The Taming of the Shrew has grown to become one of Shakespeare's most controversial plays for its portrayal and treatment of women. Before starting the play, students may benefit from a lesson on marriage in Elizabethan times which would provide a better understanding of the status of women during the time of the play.

Class discussion can center on social customs surrounding courtship and marriage. Students can examine how the three couples, Katharina and Petruchio, Bianca and Lucentio, and Hortensio and the Widow, illustrate different perspectives on marriage. Students can also discuss Petruchio's treatment of Katharina and whether it should be viewed as comedic. While the play can certainly be read as misogynistic by modern standards, it can also be read as a farce or satire on gender roles. Students can talk about these various readings and state their own interpretations of the play.

Students may have difficulty with the play's format and language, so you should introduce students to the play within a play, verse, couplet, and iambic pentameter. Students should also be aware of when Shakespeare uses prose and what that change in language indicates in terms of speaker and subject matter.

Summary of The Taming of the Shrew

Key Facts

  • First Performed: ca. 1592
  • Publication Date: 1623
  • Length: 94 pages
  • Lexile Measure: 1340
  • Recommended Grade Band: 10-11

A local lord plays a trick on Christopher Sly, a poor tinker, and arranges for an acting troupe to put on a play called The Taming of the Shrew. Upon arriving in Padua, Lucentio falls in love with Bianca. However, Bianca already has two suitors, Gremio and Hortensio, and her father will not allow her to marry until her elder, ill-tempered sister, Katharina, weds. Hortensio's friend Petruchio agrees to marry Katharina against her wishes.

After the wedding, Petruchio deprives Katharina of food and sleep to force her into submission. Meanwhile, Lucentio elopes with Bianca, and Hortensio marries a wealthy widow. At a banquet, the three men wager on whose wife is most obedient; only Katharina obeys her husband's command and proceeds to lecture the other women on the importance of wifely obedience.

Content Warning: The Taming of the Shrew contains sexual references and misogynistic elements.

What Your Students Will Love About The Taming of the Shrew

  • Seeing all the characters' disguises and transformations
  • Exploring aspects of courtships and marriage

Potential Student Struggles With The Taming of the Shrew

  • Understanding Shakespeare's language
  • Determining if Petruchio's cruel treatment of Katharina is intended to be viewed as comedic

Learning Objectives for The Taming of the Shrew

  • Describe Petruchio's use of animal imagery to explain his plan to tame Katharina; evaluate the effectiveness of Petruchio's plan.
  • Explain Shakespeare's depiction of the contrast between the role of servant and that of nobility.
  • Discuss the various reasons the male characters decide to marry.
  • Comment on the portrayal of the proper behavior and qualities of a wife.
  • Discuss the role money plays in advancing the action of the play.
  • Identify how Shakespeare uses prose to denote uneducated servants or nobility's discussing mundane matters, and rhyming couplets to stress important actions or emotions.

Literary Elements in The Taming of the Shrew

  • Allusion
  • Aside
  • Couplet
  • Irony
  • Pun
  • Sarcasm
  • Soliloquy
  • Stock Character
  • Verse
  • And more!

Major Themes in The Taming of the Shrew

Marriage — The work explores the economic and social aspects of marriage and how courtship and marriage affect not only the romantic couple but also family, friends, and servants.

Related Works:

Gender Roles — The play centers around Petruchio's forcing Katharina into the traditionally submissive role of a wife. Many characters, men and women, do not always behave in accordance with expected gender roles.

Related Works:

Social Class — Shakespeare focuses on the expectations of specific social positions and reveals that social class is arbitrary and can be adopted as a costume.

Related Works:

Other Resources for The Taming of the Shrew

Order The Taming of the Shrew Resources from Prestwick House

Resource Format
The Taming of the Shrew Paperback Student Edition
The Taming of the Shrew Teaching Unit Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
The Taming of the Shrew AP Teaching Unit Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
The Taming of the Shrew Activity Pack Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
The Taming of the Shrew Response Journal Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
The Taming of the Shrew Multiple Critical Perspectives Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
The Taming of the Shrew Complete Teacher's Kit Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set