Engaging with the text

Enjoy the text

The Taming of the Shrew, title page, second edition, 1596The Taming of the Shrew is a play exploring the nature of identity, transformation and love. It obeys, but also questions, a number of comic conventions.

Get to know the text

There is no substitute for reading the text - several times. Familiarising yourself with the events, ideas and language of The Taming of the Shrew takes time, but is essential if you are to have your own well-informed response to it.
Examiners often report that students seem to know the start of a play or novel well but not the end. Study in class may tend to focus on the beginning of a text, where the writer introduces characters, themes and imagery to the reader, and then to become less detailed as the class grows more familiar with these concepts. So:
  • Do not ignore the impact of significant scenes later in the play
  • Do not forget how characters can change during the play
  • If you are planning to re-read the text several times for revision, make sure that you do not always start at the beginning
  • Once you are very familiar with the play in its normal beginning-to-end structure, try reading Act V first, then Act IV, and so on; this will give you new insights into cause and effect.


Shakespeare’s comedic structure is tightly plotted in The Taming of the Shrew, so make a timeline of the plot, noting:
  •  What happens in each scene
  • All the disguises adopted by characters, pertaining to the schemes they devise
  • The hints of character development in Katherina and Bianca.

Listen to the text

The language Shakespeare uses is carefully chosen and structured; it is, in fact, poetry. In order fully to appreciate his use of blank verse you need to hear it.
  • Listening to a professional audio version of the text will help
  • An even better method is to read it out loud yourself or with a group of friends.

Analyse the text

In order to ensure that you are fully aware of the playwright’s techniques and use of language:
  • Make notes under specific headings, such as, for example, ‘Petruchio’, ‘Bianca’, ‘animal images’, ‘the power of language to transform’
  • Take a key word from an essay question (see also Possible essay questions) or from the list of Themes and Images, and list everything you can think of in The Taming of the Shrew, including relevant supporting quotations, related to that point – e.g. to obedience, to disguise, to Hortensio.
Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.