The Taming of the Shrew

Because The Taming of the Shrew deals with relationships between several different "courting" couples, it can capture the attention of adolescents. The lively comic plot and appealing characters make it an excellent introduction to Shakespeare. This guide includes a brief overview, suggestions for teaching the play, and extended learning activities.
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Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew

Shakespeare's plays are meant to be performed. The more students visualize the characters and action, the more they will understand and enjoy the play. The activities presented below are designed to help students visualize and become actively involved with the play as they read.

1. Because the action can be confusing when characters adopt disguises, suggest students wear hats or masks to represent certain characters as they read the play aloud. They can change the hat or mask as the character adopts a disguise, becoming a new character.

2. Choose some scenes for students to read aloud; assign parts prior to the reading so students can prepare.* Or, have students assume the role of a character walking through the action as you summarize the scene.+

3. Divide students into groups, each of which has responsibility for presenting the major action of a particular scene or act in story theater form. One student should be the narrator while the other students pantomime the action of the scene or use brief dialogue to convey the sense of the speeches.*
The following scenes are good for the creative drama activities suggested above:

a. Ind, ii, 1-143 (Sly, 3 Servingmen, Lord, Page, Messenger) Sly is convinced he is a lord. [Pp. 50-56]

b. I, i, 47-145 (Baptista, Gremio, Kate, Hortensio, Tranio, Lucentio, Bianca) Baptista declares Bianca off-limits until Kate is married. [Pp. 58-62]

c. II, i, 1-36 (Bianca, Kate, Baptista) Kate and Bianca fight. [Pp. 78-79]

d. II, i, 182-355 (Kate, Petruchio, Baptista, Gremio, Tranio) Petruchio's first meeting with Kate. [Pp. 85-92]

e. III, i, 1-90 (Lucentio, Hortensio, Bianca, Messenger) Lucentio tells Bianca who he really is. [Pp. 94-97]

f. III, ii, 1-252 (Baptista, Kate, Tranio, Biondello, Petruchio, Grumio, Lucentio, Bianca, Gremio, Hortensio) Kate and Petruchio's wedding. [Pp. 98-107]

g. IV, ii, 72-121 (Biondello, Tranio, Lucentio, Pedant) Tranio brings the Pedant into the plot. [Pp. 119-120]

h. IV, iii, 61-194 (Grumio, Kate, Petruchio, Hortensio, Tailor, Haberdasher) Petruchio orders new garments for Kate. [Pp. 123-128]

i. IV, v, 1-79 (Petruchio, Kate, Hortensio, Vincentio) Kate and Petruchio meet an old man on the road. [Pp. 133-136]

j. V, ii, 1-189 (The entire cast) The wedding feast. [Pp. 143-151]

4. To help keep the characters and actions clear, construct an action line for each plot line (Kate-Petruchio, Bianca-Lucentio, Christopher Sly). Allow groups to represent different characters and add to the action line each day.*

5. Suggest that students present a "News Update" of events of the day's assigned reading commenting on issues raised by the events (as in Nightline which presents a current event and then explores some aspect of it). For example, students can recount the events of the Induction and then comment on the ethics of the lord's practical joke on commoner Sly.*

6. Have students choose a particular character to study in depth by doing one or more of the following:

a. Keep a list of words used to describe the character or that the character uses to describe him/herself. For example, Kate is referred to as mad, cursed, and suffering from too much choler. Look up these words in a standard dictionary, one of the special Shakespeare glossaries (such as C. T. Onions' A Shakespeare Glossary), or use the footnotes in the text.*

b. Imagine that you are going to portray this character in a production of the play. Keep a written journal of what the character feels, the reasons for the character's actions, and what his/her goals are in each scene.#

7. Several issues or themes explored by the play offer possibilities for small group or class discussion:*

a. Power relationships - Discuss how power is used, abused, or subverted in each of the following relationships:

1. Master-servant

2. Father-child

3. Husband-wife

4. Nobility-lower class

b. Courtship/dating - Discuss how these issues affect events in the play and current opinions of each:

1. Male ideas on courtship/dating

2. Female ideas on courtship/dating

3. Boyfriend/girlfriend as a status symbol or possession

4. Parental interference in courtship/dating

5. Romantic love/love at first sight

6. Male/female expectations in relationships

7. Honesty and deception in relationships

c. Sisters - Discuss how Shakespeare draws on realistic conflicts between sisters in these situations:

1. Rivalry/jealousy

2. Resentments of comparison

d. Deception - Discuss the roles deception and disguise play in each of the following characters' relationships and examine if each is more deceptive or deceived:

1. Lucentio

2. Tranio

3. Petruchio

4. Bianca

5. Kate

e. Social roles and society's expectations about them - Discuss how pressure to conform affects the characters.

8. All of the plot elements are in place by the end of II, i. Divide the class into small groups and ask each group to predict how the Bianca-Lucentio and Petruchio-Kate plots will develop and be resolved. Remind students that they must have a reasonable basis for their predictions. As the students read the play, have them return to their predictions and adjust them showing what actually happened and why.*

9. Ask students to bring one factual and one discussion question to class based on the assigned reading for that day. Form small groups and have students answer each other's questions. At the end of the small group discussions, have the students present their answers to the class.*

10. At the end of each class, have students briefly write about the day's reading. Students can use this opportunity to react to events, predict what might happen next, or ask questions about what they do not understand. These responses can provide a quick check for student comprehension and enjoyment of the play and can be used in class discussion.*+

11. As the scenes are read in class, ask students to determine what is funny in each scene, why it is funny, and what kinds of humor Shakespeare used. Provide students with these examples: verbal humor (plays on words, puns, double entendres); wit (humorous comments, repartee, banter); action (physical gestures or movement, slapstick); situational (plot developments, i.e. Sly begins to believe he is a lord); and character (foolish or repeated characteristics).

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