How have the disguises of Lucentio, Hortensio, Tranio and the merchant been represented in previous productions?
Four people disguise themselves in The Taming of The Shrew and in doing so all adopt a different status to their own. Firstly, Lucentio and Tranio disguise themselves in Act 1 Scene 1; Lucentio disguises himself as a Latin schoolteacher, Cambio, lowering his status, whilst his servant Tranio takes on the higher status disguise by pretending to be his master Lucentio. Hortensio lowers his status to become the music teacher, Licio, and the merchant takes on a higher status by pretending to be the wealthy Vincentio. A production can interpret these disguises in many different ways, increasing either the comedy or tension in the plot.
Take a look at Things to Consider and investigate the different ways we’ve presented the disguises in past productions in the picture gallery. There is also the opportunity to investigate Act 3 Scene 1 in more detail, to look at how Lucentio and Hortensio present themselves when in disguise.
As you look through the images and photographs from past productions of The Taming of the Shrew, think about:
- When in disguise, how do the characters look different? Are the disguises comic or effective in concealing their true identity? How important are the disguises in generating comedy?
- The competition for Bianca, especially between the disguised Lucentio and Hortensio, creates a lot of humour in The Taming of The Shrew. One of the key moments in this is the moment where Katherina breaks a lute over Hortensio's head, an event that happens off stage. How has this been done in different productions and which versions do you think have emphasised the comic impact of this humiliation for Bianca's suitor?
How would you choose to stage this moment and what choices would you make to help show the humour in the characters' disguises and deceptions?