The Taming of the Shrew/ How is The Taming of the Shrew a comedy?

The Taming of the Shrew/ How is The Taming of the Shrew a comedy?


A man (Petruchio) finds himself a wealthy but impetuous woman as his wife-to-be (Katherine). During their wedding ceremony, Petruchio punches the pastor and later declines his invitation to the family after party. He drags a puzzled Katherine through the dirt and mud of his country house, starves her, contradicts all she says and punishes her with sleep deprivation. When later she returns to her father’s residence, the Katherine is transformed into a humble and obedient character. This is the bare bone story of Petruchio and his ‘shrew wife Katherine presented by William Shakespeare. From the surface, the Taming of the Shrew play seems to be a nasty, cruel, offensive as well as misogynistic piece of work. However, over the years that have seen the play become famous in theaters around the world; consequently, the misogynistic view of play may not be perceived as true. As highlighted by Bevington, the ‘Taming of the Shrew’ is a misunderstood comedy romantic (42). Nonetheless, the authenticity of its comic nature remains questionable and there is a need for clarity in the play’s literature a factor that will be discussed in the article presented.

When writing the play the taming of the shrew, Shakespeare works per and in contradiction to the principles of comedy, which during the time would be conversant with his audience. As explained by Charlton, early modern audiences not only expected to experience literature entertainment through wit and laughter but also learn social skills in a similar manner (73). The principles of the comic genus during Shakespeare’s presentation of the play included; mistaken identities, disguises, and confusion of identities, physical slapstick, and more intellectual humor in form of humorist characters, for example, the shrewd servant, strong feminine personalities as well as a successful conclusion.

Most of the aforementioned conventions of comedy are evident in the play. For example, the disguise that abounds within the subplot when Tranio, Lucentio, and Hortensio tried to win over Bianca’s hand in regard comes as up comically. ‘Sir you seem a sober ancient gentleman by your habits, but your habit, but your words show you are a madman, why sir, what cerns it you if I wear pearl and gold? I thank my good father, I am able to maintain it.” (V.i.4–7). Act 5 scene 1 presented above, Lucentio’s father finds and is surprised by Tranio impersonating his son. The humor takes a turn for the batter when Tranio argues that Lucentio’s father, Vincentio, is out of his mind as he stubbornly refuses to accept for who he was after he had been introduced to everyone in Pauda as Lucentio.  Just as the situation seems stale, Pentant arrives, pretending to be Vincentio and vehemently supports Tranio in his personification attempts to be Lucentio. Vincentio gets into trouble and he is about to be whisked away by authorities as an ‘imposter’ his real son arrives with Bianca and is left to straighten things at the risk of losing out on impressing his admirer.

According to Lamb, comedy during William Shakespeare’s time and now may not be associative as modern comedy as a strict structure (112). In the second instance, Shakespeare portrays the full range of humorism in the way he presents his dramatic characters. Petruchio first arrives at his wedding comically late and poorly dressed; additionally, he interrupts the whole event constantly a factor depicted in his action to punch the priest. To some extent, it can be argued that Petruchio deliberately acts in such a manner during the wedding so that Katherine can see for herself how she behaves. He perceives that in the instance she sees how her actions she will be driven to change and consequently become more pleasant.

“I must forsooth be forced / To give my hand opposed against my heart” (III.ii.8–9). To Petruchio, Kathrine might not know why people call her a shrew and this comic misconduct not only tame her but also make her realize how silly she looks. “She is my goods, my chattels. She is my house, / My household-stuff, my field, my barn, / My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything” (III.iii.101–103). A similar manner of mistaken identities can be seen in Bianca, the sweet tempered sister of a wild Katherine is presented in a comical manner that tends to show her as a saint with her flattering eyes yet in real sense she is manipulative, betraying, and dreadful version of what women are. Katherine comically refuses the efforts of her husband at first even slapping him at some point.

The audience has to understand that the cruelties shown to Katherine by her husband are comical in the sense that they affect him either way. In other words, he is punishing himself when breaking his shrew wife. Petruchio stays awake in his efforts to deprive his wide of sleep; additionally, he remains hungry while he starves Katherine. This is a unique part of the act, he thinks he is winning in the battle to tame Katherine but in the processes, he shares the punishment.

In concussion, Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ despite its previous depiction as theater cruelty is a comedy. The play has few rudimentary regulations as well as operating principles such as a light humorous tone, use of witty banter, disguise, mistaken identity young misunderstood love and a successful conclusion come to form a comic show between two different personalities. Shakespeare in his own ways depicts his characters in a comical way in partcluar Katherine and Petruchio. By the end of the play despite his brutality, it is clear that Petruchio is the best husband for Katherine who is no longer a shrew.


Works Cited

Bevington, David. The Necessary Shakespeare. New York: Pearson, 2005.

Charlton, H. B. (2013). Shakespearian comedy. Routledge.

Lamb, Charles. Tales From Shakespeare. New York: Pearson, 2004.