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
The conventions of comedy
In The Taming of the Shrew Shakespeare both works with, and against, the conventions of comedy which would have been familiar to his audience. Early modern audiences would expect to experience entertainment through humour and some element of education through laughter: i.e. not only would they be entertained, they would also learn how not to behave or how to escape such mockery in their own lives.
The conventions of the comic genre included:
- Mistaken identities
- Disguises and confusion of identity
- Young lovers who face many obstacles
- Multiple plots often intertwined and at times complicated
- Physical slapstick as well as more intellectual humour
- Stock characters, such as the clever, unruly servant
- Strong female characters, who are often disguised as men
- Journeys to another country or place
- A happy ending (often based on multiple marriages).
The Taming of the Shrew as a comedy
Most of these elements can be seen in The Taming of the Shrew. The mistaken identities that abound in the sub-plot when Hortensio, Lucentio and Tranio take on disguises in order to secure Bianca’s affections or the confusion of identity that occurs when Lucentio’s father seeks his son are all conventions of the genre. Similarly, the young lovers who face many obstacles are familiar characters and are seen in Lucentio and Bianca and, less obviously, in Petruchio and Katherina. Other familiar characters include Grumio as the clever, unruly servant who gets knocked about by his master, and Gremio as the old, lascivious man. There are journeys which develop plot – such as Lucentio’s father’s arrival in Padua – and journeys which transform character – such as Katherina’s journey to Petruchio’s house after their wedding.
A departure from convention
However, Shakespeare also ignores many of these conventions. Most obviously, he ignores the implication that all the unions at the end of a comedy are happy. The Taming of the Shrew does not end with a marriage in which all the comic complications are resolved. Instead, Shakespeare places a marriage – occurring offstage and described by characters onstage – in Act 3 Scene 2, almost at the centre of the play.
Unusual in a Shakespearean comedy, the focus is not on the lead-up to a wedding, but on marriage and the life of the characters after they are married. Such a focus raises questions about the other marriages that take place at the end of the play in the usual resolution of mistaken identity and thwarted love. The long-term happiness of the newly married couples is not necessarily as straight forward as is implied in other comedies such as As You Like It.
a genre of drama that has a happy ending and produces laughter
The period from the late Middle Ages until around 1800.
A French word meaning type or class. A major division of type or style in an art-form. A sub-genre is a lesser division. The main literary genres are novel, short story, comedy, tragedy, epic and lyric.
A prop made of two sticks tied together which created a great noise on impact. The term now refers to energetic physical comedy.
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