Are you seeking ways to engage your students with one of Bard’s longest, most unique, and arguably most exciting plays? William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” is an absolute classic offering many educational opportunities.
Whether teaching in-person or virtually, look no further than this blog post!
We provide teachers like you with all the information they’ll need when considering introducing and covering The Taming Of The Shrew in their classroom.
Read on to discover handy hints and tips on pre-discussion activities, theatre games, dramatic readings, and student projects -all ensuring maximum engagement for even the busiest classes.
Related: For more, check out our planning overview of Much Ado About Nothing here.
The Story of the Taming Of The Shrew
The opening act introduces characters and sets up the story: wealthy Baptista has two daughters challenged by custom to marry, but the elder daughter Katharina is too fiercely independent to suit prospective husbands.
Her younger sister Bianca is more docile and receives many suitors, although their father will not allow her to marry before Katharina does. Enter Petruchio, a fortune-seeking man expected to “tame” Kate through an extreme version of courtship.
Petruchio and Kate banter before their arranged marriage. With the help of servants from both households, they travel together to get married in Verona. Afterwards, Petruchio takes Kate home with him for their honeymoon away from her family.
Upon arriving at Petruchio’s home, Kate learns her husband delays their consummation until she obeys his every demand. A failed attempt at negotiation lands Kate in bed without dinner during the entire act while Petruchio feasts with his servants.
On the journey back to Padua, where Baptista and Bianca live, Petruchio torments Kate with unpredictable behaviour on the road and in public spaces such as an inn. He wins a wager by making Kate join them when they arrive late at night despite her protests to go straight home.
At long last, Kate publicly confesses her love for Petruchio and insists that wives should obey their husbands’ commands further than any other authority or laws of nature or society can ask or require by offering herself as an example – all for a few jewels promised for winning the bet beforehand.
Baptista agrees to let Bianca wed after witnessing this display of marital obedience, so everyone lives happily ever after.
Critical Themes in The Taming of the Shrew
The play examines traditional gender roles and explores what happens when they are challenged. Katharina is portrayed as someone who chooses not to conform to society’s expectations of submissiveness, while Petruchio is the ‘tamer’ meant to make her fit those expectations.
The play also examines the institution of marriage, examining how it was viewed at the time and exploring its potential for conflict and reconciliation. Through Petruchio and Katharina’s relationship, Shakespeare shows us that marriage requires compromise but can ultimately bring happiness.
The theme of power runs throughout The Taming Of The Shrew – from male characters trying to gain control over female characters to Katharina’s struggle against social conventions. In the end, a resolution is reached through a delicate balance of power between husband and wife.
Key Characters in The Taming of the Shrew
Katharina, also known as Kate, is the eldest daughter of Baptista and sister to Bianca. She is portrayed as strong-willed and defiant of traditional gender roles; her challenge of these conventions makes her an interesting character throughout the play.
Petruchio is a young man from Verona who has come to Padua for a wife and wealth. His courtship with Katharina begins with deception but ultimately leads to reconciliation and marriage.
Baptista is the wealthy father of Katharina and Bianca. He sets up the central conflict by refusing to allow Bianca to marry until someone takes Katharina’s hand first, which sets off a comical series of events throughout the play.
Bianca is Katharina’s younger sister, who is highly sought after for her beauty. Her suitors look for ways around Baptista’s rule that she must marry before her elder sister can wed, leading to further antics in the play.
Gender Roles in The Taming of the Shrew
The Taming of the Shrew explores traditional gender roles and examines what happens when challenged. In the play, Katharina is portrayed as someone who chooses not to conform to society’s expectations of submissiveness.
At the same time, Petruchio is meant to be her ‘tamer’ and make her fit those expectations.
The play also points out that these expectations put unequal pressure on women. Women were often seen as possessions to be controlled by men, with their desired traits being humility and obedience.
Katharina’s refusal to fit this mould attracts attention and laughter from the other characters in the play, demonstrating how difficult it is for a woman to assert herself.
Ultimately, The Taming of the Shrew suggests that while it’s important to challenge traditional gender roles, there should also be a balance between respect and assertiveness in relationships.
Petruchio learns to respect Katharina’s strength of character, while Katharina learns to compromise for them both to find happiness together.
The Importance of Katharina’s Character in The Taming of the Shrew
Katharina is a crucial character in The Taming of the Shrew, and her development throughout the play is essential to understanding its themes. Initially portrayed as a fiery woman who refuses to be tamed, she eventually learns that this defiant behaviour can cause problems for herself and those around her.
Katharina’s journey is vital because it demonstrates how society can pressure someone into conforming to traditional gender roles and how balance can be achieved between respect and assertiveness in relationships. This allows the audience to understand that there should be a respectful discussion between partners rather than having one dominate or overpower the other.
Katharina’s character also serves as an example of women’s power within Elizabethan society; However, they lacked rights and were often treated as possessions by men; their voices still mattered and could profoundly affect their lives. Her development throughout the play thus serves as an example for men and women about what absolute respect looks like within relationships.
Tracing Respect and Balance Throughout the Play
The themes of respect and balance are found throughout The Taming of the Shrew. Katharina’s initial refusal to conform to society’s expectations of submissiveness attracts attention and laughter from the other characters in the play, demonstrating how difficult it was for a woman to assert herself within Elizabethan society.
However, Petruchio learns to respect Katharina’s strength of character and ultimately discovers that true happiness comes from compromising between them both.
This is demonstrated when he eventually wins over Katharina by talking gently to her rather than resorting to physical force or anger. This scene shows that relationships should be based on an understanding of mutual respect and compromise rather than dominance or submission.
The play also features an epilogue which suggests that although challenges to traditional gender roles should be respected, there should still be a balance between respecting someone’s autonomy while also ensuring that both partners can find happiness together.
Lesson Plan for The Taming of the Shrew
The students will analyze the themes of respect and balance in The Taming of the Shrew and draw connections between these themes and their own lives.
- Copies of the play or access to an online version
- Whiteboard and markers
- Handouts summarizing key points from the play
- Pens or pencils for note taking
- Introduce the play to the class and provide background information about it (period, author, etc.).
- Ask students what they think are some important themes found in the play. Discuss their answers and introduce the key theme of “respect and balance” if necessary.
- Divide the class into small groups and assign each group a section from the play to read through and analyze.
- Have each group come back together as a class to discuss their findings on respect and balance in that section, then lead a discussion on how this relates to relationships in general (both romantic and friendships) today.
- Provide handouts summarizing key points from the play that relate to respect/balance, then have students draw connections between these points and their own lives by writing down notes on individual whiteboards or sheets of paper.
Lead a final discussion summarizing what students have learned throughout this lesson plan, then have each student answer one question related to respect/balance (e.g., “How can we show our partners/friends that we respect them?”).
Question 1: How does the behaviour of Katherine and Petruchio throughout the play demonstrate respect and balance?
Throughout the play, Katherine and Petruchio’s behaviour demonstrates respect and balance in two ways. Firstly, they are both strong-willed individuals who stand their ground when necessary – this is shown by their frequent arguing and their mutual willingness to compromise at different points in the plot.
Secondly, even when arguing, they still show that mutual respect lies between them; they use witty barbs rather than insults or hurtful remarks. This dynamic between Katherine and Petruchio exemplifies how two people with differing opinions can maintain a healthy relationship through understanding and compromise.
Question 2: What is Elizabethan society’s view on the expectations of women, and how is this portrayed in The Taming of the Shrew?
The traditional expectations for Elizabethan women were for them to be obedient, submissive, and silent – whereas men were expected to take on roles of leadership and dominance. These gendered roles are often challenged in The Taming of the Shrew by characters such as Katherine, who exhibit strength and independence despite societal expectations.
Additionally, although Petruchio attempts to “tame” Katherine into submission, he ultimately respects her wishes in the end – hinting that perhaps Elizabethan society was not relatively as rigid as it may have appeared.
Question 3: What are some examples of traditional gender roles that are challenged in the play?
One example of a traditional gender role challenged in The Taming of the Shrew is that marriage is used to acquire wealth instead of affection. In this case, Petruchio seeks out a wealthy wife mainly for financial gain, while Katherine has no obligation to marry him aside from her father’s request.
Additionally, women were traditionally seen as passive objects rather than active agents; however, characters like Bianca defy this stereotype by taking the initiative in several situations throughout the play – she actively pursues love interests rather than waiting to be followed.
Question 4: How do Katherine’s strategies for dealing with Petruchio showcase her strength?
Katherine consistently displays strength throughout The Taming of the Shrew by employing various strategies to cope with Petruchio’s unreasonable demands. For instance, during Act III Scene II, when she refuses to attend Bianca’s wedding despite being commanded otherwise – this shows her determination even though she knows it will cause further conflict with her husband.
Furthermore, later during Act V Scene II, she cleverly employs sarcasm against him by praising him for his “great command” over things which don’t require any authority – showing that she has learned how best to approach her situation using patience instead of brute force, anger or aggression.
Question 5: What message does Shakespeare convey about relationships through his characters’ interactions in The Taming of the Shrew?
Shakespeare conveys several messages about relationships throughout The Taming Of The Shrew which include understanding one another regardless of opposing views or beliefs; being willing to compromise; valuing each other’s freedom; communicating correctly without resorting to hurtful words; maintaining a sense of mutual respect regardless if arguments arise; etc.
All these principles reflect what it takes for two people (romantically involved or not) to have a functional relationship built around trust and harmony – something all characters within this play eventually learn despite their difficulties.
10 Most Popular Shakespeare Plays
- Romeo and Juliet
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream
- The Taming of the Shrew
- King Lear
- Twelfth Night, or What You Will
- The Merchant of Venice
- Much Ado About Nothing*