Essay on Disguised Men and Transformed Women in Taming of the Shrew

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Disguised Men and Transformed Women in The Taming of the Shrew

A recurrent theme in Shakespeare's plays is the idea that things are not always what they seem. The Taming of the Shrew provides a good example of this theme. In this play we find many discrepancies between what seems to be and what is. We can find these incongruities at many levels as we analyze the three main plot lines of the play: The Induction, The Wooing of Bianca and The Taming of Katherina. Each of these subplots is based on earlier works of literature or folk tradition. Shakespeare is not alone in his choice of "false supposes" as a theme. According to The Shakespeare Handbook,

Shakespeare adopts the entire narrative [for the Bianca story]

complete with some stock characters and some pieces of staging,

from George Gasciogne's play Supposes (1566) a prose version of

Aristo's I Suppositi which is in turn a recycling of one of the

standard plots of New Roman comedy as written by Plautus and

Terence." (Fox, 97)

Each of Shakespeare's three story lines in the Taming of the Shrew contains examples of both people who pretend to be what they are not and those who become what they were not.

In the Induction for this play we meet Christophero Sly, a common tinker who is course and rough in both his language and behavior. His pedestrian station is codified in the usual Shakespearean way: he speaks in prose (Barron's Book Notes on the World Wide Web).* When he falls asleep, he is tricked into believing he is lord of the manor. As he starts to believe the trickery, he begins to change and becomes like that which he is "supposed" to be. At the moment of his realization he even begins to speak in verse, ...

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...s kicking and screaming child and starts kicking and screaming right along side him. While onlookers might find this bizarre, it gets the child's attention and reveals to him just how foolish his own actions are. By his actions then, the parent wins the child into a more reasonable attitude and behavior.

Works Cited

Barton, Ann. "The Taming of the Shrew." The Riverside Shakespeare 2nd ed. Ed. Dean Johnson et al. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. 138-141.

Daniel, David. "Shakespeare and the Traditions of Comedy." The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare Studies. Ed. Stanley Wells. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1987.

Fox, Levi, ed. The Shakespeare Handbook. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1987.

Shakespeare, William. "The Taming of the Shrew." The Riverside Shakespeare 2nd ed. Ed. Dean Johnson et al. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. 142-171.
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