The Taming of the Shrew: The Serious Idea

Although they were entertaining, Shakespeare’s comedic plays always explored a serious idea. He favoured an “Art Imitates Life” approach, so the ideas generally had roots in social ideals or issues of the time.


Gender Roles

One of the most prominent ideas explored in The Taming of the Shrew is that of traditional gender roles. The most obvious is the exploration of a woman’s place in Elizabethan England. 

  1. There are two types of women displayed at the beginning of the play. Explain these types and identify which characters we associate with them. Select two quotes from the play that indicates which type of woman is preferred by society. Explain how your quotes indicate this to us (think about the specific language or language devices).
  2. Explain how the same two types of women are displayed at the end of the play. Identify the switch that occurs with the characters we associate the type with. Re-read Kate’s final speech. Select two examples from the speech that claify a) what society believed about how women should behave and b) what their role in relation to men was.
  3. Bonus question: Kate got very good at going along with what Petruchio wanted on the road back to her father’s house. Do you think she was pretending during the final scene? Explain your answer.

A man’s place is also explored in the play. Elizabethan England clearly had a strict social structure and men were expected to be at the top of this. The play indicates to us that this wasn’t just handed to them- they had to prove their masculinity by controlling their wife.

5. Petruchio talks about his “taming” skills several times throughout the play. Look at his speech on page 37 (Act 1, Scene 2). Transcribe the speech. What does he claim to have achieved that makes the task of taming a woman easy?

6. Look at the final scene of the play. Explain what challenge is set out by the men of the table and what happens during this challenge. How do the men around the table treat Lucentio and Hortensio when they display a lack of control over their wives? Explain your answer with at least 2 quotes from the scene for support.



Create a brainstorm review of everything we have covered so far during our exploration of The Taming of the Shrew. The instructions for this are on the whiteboard.



Posted by Renee Plunkett

Teacher of English at Mount Aspiring College, Wanaka, New Zealand.

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