Rhetoric and allusion

Rhetorical devices

The education which Elizabethan boys received trained them in rhetoric and Shakespeare peppers his dialogue with linguistic patterns and allusions which he could be confident his audience would recognise.
Alliteration: Recurring consonant sounds at the beginning of words found close together:
And thus I’ll curb her mad and headstrong humour
Act 4 Scene 2      
Allusions: References to classical literature or to the Bible add to plot, character and mood. Lucentio’s classical references show both his pretension to learning and his love for Bianca:
Hark Tranio! Thou may'st hear Minerva speak. 
Act 1 Scene 1     
Apostrophe: A direct address to a person or object:
Grim death how foul and loathsome is thine image! 
Induction Scene 1     
Metaphor: An implicit comparison between two objects or ideas. Petruchio uses an extended metaphor to describe the way in which he will ‘tame’ Katherina who is seen as a wild falcon:
My falcon now is sharp and passing empty; 
And till she stoop she must not be full-gorged.
Act 4 Scene 1     
Rhetorical Question: A question asked in order to make a point. The speaker does not expect a reply, as with the following example coming from Petruchio:
Have I not in my time heard the lions roar? 
Have I not heard the sea, puffed up with winds, 
Rage like an angry boar chafed with sweat? 
Have I not heard great ordnance in the field
And heaven's artillery thunder in the skies? 
Act 1 Scene 2      
Heroic couplet: A couplet of rhyming iambic pentameter that often ends a scene. Hortensio’s exit in Act 4 Scene 5 is accompanied by a rhyming couplet:
Have to my widow, and if she be forward,
Then has thou taught Hortensio to be untoward. 
Act 4 Scene 5     
Hyperbole: The use of exaggeration to evoke strong feelings or to create strong impressions. Petruchio uses hyperbolic language to confuse and irritate Katherina:
But Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom 
Act 2 Scene 1      
Pun: A word that has two different meanings, both of which are used as a play on words. In the following pun, Petruchio plays on two meanings of ‘bear’: to bear weight and to bear children:
Women are made to bear and so are you
Act 2 Scene 1 
Repetition: Repetition of words creates rhythm and focus on a dominant idea:
Gremio: Why, he’s a devil, a devil, a very fiend. 
Tranio: Why, she’s a devil, a devil, the devil’s dam. 
Act 3 Scene 2     
Simile: An explicit comparison:
  • Be she as foul as was Florentius' love,
  • As old as Sibyl, and as curst and shrewd
  • As Socrates' Xanthippe, or a worse, 
Act 1 Scene 2     

Biblical allusions

Comedy is usually topical, drawing on a range of references with which a contemporary audience would be familiar. In The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare uses many allusions to texts such as contemporary ballads and other plays by rival playwrights, to classical mythology and to the Bible. Given the legal obligation for the populace to attend church, theatre-goers at the time the play was written would not only recognise biblical stories and teachings, but even the cadence of the Bible’s language and particular phraseology.
Examples of biblical references and allusions:
  • The rhetorical questions Petruchio uses in Act 1 Scene 2 echo the rhetorical questions God asks of Job, a man who has doubted God’s capacity, just as Baptista has Petruchio’s. This association would contribute to the humour of Petruchio’s mock-epic heroic posturing as he goes forward to meet Katherina.
Have I not in my time heard the lions roar? 
Have I not heard the sea puffed up with winds
Rage like an angry boar chafed with sweat? 
Have I not heard great ordnance in the field 
And heaven's artillery thunder in the skies? 
Act 1 Scene 2      
Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail,
Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?
 Job 38:22-23

Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee?
Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go and say unto thee, Here we are?
Job 38:34-35     
  • When Hortensio says, ‘Why, so this gallant will command the sun’ in Act 4 Scene 3, he is alluding to the biblical story recounted in Joshua 10:12-13.
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