‘Would not the beggar then forget himself?’
Christopher Sly, a drunken tinker, has been thrown out of a tavern and has fallen asleep outside. A lord finds him and decides to play a trick on Sly: he will take him indoors, dress him in rich clothing, and have his own servants attend on him, hoping to convince Sly that he is actually a nobleman and that his life as a tinker was only a dream. One of the lord’s servants informs him that a group of travelling players has arrived, and the lord decides to have them perform a play for Sly as part of the trick.
‘I am a lord indeed’
Sly wakes up and demands a pot of ale. The servants offer him wine and expensive delicacies, addressing him as ‘your lordship’ and ‘your honour’. Sly, confused, insists that he is not a lord; the servants respond by telling him that he has been dreaming for 15 years. Sly is introduced to his ‘wife’ – in reality the lord’s page boy in disguise – and is smitten, telling the boy to undress and come to bed. The servants quickly dissuade him, and announce that the players are ready to begin.
From this point, we enter into the world of the play-within-the-play where, with the exception of a few lines at the end of 1.1, we will remain.
Act 1 Scene 1
‘Gentlemen, importune me no farther’
Lucentio, a gentleman of Pisa, arrives in Padua with his servant, Tranio. As they discuss what to do during their visit they encounter Baptista Minola, a rich citizen of Padua, and his daughters Katherina and Bianca, along with Bianca’s two suitors: Gremio and Hortensio. Baptista reminds them that he will not allow Bianca to marry until he has found a husband for the older, ill-tempered Katherina. Baptista decides that – since she is not to be married for a while – he will hire tutors to educate Bianca in music and poetry. Overhearing this, Lucentio informs Tranio that he has fallen in love with Bianca, and the pair concoct a plan wherein Lucentio will gain access to Bianca by disguising himself as a tutor. The two swap clothing, and Tranio agrees to take Lucentio’s part and conduct his business for him in Padua.
Act 1 Scene 2
‘I come to wive it wealthily in Padua’
Petruchio, a gentleman of Verona, arrives with his servant in Padua to visit his old friend, Hortensio. Hortensio greets them, and Petruchio explains that he has come to Padua in search of a rich wife. Hortensio is reluctant to introduce his friend to Katherina, warning of her reputatin as an angry and aggressive woman (a shrew), but Petruchio insists that this is of no issue as long as her dowry is substantial enough. Lucentio, now posing as a tutor named Cambio, enters and Tranio, disguised as Lucentio, arrives and announces his intensions to woo Bianca.
Act 2 Scene 1
‘We will be married o’Sunday’
Katherina demands to know which suitor her sister favours, but Bianca protests that she is not in love with any of them. The various suitors arrive – Gremio with Lucentio (as Cambio), Petruchio with Hortensio (now disguised as a musician called Licio), and Tranio (as Lucentio). Petruchio surprises Baptista with his desire to marry Katherina, and Baptista quickly agrees to the marriage, if Petruchio can get Katherina's love. Baptista sends the supposed tutors in to see his daughters. Hortensio soon re-emerges, injured: Katherina has broken his lute over his head, and Petruchio, impressed by her feistiness, is even more keen to meet her.
The others go inside, and Baptista sends Katherina out to meet him. The two exchange verbal (and, from Katherina, physical) blows, but Petruchio reads these as shows of affection. When Baptista and the others return, Petruchio informs them that Katherina has agreed to marry him and, much to Katherina’s bewilderment, that they will be married on Sunday. Baptista tells Gremio and Tranio (pretending to be Lucentio) that Bianca will marry the one who can give the biggest marriage settlement. Tranio (as Lucentio) wins, but is told his father will have to agree otherwise Bianca will be given to Gremio.
Act 3 Scene 1
‘I am no breeching scholar’
Lucentio and Hortensio wait to ‘teach’ Bianca: the former is to tutor her in languages, the latter in music. The pair quibble over who should go first, but Bianca reminds them that the decision is hers, and decides to have the philosophy lesson first. While pretending to teach her Latin, Lucentio tells her of his true identity and intentions. Bianca scolds him for his forwardness, but tells him not to lose hope. She then meets with Hortensio, who similarly reveals his identity to her. Before things can progress, however, a servant enters and tells Bianca that she must leave her study to help prepare for Katherina’s wedding. Bianca obliges, and Hortensio grows suspicious of his rival tutor.
Act 3 Scene 2
‘She is my goods, my chattels’
Petruchio and Katherina’s wedding day arrives, and Baptista is concerned that Petruchio’s whereabouts are unknown. Petruchio arrives but that he is not dressed appropriately for a wedding and is behaving like a madman. Petruchio then goes to greet Katherina, and Baptista and the others follow. Later Gremio enters and describes the wedding – Petruchio swore .....at the sexton.
Petruchio enters with Katherina and the wedding party, announcing his intention to depart with his new wife immediately. Katherina is furious, but Petruchio reminds her that she is now his property, and takes her home with him.
Act 4 Scene 1
‘He that knows better how to tame a shrew’
Grumio arrives at Petruchio's house before his master and Katherina. He tells how badly Petruchio has treated Katherina (and him) on the journey. As soon as he arrives, Petruchio berates the servants for their poor preparations. He complains that their supper is burnt and refuses to let Katherina eat it and, despite her protests, takes her to their bedroom without any supper. The servants report that Petruchio is lecturing Katherina on proper wifely behaviour. Petruchio emerges, and in soliloquy announces his intention to ‘tame’ Katherina in the same manner as a falcon: stopping her eating and sleeping until she is completely obedient.
Act 4 Scene 2
‘I firmly vow never to woo her more’
Tranio (disguised as Lucentio) arranges for Hortensio to see Bianca and Lucentio as they flirt and kiss. Hortensio is appalled by Bianca’s behaviour and, revealing his true identity to Tranio, vows never to try to woo her again: he will instead marry a wealthy widow. Tranio and Biondello intercept a merchant from Mantua and persuade him to pose as Lucentio’s father, and therefore give consent to his son’s marriage to Bianca.
Act 4 Scene 3
‘Did he marry me to famish me?’
Meanwhile in his hometown of Verona, Pertruchio continues his ‘taming’ of Katherina. Exhausted and famished, her resolve begins to waver. Petruchio tells Katherina that they will journey back to her father’s house in the ‘mean’ clothes they already have.
Act 4 Scene 4
‘The match is made’
Tranio (still posing as Lucentio) and Biondello prepare the merchant (now disguised as Lucentio’s father, Vincentio) to meet Baptista. Baptista arrives, and, after speaking to ‘Vincentio’ for a while, is satisfied. They go into the house to celebrate, and (the real) Lucentio and Biondello celebrate their own ingenuity.
Act 4 Scene 5
‘How bright and goodly shines the moon!’
Petruchio, Katherina and Hortensio travel back to Padua, encountering an old man named Vincentio (Lucentio’s real father) on the way, and inviting him to join them.
Act 5 Scene 1
‘Where is Lucentio?’
Preparations are underway for Lucentio and Bianca’s wedding feast. Petruchio arrives at Lucentio’s house with Vincentio, but they are refused entry when the merchant (still pretending to be Vincentio) sees them from the window, and orders the real Vincentio to be arrested for attempting to impersonate him. Confusion ensues, but before things take a violent turn Lucentio arrives (now married to Bianca) and reveals himself to his father, along with the various disguise plots.
Act 5 Scene 2
‘I am ashamed that women are so simple’
At a celebratory banquet, Petruchio, Hortensio and Lucentio place a bet: each will send for his wife, and the winner will be the husband whose wife is most obedient. All are shocked when the now obedient Katherina ensures Petruchio wins the bet. The couple go to bed, leaving the others stunned that he has ‘tamed a curst shrew’.