The Taming of the Shrew Act 1 Scene 2

Synopsis of Act 1 Scene 2

Petruchio and his servant Grumio arrive in Padua. Petruchio tells his old friend Hortensio that he wants to find a rich wife and Hortensio immediately thinks of a plan to introduce him to Katherina. Petruchio does not seem to mind that Katherina is aggressive and bad-tempered and he makes Hortensio happy by agreeing to meet Baptista and woo his elder daughter.

Gremio is also happy because he has found a new tutor for Baptista and the new tutor has promised to tell Bianca secretly that Gremio is in love with her. The new tutor, however, is Lucentio in disguise and he intends to woo Bianca for himself!

Both Hortensio and Gremio are concerned about the arrival of a new gentleman who also wants to woo Bianca. What they don’t know is that this man is Tranio (Lucentio’s servant, dressed up as a gentleman) who is intended to be a distraction so they will not notice that the tutor (his master) is secretly wooing Bianca. All of Bianca’s declared suitors agree to fund Petruchio’s attempts to marry Katherina.

Scene from The Taming of the Shrew, artist Washington Allston 1809Commentary on The Taming of the Shrew Act 1 Scene 2

Rebused .. Knock you here, sir?: Grumio is a stock uncomprehending servant, using malapropisms (‘rebuse’ instead of ‘abuse’) and misconstruing Petruchio’s orders about hitting his master (creating comedy). His refusal results in punishment that makes him squeal out as if singing, solfa being a term of note annotation (‘do, ray, mi’).

Con tutto il cuore ben trovato: ‘With all my heart well met’. Hortensio is very happy to see his old friend Petruchio.

Alla nostra casa ben venuto, / Molto oronato signor mio Petruchio: ‘Welcome to my house my much honoured Signor Petruchio’. Grumio misunderstands this as a legal judgement passed on him in Latin.

Haply to wive and thrive as best I may: Petruchio’s plan is to marry a rich wife in Padua. The Elizabethan ‘Homily on the State of Matrimony bids a man to ‘doe his best endeuour to get him a good wife, endued with all honestie and vertue’. Petruchio’s intention to marry a rich wife is a parody of this. 

shrewd, ill-favoured wife: Violent and disagreeable wife.

wealth is burden of my wooing dance: The burden is a repeated line or chorus of a song, and clearly wealth is the central emphasis of Petruchio’s quest.

Florentius: The name of a Romance knight who promises to marry an old, ugly woman if she helps him in his quest. She turns into a young, beautiful woman after he keeps his promise (a story used in Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath’s Tale).

Sibyl: A prophetess in Greek mythology renowned for her age.

Xanthippe: The wife of Socrates, who was known as a bad-tempered woman.

nothing comes amiss, so money comes withal: Although he is dense, Grumio’s cynical comment is astute.

I will board her though she chide as loud as thunder: Petruchio is determined to woo Katherina even if she is bad-tempered and rude.

He’ll rail in his rope-tricks: Grumio tells Hortensio that Petruchio can be just as bad-tempered and rude as Katherina once he gets started.

throw a figure in her face: Grumio means a ‘figure of speech’ i.e. Petruchio is dextrous at verbal assault.

Offer me disguised in sober robes: Hortensio tells Petruchio to keep his side of the bargain and introduce him (in disguise) to Baptista as a new tutor of music. He hopes to woo Bianca secretly.

to beguile the old folks: Petruchio and Hortensio’s plan cheats the elderly Gremio and Baptista, a stock situation for Commedia plots.

I’ll mend it with a largess: Gremio has hired Lucentio (in disguise) as a tutor and he promises to pay him over and above what Baptista pays him if he will give Bianca Gremio’s love notes and books.

I’ll plead for you / As for my patron: The audience understands that Lucentio will plead with Bianca on his own behalf, and would find Lucentio’s further jibes about Gremio comic.

But if you have a stomach, to’t a God’s name!: If you really want to marry Katherina, hurry up about it!

Softly: Take it easy.

Fair Leda’s daughter: Helen of Troy was Leda’s daughter and had many suitors.

prove a jade: A jade was an old, tired horse.

Alcides: (Hercules) the son of Zeus had great strength and undertook twelve great challenges. 

Rest generally beholding: Hortensio acknowledges that they will all be in debt to Petruchio because without his marriage to Katherina, none of them would be able to woo Bianca.

 Investigating The Taming of the Shrew Act 1 Scene 2

  • Grumio provides much of the comedy from the opening exchanges with Petruchio to his humorous asides later. 
    • Analyse what Grumio adds to this scene
    • What does he contribute to your understanding of the other characters?
  • Tranio’s entrance (dressed up as Lucentio) adds to the complicated plans to woo Bianca and get Katherina married off
    • How do these plans reflect on the theme of power and desire in relationships?  
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