The Taming of the Shrew Contents
- Shakespeare, William
- 1564 - 1582: William Shakespeare's Stratford Beginnings
- 1582 - 1592: William Shakespeare's Marriage, Parenthood and Early Occupation
- 1592 - 1594: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 1
- 1594 - 1611: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 2
- 1594 - 1611: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 3
- 1611 - 1616: William Shakespeare - Back to Stratford
- Social / political context
- Religious / philosophical context
- The theatrical context
- The Taming of the Shrew Induction Scene 1
- The Taming of the Shrew Induction Scene 2
- The Taming of the Shrew Act 1 Scene 1
- The Taming of the Shrew Act 1 Scene 2
- The Taming of the Shrew Act 2 Scene 1
- The Taming of the Shrew Act 3 Scene 1
- The Taming of the Shrew Act 3 Scene 2
- The Taming of the Shrew Act 4 Scene 1
- The Taming of the Shrew Act 4 Scene 2
- The Taming of the Shrew Act 4 Scene 3
- The Taming of the Shrew Act 4 Scene 4
- The Taming of the Shrew Act 4 Scene 5
- The Taming of the Shrew Act 5 Scene 1
- The Taming of the Shrew Act 5 Scene 2
Duplicity and disguise
Reasons for disguise
In The Taming of the Shrew, many characters employ disguise in order to further their own schemes, generally by duplicitous means:
- Lucentio becomes Cambio, and Hortensio, Litio, in order to get around Baptista’s embargo on Bianca
- Tranio becomes ‘Lucentio’ so as to knock out the rival suitors
- The pedant becomes ‘Vincentio’ in order to (as he believes) save his own skin from military aggression
- Bianca acts the submissive innocent in front of her father, yet enjoys wielding power over her suitors and acts autonomously in her choice of partner
- From Hortensio’s reaction, we can assume that the Widow is all ‘kindness’ to her suitor until the knot is tied, after which she reveals her true colours.
The disguises of Lucentio, Hortensio and Tranio are comic devices which not only further the plot but also reveal their own characters and expose the motivation or moral compass of those around them. They also provide the opportunity for much ingenuity and wit as the disguised characters sustain their alter-ego throughout much of the play. There is much humour when more simple characters such as Gremio or Baptista are gulled by them. This is in the same vein as the way in which Christopher Sly is gulled by the Lord, his attendants and the male actor who dresses up as his ‘wife’.
The dangers of disguise
There are also more serious aspects of disguise which Shakespeare plays on in his drama:
- The Pedant’s (apparently serious) usurpation of Vincentio’s status results in a genuine threat to the generous old man
- Both Lucentio and Bianca’s relationships with their fathers suffer because of the duplicity that was occasioned by disguise and subterfuge
- The pleasing exterior which hides a selfish heart is a reality which is dangerously seductive and capable of leading a person into errors of judgement and character – as the audience fears has happened for the husbands of Bianca and the Widow.
The duplicity that accompanies deception would be recognised by Shakespeare’s audience as an attribute of the devil who Christians believe lies and disguises himself as an angel of light in order to entice people away from God (see 2 Corinthians 11:14). While The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy which uses disguise and duplicity for comic purposes, the underlying idea of the dangers of deception is not far from the surface.
Petruchio assumes a disguise for a different motive. When he arrives at his own wedding dressed as a madman, it is not in order to cheat anyone but is part of his plan to tame Katherina. Just as Sly is disorientated from his habitual behaviour, so Petruchio is aiming to free Katherina from the constraints of her perceived persona as a ‘shrew’. He wants her to recognise the reality of a relationship with him, rather than habitually chafing against the social constraints of her culture: ‘To me she’s married, not unto my clothes.’ (Act 3 Scene 2). By destabilising her expectations he reduces the opportunity for her to display her usual behaviour, as well as increasing onlookers’ sympathy for her by being more outrageous in his behaviour and appearance than she is.
- English Standard Version
- King James Version
1I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! 2For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. 5Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. 6Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things. 7Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God's gospel to you free of charge? 8I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. 10As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. 11And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! 12And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. 16I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. 17What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not as the Lord would but as a fool. 18Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. 19For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! 20For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. 21To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that! But whatever anyone else dares to boast of - I am speaking as a fool - I also dare to boast of that. 22Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. 23Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one - I am talking like a madman - with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? 30If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, 33but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.
1Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. 2For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 3But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. 5For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles. 6But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been throughly made manifest among you in all things. 7Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? 8I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. 9And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself. 10As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia. 11Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth. 12But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. 13For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. 16I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little. 17That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting. 18Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also. 19For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. 20For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face. 21I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. 22Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. 23Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. 28Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. 29Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? 30If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. 31The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. 32In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: 33And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.
To cheat, dupe or mislead. A person, or character who has been duped.
Also known as Satan or Lucifer, the Bible depicts him as the chief of the fallen angels and demons, the arch enemy of God who mounts a significant, but ultimately futile, challenge to God's authority.
Name originally given to disciples of Jesus by outsiders and gradually adopted by the Early Church.
Satan is said in the Bible to be able to disguise himself as 'an angel of light' in order to deceive human beings.
The Bible describes God as the unique supreme being, creator and ruler of the universe.
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