By William Shakespeare
Written between 1590-1594

Comments by Bob Corbett
June 2011

General Note: In January 2009 I decided that I’d like to go back and read all the plays of William Shakespeare, perhaps one a month if that works out. I hadn’t read a Shakespeare play since 1959, 50 years ago! But I had read nearly all of them in college. I wanted to go back, start with something not too serious or challenging, and work my way through the whole corpus. Thus I began with The Two Gentlemen of Verona. At this time I have no idea how the project will go, nor if it will actually lead me through the entire corpus of Shakespeare’s plays. However, I will keep a separate page listing each play I’ve read with links to any comments I would make of that particular play. See: List of Shakespeare’s play’s I’ve read and commented on


This crazy farce is a play within a play, and that device allows the farce to be more farcical.

Christopher Sly is poor and not what one would call a model person at all. But he knows who his is:

Ne’er ask me what raiment I’ll wear, for I have no more doublet’s than backs, no more stockings than legs, nor no more shoes than feet. Nay, sometimes my toes look through the overleather.

But an expensive trick is being played upon him by a local lord. He has hired a group of servants to come in upon Sly while sleeping and pretend that he has just awaken from a 30 years sleep, and only mistakenly believes he is the poor Sly of the quote above. Actually, they tell him, he is a very rich man with a beautiful wife (played by a young boy dressed as a girl) and they are there to serve his every wish.

First, however, there is a theater troop that has come to his palace to perform a play for him. The play is the farce, The Taming of the Shrew. Since he is fed and given plenty to drink he readily agrees to see the play.

This device works well. For us the audience or reader, we can laugh at some of the over-the-top farce since we realize it is being done to tweak the unsuspecting Sly.

In the play we have the rich and successful Baptista who has two daughters, one Katherine, the shrew if ever there was one, and the beautiful, gentle, kind, loving and graceful Bianca. In this farce set in Padua there are three suitors for Bianca. Hortensio, Gremio and the newly arrived Lucentio, However, Baptista will not marry off his younger daughter until Kate, the shrew, is married. Petrucio, who is also newly arrived, and a friend of Hortensio, wants to marry Kate for her wealth, despite her reputation and is convinced he can “tame” her. At the same time Lucentio changes roles with his servant and pretends to be a tutor to get closer to Bianca, hopefully to win her love. Petrucio, not knowing Lucentio’s ruse, is convinced to play a similar ruse by presenting Hortensio as a music teacher. Hortensio’s servant then plays the role of Hortensio. Thus in this farce we have a double dose of one of Shakespeare’s frequent devices, one person pretending to be another.

Petrucio does convince Katherine to marry him, and immediately sets out to tame her and treats her harshly until she becomes convinced that it is in her interests to do his bidding. Meanwhile, Lucentio wins Bianca and elopes with her. As the farce draws to a close the pretending all ends and the two couples seem headed for happily everaftering.

The strong theme in the latter part of the play is certainly controversial today since it is a very strong position that a good woman will be obedience and subservient to her husband.

The Taming of the Shrew is mainly fun, and a bit more madcap that it might have been since it is situated in this play within a play and that allows us to accept the action as a bit of a joke played on Christopher Sly. It is a quick and pleasant read.

Bob Corbett



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Bob Corbett