The Taming of the Shrew Induction Scene 1

Synopsis of The Taming of the Shrew Induction Scene 1

A tinker called Christopher Sly is so inebriated he has been thrown out of a pub by the landlady, whom he insults, refusing to pay for glasses he has broken. Immediately he falls asleep, dead drunk, to be discovered by a Lord who has returned from hunting with his friends. He decides to play a joke on Sly. While the tinker is still drunk, they carry him to the Lord’s house and dress him in fine clothes. When he wakes up they intend to convince him that he is not really an alcoholic tinker, but instead a rich lord who suffers from episodes of madness. 
As they are carrying Sly away, a group of travelling actors arrives and the Lord arranges for them to put on a play for the drunk when he wakes up. In addition the Lord’s page, Bartholomew, is made to dress up as ‘Lord’ Sly’s aristocratic wife. The Lord tells his men not to laugh and give the joke away.

Commentary on The Taming of the Shrew Induction Scene 1

A pair of stocks you rogue! The pub Hostess wants the drunken Sly to be put in the stocks (wooden leg and/or arm pinions which meant the population could throw things at the accused) as punishment for his disorderly behaviour.
Richard Conqueror: Sly is mixing up his history, confusing the Norman William the Conqueror, who successfully invaded England in 1066, with the later king of England, Richard (the Lionheart).
paucas pallabris / Sessa! Sly is in effect dismissively saying ‘shut your mouth’ (a corrupt rendering of the Spanish for ‘few words’), ‘get lost’. What gestures or movements would he make on stage as he interacts with the Hostess?
You will not pay for the glasses you have burst? The Hostess refers to the damage caused by Sly inside the pub which the audience needs to imagine.
Saint Jerominy: The drunken Sly confuses Hieronimo (a character from a popular Elizabethan play, The Spanish Tragedy), with the church father saint Jerome.

third-borough: Constable.
…tender well my hounds. The Lord takes great care of his hunting dogs and prizes them greatly. Hunting, along with hawking and fencing, was a sport closely linked with chivalry and nobility.
brach: Bitch / female dog.
Would not the beggar then forget himself? The Lord experiments with the idea of transformation through trickery and intends to make Sly forget who he is and doubt his own identity by treating him as a lord.
music ready when he wakes: Music symbolised harmony and was thus seen as a way of healing madness.
He is no less than what we say he is. The Lord and his attendants intend to change Sly’s behaviour and ultimately his sense of who he is by changing the way in which he is treated – a key theme of the play. 

stay with me to-night: Travelling players would seek the patronage of the local lord.
I have some sport in hand .. impatient.: The Lord enlists the help of some travelling players and instructs them to perform a play for Sly. He warns them that they must not offend him by laughing at his outrageous behaviour and they agree to contain themselves even if he were ‘the veriest antic (madman) in the world’. These actors signal the movement of the play into the realm of playing and imaginative possibilities, both for Sly and for the audience who will enter the world of the play as well.
honourable action .. noble ladies / Unto their lords: The description of how ladies behave is ironic, given the imminent depiction of Katherina.

Investigating The Taming of the Shrew Induction Scene 1

  • Read the dramatic opening of this scene a few times (up to line 31 when the Lord discovers Christopher Sly) and think about how it might be staged in a performance. 
    • How would the stage be set and what props might be used?
    • What advice would you give to the actors playing Christopher Sly and the Hostess about the way they are to speak, move and interact on stage?
  • Focus on the role of the Lord throughout this scene. What kind of man does he seem to be? 
    • Do you agree with his plan to convince Christopher Sly that he is actually a lord? 
    • Are the ideas being applied to Sly relevant to Petruchio and Katherina?
  • The arrival of the actors signals the movement into the world of imagination and playing. Why might Shakespeare have chosen to introduce the main plot in this way?
    • What themes are being introduced?
  • ‘What is’t your honour .. known her love?’ The Page’s ‘script’ exemplifies the attitude of a socially conventional wife, yet it is clear that he will only be acting a part. What might Shakespeare be saying here?
Related material
Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.