationships in “Taming of the Shrew” by Shakespeare influenced more by the personal feelings of the characters, or the social roles that they feel they should be attempting to fulfill? Many people throughout the text defy their roles, and their foolery is met with consequences. What do you think Shakespeare is saying about the acceptance of social roles?

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Courtship in The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

Throughout The Taming of the Shrew it is clear that everyone has a different idea concerning the rules of courtship. While Lucentio, Germio, and Hortensio are all in pursuit of Bianca, they all also try to win her favor by pretending to be someone they are not. Katherine and Petruccio seem, at first, to be the only characters that are true to themselves, as they are both outspoken and frank. However, it becomes clear after the marriage of Petruccio and the taming of Katherine, that Katherine acted the way she did because she was insecure about herself in comparison to Bianca. What is the correlation between being true to oneself and finding love? Does Shakespeare seem to advocate these deceptions in “Taming of the Shrew”?

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: Sibling Rivalry in The Taming of the Shrew

Throughout The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare constantly draws comparisons between Bianca and Katherine. Bianca is a foil to Katherine; while Bianca is sweet, kind and gentle, Katherine is harsh and speaks her mind, no matter what the ramifications may be. However, in the end of “Taming of the Shrew”, it seems as if Katherine’s behavior stems from her jealous feelings towards her beautiful younger sister. Is it possible that the sibling rivalry between Katherine and Bianca, as well as Katherine’s inferiority complex, could be responsible for the way that Katherine acts? After both sisters are married, Bianca refuses to come out and meet Lucentio, allowing Katherine to be labeled the most devout wife. Do you think she does this on purpose as a way to finally allow Katherine to win at something that truly matters to her?

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: The Economy of Marriage in The Taming of the Shrew

William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew is far different from some of his other romantic plays, such as Romeo and Juliet. The Taming of the Shrew focuses more on the social aspects of marriage than on the feelings that are involved. For example, economic considerations are high for all characters involved in the play. Lucentio is only allowed to marry Bianca after he promises that his father can provide a larger dowry than Hortensio, and after his ‘father’ promises that the money will be paid. Petruccio is marrying any woman with a large dowry. In what ways are economic benefits more powerful than the emotions of the characters? How do you suppose Shakespeare reconciles the marriage of the daughters based on money? Do they appear truly happy anyway?

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #5: Compare and Contrast Film Versions of The Taming of the Shrew

Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew has been replicated through film many times. Pick one of the more modern adaptations, such as the 1967 Taming of the Shrew, Ten Things I Hate About You or Deliver Us from Eva and compare and contrast the major themes and representations in the film. For instance, how is the portrayal of Katherine different in the play than Kat in 10 Things I Hate About You? Do the films bend the characters to current political and social constructs? Are the men changed at all? How does Petruccio change from the play to the film.

This list of important quotations from “Taming of the Shrew” by William Shakespeare will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “The Taming of the Shrew” by William Shakespeare listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements for “The Taming of the Shrew” by William Shakespeare above, these quotes alone with references to page numbers can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to Shakespeare's text in an important way.

““Come, come, you wasp; i’ faith, you are too angry." “If I be waspish, best beware my sting."
"My remedy is then, to pluck it out." “Ay, if the fool could find it where it lies." “Who knows not where a wasp does wear his sting? In his tail." “In his tongue." “Whose tongue?" “Yours, if you talk of tails: and so farewell." “What, with my tongue in your tail? nay, come again. Good Kate; I am a gentleman."" (II.i.209-219).

“I find you passing gentle. ’Twas told me you were rough and coy and sullen, And now I find report a very liar; For thou are pleasant, gamesome, passing courteous." (II.i.243-246)

“And be it moon, or sun, or what you please. An if you please to call it a rush-candle, Henceforth I vow it shall be so for me." (IV.v.15-17)

“Then God be bless’d, it is the blessed sun: But sun it is not when you say it is not, And the moon changes even as your mind." (IV.v.21-23)

“And craves no other tribute at thy hands But love, fair looks and true obedience; Too little payment for so great a debt. Such duty as the subject owes the prince Even such a woman oweth to her husband." (V.ii.164-174)

“Gentlemen, importune me no farther, For how I firmly am resolved you know: That is, not to bestow my youngest daughter Before I have a husband for the elder. If either of you both love Katherine Because I know you well and love you well, Leave shall you have to court her at your pleasure.” (I.i.48-50)

“I come to wive it wealthily in Padua; If wealthily, then happily in Padua.” (I.ii.76-77)

“Content you, gentlemen. I will compound this strife. 'Tis deeds must win the prize, and he of both That can assure my daughter greatest dower Shall have my Bianca's love.” (II.i.361-365)

“No shame but mine. I must, forsooth, be forced To give my hand, opposed agaisnt my heart Unto a mad-brain rude by, full of spleen Who wooed in haste and means to wed at leisure” (III.ii.8-11)

“'Katherine the Curst' A title for a maid, of all titles the worst.” (I.ii.130-131)

Source : Shakespeare, William. The Norton Shakespeare. 1. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997.


Although it is not possible to determine the dates of composition of William Shakespeare’s plays with absolute certainty, it is generally agreed that the early comedy The Taming of the Shrew was probably written after The Two Gentlemen of Verona (pr. c. 1594-1595) and before A Midsummer Night’s Dream (pr. c. 1595-1596, pb. 1600). Even at this early date, Shakespeare shows himself to be a master of plot construction. Disregarding the classical unity of action, which forbade subplots, for a more enlightened concept of unity, Shakespeare creates two distinct lines of action, each derived from a different source, and integrates them into a unified dramatic whole. A single source for the main plot of Petruchio’s taming of Katharina has not been found.

Misogynistic stories abounded in Shakespeare’s time, stories of men exercising their “rightful” dominance over women. One in particular, a ballad titled A Merry Jest of a Shrewd and Curst Wife, Lapped in Morel’s Skin (printed c. 1550), tells the story of a shrewish wife who is beaten bloody by her husband and then wrapped in the salted skin of a plow horse named Morel. Like Kate, this wife has a younger sister who is the favorite of their father. If Shakespeare used this ballad as a source for the main plot of this play, it is obvious that he toned it down greatly, substituting psychological tactics for physical brutality. Nevertheless, some stage versions of The Taming of the Shrew have emphasized Petruchio’s physical mistreatment of Katharina. The eighteenth century English actor David Garrick as Petruchio threatened Katharina with a whip. Some critics even today see in this play an unacceptable male chauvinism. One must remember that Shakespeare lived and wrote in a patriarchal world in which the father ruled the family and the husband ruled the wife. Much in this play reflects the patriarchal nature of Elizabethan society, but Katharina’s strength of character may mitigate charges of male chauvinism against Shakespeare.

The source for the underplot, the wooing of Bianca by various suitors, is George Gascoigne’s Supposes (pr. 1566). The heroine in Gascoigne’s play is made pregnant by her lover, but she remains completely chaste in The Taming of the Shrew. Shakespeare also dispenses with the source’s character of the bawdy nurse and modifies the harsh satire that Gascoigne directs at Dr. Cleander, the pantaloon, who represents the degeneracy of “respectable” society. For this character Shakespeare substitutes Gremio, a wealthy old citizen of Padua who would marry Bianca but is thwarted by the young Lucentio. These changes are typical of Shakespeare, in whose plays sexual relationships are virtually always sanctified by marriage and in whose comedies satire is usually genial or at least counterbalanced by good humor.

The Taming of the Shrew is the only play by Shakespeare that has an “induction,” or anterior section, that introduces the main action. In the induction, which is set in Shakespeare’s native Warwickshire, an unconscious drunken tinker named Sly is taken to the house of a lord, dressed in fine clothes, and made to think he is a lord who has been comatose for fifteen years. Convinced he is indeed a lord, Sly begins to speak in blank verse and agrees to watch a play performed by traveling players, namely, The Taming of the Shrew. At the end of the first scene, Sly is already bored with the play and exclaims, “Would ’twere done!” He is never heard from again.

This induction, which at first sight appears irrelevant, dramatizes a recurring theme in all of Shakespeare’s comedies and the central theme of this play: the deceptiveness of appearances. Sly mistakes the opulence of his surroundings for his true reality and thinks he is a lord rather than a poor tinker of Burton-heath. In the play proper, many of the characters pose as people other than themselves and are responded to in guises not of their true nature. In the subplot, Lucentio, in order to woo Bianca, trades places with his servant Tranio and further takes on the role of Cambio, a schoolmaster hired by Gremio, to woo Bianca for himself. Hortensio, another suitor to Bianca, assumes the role of Litio, a music teacher, to gain access to her. Late in the action, a pedant is coerced to play the role of Vincentio, the father of Lucentio. When the true Vincentio appears on the scene, the disguises of the subplot are finally revealed.

In the major plot the theme of illusion is not as literal, but it is no less important. Katharina, the shrew, has played her part for so long that everyone believes she is an irritable and hateful woman. Conversely, Bianca, her sister, is universally regarded as sweet and of a mild disposition. Neither image is totally true. Bianca has to be told twice by her father to enter the house in the first scene, indicating that she is not as tractable as she is thought to be. Katharina, in her first meeting with Petruchio, does not protest when he tells her father that they will be married on Sunday. She remains silent, indicating that she has tacitly accepted him. In the final scene, the true natures of Katharina and Bianca come out for everyone to see. It is Bianca who is the disobedient wife, and it is Katharina who gives a disquisition on the perfect Elizabethan wife. Whether her speech is to be taken at face value or as a statement of irony is debatable.

Petruchio has come “to wive it wealthily in Padua.” He is a rip-roaring fortune hunter who will wed any woman who is rich enough, “Be she as foul as was Florentius’s love/ As old as Sibyl, and as curst and shrewd/ As Socrates’ Xanthippe.” He is overwhelming in speech and manner and completely unintimidated by Katharina’s reputation as a shrew. He annihilates her resistance with his outlandish actions. At his country house outside Padua, he mistreats his servants unconscionably, demonstrating to Katharina the kind of behavior that she has displayed. He then deprives her of sleep, food, and drink, as one would tame a falcon. Finally, he deprives her of fine clothing. By his example, she is led to see her own unreasonable behavior. She at last decides to submit to her husband’s demands rather than persist in her perverse behavior. The Taming of the Shrew is a perennially popular stage production that can be performed and interpreted in various ways, depending on the inclinations of the directors.

Plot Recap

Old Baptista of Padua has a problem. His much-courted, demure younger daughter Bianca is surrounded by suitors, but he has resolved not to give her in marriage until the elder, Katherina, the shrew of the play’s title, is wed. Though Kate is well-dowried and fair, her temper is legend. Father, sister, and suitors writhe under the lash of her tongue.

Hortensio, enamoured of Bianca, explains his predicament to Petruchio, a witty and wise young man of Verona who has come to “wive it wealthily in Padua.” The description of Kate fails to daunt him; he has the intelligence to perceive the woman as both puzzle and prize.

Though Hortensio’s plan avails him naught--he loses Bianca to Lucentio disguised as a schoolmaster--he sets Petruchio in motion. In a scene perhaps better dramatized than read, the sparks fly as Petruchio ventures to woo Katherina. He pretends to have heard nothing but good of her. As she insults him, he compliments her courtesy. This is only a skirmish in the battle between the sexes; later, Petruchio comes late to the wedding, wears tattered clothes, and rides a pathetic excuse for a horse. He swears at the priest, smacks a loud kiss on the bride, and hurries her off without the comfort of a wedding feast.

Once Kate is installed in her new home, Petruchio’s antics grow even madder. Nothing is good enough for his Kate, so the food is thrown out, the bed flung asunder, her new gown returned to the tailor. Exhausted, hungry, and wary of her husband’s unpredictable temper, Kate finds that gentleness and agreeability, once foreign to her nature, transform Petruchio into a man fit to live with, which was his plan all along.

The comedy ends with a marriage feast for Bianca and Lucentio. A merry debate on marriage ends with the new husbands testing their brides for gentleness and obedience. The results puzzle the banqueters but not the reader of this tale of unfolding mutual respect and understanding.


Bloom, Harold, ed. William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew”: Modern Critical Interpretations. New York: Chelsea House, 1988. Not for the faint-hearted, this collection of essays is useful for indicating the trends of modern scholarship regarding the play. It contains a number of essays utilizing modern critical perspectives such as feminism and deconstruction.

Greenfield, Thelma N. “The Transformation of Christopher Sly.” Philological Quarterly 33 (1954): 34-42. Greenfield argues that the importance of the Christopher Sly framing device lies in its establishment of the juxtaposition between reality and appearance evident also through the main action of the play.

Holderness, Graham. Shakespeare in Performance: “The Taming of the Shrew.” Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1989. Holderness examines four different productions of the play, including the 1966 Franco Zeffirelli movie and the 1980 television adaptation starring John Cleese. The book is valuable in that it stresses the importance of the performance of Shakespeare’s works.

Huston, J. Dennis. “‘To Make a Puppet’: Play and Play-Making in The Taming of the Shrew.” Shakespeare Studies 9 (1967): 73-88. Huston asserts that Shakespeare repeatedly shocks the audience by presenting a series of false starts (that of Christopher Sly being the first). This reflects Katharina’s experience as she is tamed by Petruchio.

Wells, Stanley, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare Studies. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1986. This is where all studies of Shakespeare should begin. It includes excellent chapters introducing the poet’s biography, conventions and beliefs of Elizabethan England, and reviews of scholarship in the field.

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