The Taming of the Shrew | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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The Taming of the Shrew | Act 5, Scene 1 | Summary



Lucentio and Bianca hurry to Saint Luke's to marry. Petruchio and Katherine arrive at Lucentio's house, along with the real Vincentio, who insists Petruchio stay for a drink. He knocks at the door, thinking he will be welcomed by his son. Instead, he is rudely greeted by the Mantuan merchant (the fake Vincentio). Each man accuses the other of usurping his identity, and the merchant threatens to call for the police.

Biondello returns and tells the audience that Lucentio and Bianca are safely married. Tranio, still posing as Lucentio, comes out of the house with Baptista Minola and berates the real Vincentio as a "mad knave." An officer comes to drag Vincentio to jail, but Lucentio and Bianca arrive and prevent the arrest. Realizing their scheme has been foiled, Tranio, Biondello, and the merchant "exit as fast as may be." Vincentio and Baptista are shocked, but Lucentio promises to explain everything.


In Acts 3 and 4, Shakespeare weaves an increasingly complicated web of disguise, deceit, and assumed identities. In this scene the web finally (and suddenly) unravels. In the course of defending his father, Lucentio is forced to admit he is not actually "Cambio," the tutor, but the son of a wealthy merchant. Tranio's real identity is revealed by Vincentio, who has known him since he was three years old. Hortensio has already given up his "Litio the musician" act, so this scene spells an end to the impersonation subplot.

As the play nears its conclusion, the action becomes hectic, even frantic. Tranio and Biondello's disrespectful treatment of Vincentio is strange, since he is their longtime employer and clearly recognizes them. (Petruchio, who is now rich and at least claims to be a gentleman, can get away with this kind of behavior.) The rudeness of the two servants functions mainly as a way of setting up a moment of slapstick humor: once they realize they are "undone," they flee as quickly as possible. This is a more innocent brand of humor than the obedience contest in the following scene. In fact, despite all the confusion, the overall tone of this scene is amusing. Even Gremio, who now realizes he has no chance of marrying Bianca, seems content to go to the wedding reception, enjoy Baptista Minola's hospitality, and watch what happens next.

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