57 pages • 1 hour readWilliam Shakespeare
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Right from the start, The Taming of the Shrew makes it very clear that everything the audience is about to see is a trick. The frame story introduces a drunk peddler dressed up as a lord, given fine new clothes and a false boy-wife. Then, it sends him to the theater—a place where all the woman characters are played by boys (at least in Shakespeare’s time) and all the clothes are costumes.
Even within the play’s world, nothing is as it seems. Servants become masters at the mere exchange of a “colored hat and cloak” (1.1.213). Old men are almost arrested for impersonating themselves. And, of course, shrews become obedient wives, and virtuous maidens become harridans.
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In this play’s world, almost everyone is giving a performance of some kind—and those who aren’t will likely be accused of doing so. Identity is at once shifty and unreliable, and yet it is the absolute bedrock of all society’s workings. Tranio, for instance, puts on a convincing enough show as Lucentio to cement an actual marriage contract.
The characters who understand that the world is a stage—and who don’t resist that fact—get by the best here.
By William Shakespeare