Act 1 Scene 1 of William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew
- Length: 1868 words (5.3 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
Shakespeare's Taming of the shrew Act 1 contains two parts, including the induction. None of Shakespeare's other plays begins with this, in which a full five-act play is performed within another play.
The induction is a separate story, but shows relevance in introducing the main themes that Shakespeare uses in the rest of the play. The style of the structure is to give the reader an insight to the rest of the story, by creating a context.
The induction provides themes of relationships, transformation, deception, manipulation and comedy establishing them for the rest of the play. The theme of relationship is shown through Sly and the Hostess, the Lord and Sly and the Lord and the Huntsmen. Sly and the Hostess show a relationship of conflict through power. The Hostess is wealthier but Sly feels he's higher power because he is the male. He tries to emphasise this by his language, he uses loud, aggressive, arrogant language, "The Sly's are no rouges", "Y'are a baggage " We know he is poorly educated as he uses colloquial language and makes mistakes in his arguments, "We came in with Richard Conqueror" and "Therefore paucas pallabris, let the world slide. Sessa"! Paucas pallabris is corruption of the Spanish pocas Palabras, and Sly mixes William the Conqueror with Richard Coeur-de-lion. It insights into Sly's character, as we know he has a bad attitude to women, he is a drunk and does not have a high status in society.
The tone changes from this light-hearted bickering to a more serious tone as the Lord and his train enter the play. They show an image of hunting, representing wealth and respect, "Huntsman, I charge thee, tender well my hounds". The lord shows a relationship of equality with his huntsmen, as he talks to them as equals. The lord gives a long speech showing his importance and power, "Carry him gentle to my fairest chamber". He jokes about transformation and uses sly as entertainment, "I will practise of this drunken man". The lord's practical joke on Sly reinforces one of the central themes of the main play. Sly is used as entertainment, as the play is supposed to be entertainment for the audience. Shakespeare uses the structural technique of binary oppositions to show Sly and the Lord's characteristics. Their relationship emphasises relationships of power later on in the play.
The Lord intends to tame Sly, by seeing if someone can be transformed if given a different class. This insight's into the rest of the story as Petruchio aims to tame Katherina and establishes this theme. The deception is shown through comedy, as Sly's reaction to the situation is comical. Transformation is shown through Sly's attitude change when he's presented with this new lifestyle, "upon my life, I am a Lord indeed".
The Lord's language is informal, commanding and descriptive, "Say, what is it your honour will command?" Deception is shown through the Lords practical joke on Sly. The end of the induction provides a vital question for the reader, was sly in fact manipulating the Lord at the end, or did he actually believe he is a Lord? This subsequently reflects to when the reader questions if Katherina was manipulating Petruchio at the end of the play, establishing the main themes.
The characters in the induction could be described as representing characters in the main play. Sly could be representing Petruchio, as they are both out for all they can get, (Sly is taking the chance of being a Lord to his advantage, and Petruchio marries Katherina for the dowry). Also, it could be said that because Sly is watching this play, it is a learning experience for him and it changes his attitude to women. Petruchio also changes his attitude to Katherina at the end, as he no longer feels he has to tame her. The Lord and Sly could also be representing Lucentio and Tranio's, as both plots involve them changing roles, (Sly becomes the Lord, and Tranio becomes Lucentio). Sly and Katherina also link to each other. Sly's story dramatizes the idea that a person's environment and the way he or she is treated by others determines his or her behaviour, an idea that Katherine's story in the main play also shows this. The lord portrays Sly's new role as having no will of his own. The lord's huntsman emphasizes this when asked if Sly would fall for the deception and forget himself he replies, "Believe me, lord, I think he cannot choose". The huntsman's words could apply to Katherine as well, as two wealthy and powerful menher father, Baptista, and her suitor, Petruchio, control her. Katherine is forced to play the part of a wife, which she initially rejects. The suggestion that Katherine, like Sly, "cannot choose" suggests that she is as much a plaything of Petruchio as Sly is of the lord. The Induction also introduces the topic of marriage into the play. Sly resists all the servants' attempts to convince him that he is a lord until they tell him that he has a wife, at which point he immediately changes his attitude: "Am I a lord? And have I such a lady?" Shakespeare emphasises this change with language. The humour of the situation is even though Sly is at first trying to make sense of his situation, as soon as he discovers that he might be able to get sex, he immediately stops caring whether his situation is real or not, commanding his wife to "undress you and come now to bed". Shakespeare here introduces the idea that comes into play later, as he suggests that marriage is something that people use for their own benefit rather than the stereotypical meaning of true marriage. Also, the roles of class, gender, and marital status, which in normally would be important, become replaced with appearance and perception. The characters all emphasise the relationship, manipulation and deception theme. The structure of insight, the linked characters all establish the main themes and characters of the play.
Scene 1, act 1, is the beginning of the actually play. Shakespeare wastes no time in establishing who is the "shrew" of the play. Soon into the first scene he introduces the public perception of Katherine as hateful and sharp-tongued. In their critical rejections of Katherine, Hortensio and Gremio identify they dislike her because she's "too rough", and they want mates "of gentler, milder mould". After watching Katherine for only a few seconds, Tranio remarks, "That wench is stark mad," indicating just how bad Katherine's behaviour is, establishing her character. Throughout the play, the characters compare their ideas of the "shrew" with their differing ideas of the "ideal wife." We see that the two suitors value a mild temperament in a wife, and therefore they prefer Bianca to Katherine. Hortensio and Gremio represent the conventional view that a woman should give her individuality for her husband. This expectation makes them prefer the mild, submissive Bianca to the fiery Katherine. This sacrifice seems to be unacceptable to Katherine, who determinedly defends her independence: "What, shall I be appointed hours, as though belike I knew not what to take and what to leave? Ha!"
The themes of the play are the same as the Induction, relationships, transformation, deception and manipulation. This establishes the themes further. Transformation is shown in Act 1, in Lucentio. He describes how he's going to study Virtue, which represents him as self-less and respectful of his father, "It shall become to serve all hopes conceiv'd, to deck his fortune with his virtuous deeds". As soon as Bianca enters the play Lucentio transforms into a selfish character, interested in making her his trophy wife. " I found the effect of love in idleness". The function of Lucentio and Tranio is to draw them out and show their relationship of equality in comparison to other relationships in the play.
The qualities Katherina first present are a violent temper, jealousy in the face of Bianca's favoured treatment, "A pretty peat! It is best put finger in the eye, and she knew why", and disrespect for her father "I pray you sir, is it your will to make a stale of me amongst these mates".
The subplot between Lucentio and Bianca shows slight signs of objectifying women. While the romance between the two seems sweet compared to the violent struggle between Petruchio and Katherine, Lucentio does not necessarily view Bianca as his equal. He seems to mostly see her as a prize to be won, and a trophy wife, "I burn, I pine, I perish, Tranio / If I achieve not this young modest girl", "and paint your face and use you like a fool". Lucentio has fallen in love with her appearance, establishing the theme of relationships and marriage.
In the first half of the scene the reader is introduced to Petruchio's personality. Like several of the characters his behaviour quickly reveals all his characteristics. Petruchio appears quick to anger but also quick to laugh, as he argues with his servant Grumio, " and rap me well, or I'll knock your knave's pate". He has a rude personality, but he is educated well, and has a quick wit, shown through his language. Also, he loves money, which explains his enthusiasm for marrying Katherine. As Grumio remarks, "Why, give him gold enough and marry him to a puppet or an aglet-baby, or an old trot with ne-er a tooth in her head, though she have as many diseases as two and fifty horses. Why nothing comes amiss, so money comes withal". The play's exploration of marriage raises the question that marriage is also essentially for wealth.
Money is not Petruchio's only reason for marrying Katherina as other characters warn him about Katherine's harsh tongue, he begins to view marrying her as a challenge as well as a moneymaking opportunity. Living with the shrew, he says, could not be the worst thing he's encountered, "Have I not in my time heard lions roar"?
Gremio and Hortensio are also added to the plot, there are also suitors to Bianca. They are a dramatic devise to distract the audience from the main plot, they are also used as vehicle of humour using commedia dell art'e (representation of slapstick humour on stage).
The structure of Act 1 is a paradoxical structure: one with a complicated meaning but a simple structure. The style of the structure involves deception as the characters plan to ex-change roles to enable them to woo Bianca. This deception is mainly shown through Lucentio, whom thinks up the idea, this emphasises his transformation to, establishing the main themes and characters.
Within the Induction and Act one, the themes and characters are well established. The link between the characters and themes in the induction and Act 1, show their relevance and importance in the rest of the play. The characters are quickly characterised, by there actions. For example, Katherina's actions instantly show her poor behaviour, disrespect and negligence to her role as a wife. The themes of the play are very noticeable as they are in the induction, main plot and sub-plots. This emphasises them and therefore makes them clear.