The Taming of the Shrew | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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The Taming of the Shrew | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram



The Taming of the Shrew begins with an induction, a pair of introductory scenes outside the main action of the play. In the first scene a nobleman finds the beggar Christopher Sly passed out at an alehouse and decides to play a practical joke on him. He orders his men to have Sly bathed, groomed, and dressed as a "mighty lord," then carried to the finest bedroom in the lord's manor. When Christopher Sly wakes up, the servants convince him he is actually a nobleman, and that his previous life of poverty was a delusional dream. He protests at first but is then completely taken in by their ruse. Later, at the end of Act 1, Scene 1, the characters from the Induction exchange a few brief remarks about the play they are watching. After this, they are silent for the remainder of the performance.

Act 1

Lucentio, a bookish young man from Pisa, arrives in Padua to study. While looking for a place to stay, he happens to overhear an argument between Baptista Minola (a wealthy Paduan), and Gremio and Hortensio, who are suitors to Baptista's daughter Bianca. Baptista announces that he will only allow Bianca to be courted when a husband has been found for her older sister Katherine. Although they are rivals, Hortensio and Gremio decide to work together to find such a man, but they fear nobody will take up the challenge. Fortunately for them, Petruchio of Verona has just arrived in town, looking for a rich wife. Lucentio and Hortensio plan to disguise themselves as tutors and woo Bianca under the pretext of teaching her. Tranio, Lucentio's servant, agrees to switch places with his master so that Lucentio will be able to carry out his scheme.

Act 2

This act consists of a single long scene. Hortensio and Lucentio, now disguised as "Litio" and "Cambio" respectively, visit the Minola residence to woo Bianca. First, however, Hortensio is sent to teach music to Katherine, who strikes him on the head with a lute and sends him running back onstage. Petruchio shows up too: he wants a hefty dowry from Baptista Minola and wastes no time in courting Katherine. After a long exchange of insults with Katherine, Petruchio tells Baptista Minola that the match is made, when in fact Katherine wants nothing to do with him. Baptista is ecstatic and agrees to plan the wedding for the very next Sunday. He then addresses Gremio and the disguised Tranio, telling them that he wants to marry Bianca off quickly as well. Bianca, he declares, will wed the man who can best provide for her if she is widowed. Tranio (posing as Lucentio) wins the contest by promising huge wealth to Bianca, but Baptista Minola insists on meeting Lucentio's father first.

Act 3

Lucentio ("Cambio") and Hortensio ("Litio") give lessons to Bianca, revealing their identities in the process. She neither encourages nor discourages them, though she seems to favor Lucentio. The next scene takes place on Petruchio and Katherine's wedding day, with Baptista and his guests anxiously waiting for the groom to show up. When Petruchio arrives he does everything he can to make the wedding a disaster and embarrass his bride. Petruchio's "mad" behavior is beginning to alarm the other men—even those who originally applauded his efforts to domesticate Katherine. After the ceremony Petruchio announces he and Katherine must depart for Verona, missing their wedding feast in the process. She protests, but Petruchio gives her no choice but to leave immediately.

Act 4

At home in Verona, Petruchio takes the "taming" experiment to new extremes. He deprives Katherine of food and sleep, quarrels loudly with the servants, and generally makes her as miserable as possible—all while pretending that he does it out of concern for her. By the time the two head back to Padua, Katherine is utterly submissive to Petruchio, fearing what her husband will do if she contradicts him even slightly. In the meantime the disguised Tranio has found a man who will pretend to be Lucentio's father. With Tranio's help, Lucentio and Bianca make plans to elope.

Act 5

Tranio (still disguised as "Lucentio") invites Baptista Minola to his house to finalize the marriage contract with Bianca. Lucentio's real father, Vincentio, arrives in Padua and attempts to visit his son, but is nearly arrested as an impersonator. Lucentio and Bianca, having just been married, save Vincentio from the police in the nick of time and explain the deception to Baptista Minola. The closing scene takes place at Baptista Minola's house, at the wedding feast of Lucentio and Bianca. Here, Petruchio reveals to the other men the marvelous transformation in Katherine's behavior. Baptista is so stunned by the change in his daughter that he gives Petruchio a huge sum of money, "another dowry to another daughter." Katherine gives a long, emotional speech about the role of a wife, urging women to be submissive to their husbands. Petruchio applauds and bids his fellow revelers good night.

The Taming of the Shrew Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction


1 Petruchio arrives in Padua seeking a rich wife.

Rising Action

2 Hortensio tells Petruchio about Katherine.

3 Petruchio visits Katherine at her home.

4 Petruchio obtains Baptista's consent to marry Katherine.

5 Petruchio and Katherine are married.

6 Petruchio takes Katherine back to Verona to "tame" her.


7 Katherine finally gives in and agrees to obey Petruchio.

Falling Action

8 Petruchio and Katherine return to Padua.


9 Katherine delivers her speech on wifely obedience.

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