The Taming of the Shrew | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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The Taming of the Shrew | Act 1, Scene 2 | Summary



Petruchio, who hails from Verona, is freshly arrived at the home of his friend Hortensio in Padua. With him is his servant Grumio (not to be confused with Gremio, the elderly suitor from the last scene). Petruchio orders Grumio to "knock." He means knock on the door, but Grumio takes it to mean "punch me," with predictable results. After a few moments of mild comic violence, Hortensio opens the door and breaks up the fight.

When asked what brings him to Padua, Petruchio announces that he has come to seek his fortune after his father's death. He intends to marry for wealth and asks Hortensio, point-blank, if he can recommend any rich, eligible women to woo. Hortensio says he knows such a woman, but she is "shrewd" and "ill-favored." Petruchio says he doesn't care how old, cold, ugly, or ill-tempered his bride is, so long as she's rich.

Hortensio, realizing that Petruchio is serious, admits that the woman he has in mind is Katherine, who is not only wealthy, but young, educated, and good-looking. "Her only fault," Hortensio says, is her extraordinarily bad temper. Petruchio insists that this is no big deal and asks Hortensio to come along to Baptista Minola's house. Hortensio, who is in love with Bianca, gladly agrees.


This scene mostly serves to develop Petruchio's character. After hearing from Gremio, Hortensio, and Katherine herself in the last scene, the audience has a fair idea of what to expect from Katherine. Now her counterpart is introduced, and the makings of a serious personality clash are set in motion. As her threats to Hortensio suggest, Katherine does not take kindly to suitors in general, and she values her independence. Moreover, her defiance in Scene 1 shows that she is well aware of her father's intention to marry her off as soon as a willing husband can be found. Petruchio is an especially bad fit for her, because he is arrogant, overbearing, and impatient—traits that will mix with Katherine's own short temper like toothpaste and orange juice. Even Petruchio's treatment of his servant reflects poorly on his character, though the "knock me here soundly" lines are usually played for laughs.

In explaining to Hortensio just how much of a gold-digger he is, Petruchio uses a sweeping array of allusions to classical mythology and medieval romance. Probably the most obscure reference is his claim to welcome a wife "as foul as was Florentius' love." This refers to the medieval "Tale of Florent," in which a knight is forced to marry a hideous hag in order to fulfill an oath; a similar story can be found in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Age is not a dealbreaker for Petruchio either: she can be "as old as Sibyl," the oracle who, according to Greek myth lived to be a thousand years old. He's even willing to consider a woman as "curst and shrewd" as Xanthippe, the wife of Socrates, who was infamous in classical literature for her constant scolding of her husband. Petruchio may be a fortune-hunter and a cad, but he's evidently very well-read. He also has very little regard for women as a sex and is not likely to fall madly in love with a woman at first sight, like the younger and less experienced Lucentio just did.

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