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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.
Teaching Strategies:
Grades:
9 |
10 |
11 |
Subjects:
Holidays:
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AFTER READING THE PLAY
Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew


Below are some suggested assignments to be completed by individuals or as small groups.

Activities for Writing and Discussion

1. Write an essay using notes and ideas collected during the reading of the play on one or more of the following topics.

a. Develop a character sketch for the character you chose in #6a above. Use three or four of the words from your list, explain each word, and give examples of the character's actions to support your interpretation of the character.*

b. Using the notes made for #6b, describe what you would emphasize if portraying a character. Use quotations from the play as examples and explain how the character would deliver them. What actions will the character use? What is the meaning of the quote?#

c. Explain how the play is an example of comedy. Use the definitions of comedy discussed in class.*

d. Analyze one of the issues or themes in #7 above.*

2. Rewrite Kate's final speech in modern language or update her speech. Deliver the speech to the class.*

3. Read one of the feminist commentaries following the Signet Classic edition of The Taming of the Shrew (Germaine Greer's excerpt from The Female Eunuch or Linda Bamber's essay "Sexism and the Battle of Sexes in The Taming of the Shrew") and write a response to the author.~

4. Suppose that Kate and Petruchio each decide to write an advice column. Write a letter from a modern figure who asks for advice on marriage or dating, and then write the reply that Kate and Petruchio would give. (For example, what would Kate and Petruchio tell Roseanne of TV sitcom fame?)*

5. Suppose that Lucentio and Bianca, Petruchio and Kate, and Hortensio and the widow meet again one year after their marriage to celebrate their anniversaries. What might they say to each other? In small groups, write an anniversary banquet scene.* (Or improvise this second banquet scene.)+

6. Petruchio says that he is "rough and woo[s] not like a babe" (II, i, 137) [p. 83]. How violent is he? We have a different understanding of domestic violence now. Would he be considered abusive today? Imagine that Kate has him arrested. Write a newspaper report of the arrest and the charges.* Or as a TV newsperson, report the events including interviews with Kate, Petruchio, the servants, etc.+

7. Kate and Bianca do not particularly get along. Imagine that you are a family counselor who has interviewed both women. Write a summary of Kate's complaints about Bianca and also a summary of Bianca's complaints about Kate. Suggest changes to each woman to help them improve their relationship.* Or play out a counseling session bringing Kate and Bianca together with other family members.+

8. Write a last scene for the play explaining what happens to Sly,* or, as Sly, tell a newspaper reporter what happened.+

Performance Activities

1. Improvise scenes from the play or related to the play.* (See "While Reading the Play" #2 for suggested scenes.)

2. With a small group, rehearse and formally present one of the scenes using some costumes or properties. Lines may be read or memorized.* (Note to teachers: The banquet scene is good to present under your direction; it can involve the entire class in performance and/or in technical jobs such as finding props, costumes, music, food, or video taping the performance.)

3. The Fifteen-Minute Shrew. With a small group, select lines from each act emphasizing important actions, plot elements, and characters. Condense the action and speeches to include the most important points. Prepare the script and rehearse it to present to the class.#

4. Memorize one of the monologues and perform it for the entire class.# Some suggested monologues are listed below:

a. Lord-Ind, I, 44-68 [p. 47]
b. Sly-Ind, ii, 5-12, 17-25 [p. 51]
c. Lucentio-I, i, 148-158 [p. 62]
d. Petruchio-II,i, 168-181 [p. 84]
e. Kate-III, ii, 8-20 [p. 98]
f. Biondello-III, ii, 43-63 [pp. 99-100]
g. Gremio-III, ii, 158-165, 167-183 [pp. 104-105]
h. Petruchio-III, ii, 222-239 [pp. 106-107]
i. Grumio-IV, i, 68-80,82-90 [pp. 110-111]
j. Petruchio-IV,i, 182-205 [pp. 115-116]
k. Kate-V, ii, 136-179 [pp. 150-151]

5. View one of the films of The Taming of the Shrew and discuss the changes and interpretation of the director. How do the costumes, scenery, and appearance of the actors affect your response to and understanding of the play?~

Creative Activities

1. Using pictures from magazines or newspapers, construct a collage representing one of the characters. Explain how each of the pictures relates to the character.*

2. Prepare a collage to illustrate Kate's final speech; be sure each picture refers to a line or idea in the speech.*

3. Plan a modern dress production of The Taming of the Shrew. Using magazines and catalogs, find pictures of the clothing of each of the character. Prepare a portfolio containing pictures for each character and explain how the costume reflects the character. If a character undergoes a change, a second costume should reflect that change.#

4. Draw two pictures for any or all of these characters: Petruchio, Kate, Bianca, Lucentio. One picture should represent the public image the character presents and the other the private self.*

5. Present a debate on this topic: "Americans should return to the custom of arranged marriages."* Or debate this question as characters in the play.*

6. Create a video version of scenes from the play.*

7. Working in small groups, create a game based on The Taming of the Shrew. The game can be created entirely by the group or based on existing games; for example, a board game (i.e.: Trivial Pursuit), a card game (i.e.: Old Maid), a TV game show (i.e.: Jeopardy, Family Feud, or The Dating Game.) Group members are expected to teach their game to other students.*

8. In small groups, prepare a narrative version of the play using popular music to represent events and/or characters.+

9. Create a musical version of the play writing your own words and music or finding popular songs and writing your lyrics to fit events in the story.*

10. In the manner of Saturday Night Live, create a parody of The Taming of the Shrew.

EXTENDED LEARNING

Studying the classics offers the opportunity to extend learning to literature and other content areas. Below are suggested activities to be used before, during, or after reading the play.

Research on the Elizabethan Period

1. In Petruchio's speech IV, i, 184-191 [p. 115], he compares his method of taming Kate to that of taming a falcon. Female hawks were the ones taught to hunt. Explore the sport of falconry. How appropriate is the comparison?# If Petruchio lived in modern times, what sports comparison might he make when planning his taming? Rewrite the speech using this comparison.+

2. Queen Elizabeth I ruled England when The Taming of the Shrew was first presented. Her life shows the limits of a woman's role during that time as well as the unusual freedom her position gave her. Research her life with particular focus on the many political marriages that were proposed for her.#

3. Gremio is called a pantaloon, a character found in Commedia dell'arte. Some readers and directors have found the Commedia dell'arte style reflected in The Taming of the Shrew and have designed productions emphasizing it. Research Commedia to discover how it relates to this play.~

4. By the end of the play, three couples have married for various reasons. Courtship and marriage are the social structures around which the play is built.

a. Research Elizabethan practices in marriage and courtship to see how typical the three couples are.*

b. What was the understanding of the duties and role of a husband and wife in Elizabethan England? Do Petruchio and Kate fit this ideal? Do Lucentio and Bianca? How would the characters fare in today's society?*

5. Research the Globe Theater and how plays were produced in the Elizabethan period.* Decide how The Taming of the Shrew was probably produced when it first appeared.#

6. Research Shakespeare's life with a particular focus on his own marriage and his relationship to his daughters.#

7. Research the sources Shakespeare used for The Taming of the Shrew. What alterations did he make? Share your findings with the class.~

8. Music played a prominent part in the production of Shakespeare's plays. Research the music of the period and find selections that might have been or could have been used in The Taming of the Shrew.*

Reading Other Literature

1. The Taming of the Shrew presents a play-within-a-play. Other Shakespearean plays that present a play-within-a-play are Hamlet and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Read one of them and compare its dramatic structure to The Taming of the Shrew.~

2. Disguise and deception are parts of many Shakespearean comedies. Read As You Like It or Twelfth Night and compare its use of disguise and deception to The Taming of the Shrew.~ Find examples of movies which use disguise and deception as part of the plot and compare them to The Taming of the Shrew (i.e.: Some Like it Hot, Mrs. Doubtfire, Overboard, True Lies.)+

3. Analyze Kate and Bianca's relationship as sisters and compare it to sisters in other works such as Chekhov's Three Sisters, Beth Henley's Crimes of the Heart, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, or Louisa May Alcott's Little Women.* Compare Kate and Bianca's relationship to sisters in movies or TV situation comedies or dramas.+

Relating the Play to Other Subjects

1. Arranged marriages and the importance of a dowry are characteristic of many societies. Research marriage customs in other times or in other societies for comparison.*

2. Retell The Taming of the Shrew as if it took place in contemporary America. Make sure that your modern version reflects today's customs for courtship and marriage.+

3. What advice do women receive nowadays on "how to get a man"? Survey some current magazines offering advice on this topic. How might this advice relate to Kate or Bianca?*

4. Despite the fact that the play is called The Taming of the Shrew, most of the action is presented from Petruchio's and Lucentio's points of view. Retell the events as Bianca or Kate might have seen them.*

5. When Shakespeare's plays are adapted, often certain parts are emphasized while other parts are minimized.

a. See a videotape of the musical Kiss Me Kate. What parts of Shakespeare's play are used? What is left out? What seems to be the message or purpose of the musical?#

b. Listen to the recording of Kiss Me Kate. What scenes or lines of The Taming of the Shreware the inspirations for the songs? Are any of Shakespeare's actual lines used in the lyrics? What other Shakespeare plays are referred to in the lyrics? Choose one of the songs to play for the rest of the class and explain how it fits into the story of The Taming of the Shrew.~

6. The battle of the sexes has a long history as a theme in comedy.

a. Read other literature with this theme, such as Aristophanes' Lysistrata, Chaucer's "Wife of Bath's Tale," Congreve's The Way of the World, and Shaw's Man and Superman. Who wins and who loses?~

b. Bantering couples are a staple of some Hollywood films of the 1930s and 1940s. View one of these and compare it to the Kate and Petruchio story (e.g., It Happened One Night, His Girl Friday, The Thin Man, The Philadelphia Story, the numerous films starring Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, and just about anything with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara).*

c. Find examples of bantering couples from modern movies or TV situation comedies.+

d. Find examples of stories, such as The African Queen, where the woman tames the man.*

7. Suppose Petruchio and Kate or Bianca and Lucentio were to visit a modern TV talk show. What might happen? Plan and portray their appearance.+

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