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INDUCTION - Scene 2
When Sly awakens, the Lord, dressed as a servant, joins his men in convincing Sly that he is a Lord with a wife and that he has been insane for fifteen years. In the beginning, Sly is confused and says "call me not honour nor lordship"; but he is soon convinced of his nobility when he sees servants surrounding him and offering all manner of food and drink. Then, the "wife" (a page dressed as a female) is brought in to Sly. When Sly observes how she seems to have missed him, he suggests they go off to bed. She excuses herself by saying that the doctor has advised against it. A messenger then comes on stage to inform Sly that the company of players is anxious to entertain him. He invites his wife to sit next to him during the play.
At first, Sly does not accept the story about his being a Lord; but once he is convinced, he begins to act differently. He starts assuming airs, and his language changes from prose to poetry; his actions, however, still betray the reality of his background. With the opportunity to order any drink he desires, he asks for the smallest pot of ale.
Sly’s change in nature is a foreshadowing of Katherine’s own change. Like Sly, she begins with undesirable traits, but during the course of the play, she begins to act less like a shrew and more like a noble and gentle woman. For Katherine, however, her change will be permanent, for she has found the reality of who she is; for Sly, his change is a temporary and fleeting one imposed as a joke. The scene is filled with dramatic irony, for the audience is fully aware of the trick being played on Sly while he is sucked into it. As a result, his already humorous utterings seem even more light and humorous.
Many critics believe that the induction is more than a play within a play or a simple introduction to the main action. In truth, the induction seems very realistic in contrast to the dream-like quality of the play itself. In fact, Sly questions if he is dreaming and then answers, "I do not sleep; I see, I hear, I speak, I smell sweet savours." As a result, Shakespeare seems to be saying that life itself is really just a dream with a small framework of reality surrounding it; the audience or the reader is made to question what reality really is.