Bianca's Lesson

Act 3 Scene 1 – Key Scene

In this scene, Lucentio, disguised as Cambio, and Hortensio, disguised as Licio, compete over who will teach their lesson to Bianca. She takes charge and asks Cambio for her Latin lesson first, whilst Licio tunes his lute ready for her music lesson. Once alone, Cambio cryptically reveals his true identity as well as his love for her.

Take a look at an extract from this scene and watch it in performance here. Using the following steps, remember to look at it line by line and if you’re looking at the scene for the first time don’t worry if you don’t understand everything at once.

  • Look
    Take a look at the scene. Who has the most lines? Are they using prose or verse? Actors at the RSC often put the language into their own words to help them understand what they are saying. We’ve added some definitions (in black), questions (in red) and paraphrased some sections (in blue) to help with this. You can click on the text that is highlighted for extra guidance.
    Why, gentlemen, you do me double wrong,
    To strive for that which resteth in my choice.
    I am no breeching scholar in the schools,
    I’ll not be tied to hours nor 'pointed times,
    But learn my lessons as I please myself.

    And, to cut off all strife, here sit we down.
    Take you your instrument, play you the whiles.
    His lecture will be done ere you have tuned.

    Compare these lines with Katherina’s lines in Act 1 Scene 1 when she says she will not be ‘appointed hours’. How are Bianca and Katherina similar?

    Look at the sentence structure that Bianca uses in the passage. How does she command the two men to do as she wishes? Who has the power in this scene?

    You'll leave his lecture when I am in tune?
    That will be never. Tune your instrument.
    Where left we last?
    Here, madam:
    'Hic ibat Simois; hic est Sigeia tellus;
    Hic steterat Priami regia celsa senis.'
    Conster them.

    To translate the meaning.

    'Hic ibat,' as I told you before, 'Simois,' I am Lucentio, 'hic est,' son unto Vincentio of Pisa, 'Sigeia tellus,' disguised thus to get your love, ’Hic steterat,' and that Lucentio that comes a-wooing, 'Priami,' is my man Tranio, ‘regia,' bearing my port, 'celsa senis,' that we might beguile the old pantaloon.

    Lucentio pretends to be translating Latin into English, whilst revealing his secret identity.

    In the Italian theatre form Commedia dell’ Arte, the pantaloon is a classic character type: an old fool.

    Madam, my instrument's in tune.
    Let's hear. O fie! the treble jars.

    Bianca tells him that the lute is still out of tune and Lucentio does not offer any useful advice.

    Spit in the hole, man, and tune again.
    Now let me see if I can conster it: 'Hic ibat Simois,' I know you not, 'hic est Sigeia tellus,' I trust you not; 'Hic steterat Priami,' take heed he hear us not, 'regia,' presume not, 'celsa senis,' despair not.

    Bianca replies in the same manner of secret conversation. However she uses a pattern of structuring each phrase to end in ‘not’. Why do you think she does this?

  • Listen
    Read the scene aloud. Are there any words or lines that really stand out?
  • Watch
    Take a look at the actors performing this scene. How do the characters come across in this version?
  • Imagine
    Explore some images from past versions of The Taming of the Shrew at the RSC. Which sets and staging choices for the scene feel right to you?