Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
The first act opens with Christopher Sly, a poor, drunken man, arguing with the hostess of the Alehouse. A lord, returning from his hunt, stops at the Alehouse and decides to play a trick on him. He orders his servants to take Sly to his house and dress him up in fine clothes. When he wakes up, the Lord, along with his servants, convinces Sly that he is a nobleman who has lost his mental balance for fifteen years. The Lord invites a company of traveling players to put on a show for Sly. The play is The Taming of the Shrew, which takes place in the city of Padua, Italy.
Baptista Minola is an old, rich man with two daughters, Katherine and Bianca. He is anxious to marry them off and offers a large dowry for each of them. Lucentio, a young man from Pisa, arrives in Padua with his two servants,Tranio and Biondello. Lucentio falls in love with Bianca, Baptista’s younger daughter, and wishes to marry her. Bianca, however, cannot marry until her older sister Katherine has found a husband.
In addition to Lucentio, Bianca has many other suitors, including Grumio and Hortensio. Since Hortensio is in a hurry to have Bianca for his wife, he tries to find a suitable mate for Katherine. Christopher Sly intervenes and says that it would be fun to see this happen in real life, but would like to see the play end. It is the last time Sly is seen in the play.
Hortensio has a friend, Petruchio, who has just arrived from the country with his servant. Hortensio mentions Katherine to him and jokes that Petruchio should have her for his wife. Petruchio is impressed by the amount of money that he would receive as a dowry if he were to marry her; therefore, he agrees to the marriage in spite of her unpleasant nature. Petruchio pursues Katherine and sets a wedding date in the near future. Baptista agrees to the marriage, even though Katherine voices her strong objections to the arrangement. Petruchio departs for Venice in order to prepare for the marriage ceremony.
Once Katherine’s wedding is planned, Baptista announces that the suitor with the largest dowry may have Bianca’s hand in marriage. Lucentio promises a large sum, but Baptista refuses to take his word and must be assured of the amount by Vincentio, Lucentio’s father. A Pedant is asked to pose as Vincentio and to promise Baptista a huge dowry, a charade that he agrees to do. In the meantime, Lucentio, posing as a tutor, woos Bianca and wins her heart. The happy couple decides to elope. Hortensio, frustrated over his loss of Bianca, decides to marry a widow.
Katherine decides to pay her father a visit and returns to Padua with her husband. Vincentio, Lucentio’s father, also arrives in Padua to pay his son a visit. First he finds that Tranio is posing as his son. Then when he cannot locate the real Lucentio, who is on his honeymoon with Bianca, Vincentio concludes that Lucentio has been murdered. As mistaken identities build up to a crescendo, Lucentio and Bianca arrive in Padua. When they tell Baptista the news of their marriage, they receive his approval and blessing; Vincentio also blesses the union.
In the last scene, all the major characters gather for Hortensio’s wedding to the widow. At the banquet following the ceremony, Katherine politely explains the duties of a wife towards her husband. Everyone is shocked at her transformation from a shrew to a loyal wife. They are even more shocked to learn that Bianca’s true character is that of a shrew.