Here is a more detailed look at what happens in each scene of The Taming of The Shrew, to help you look at the structure of the play and interrogate it.

As you look at each act we’ve included some things to notice. These are important character developments, or key questions that an acting company might ask when they first go through the play together at the start of rehearsal. If you work through these as you go, they will help you to make sense of the play. It’s a good idea to have a copy of the text nearby.

  • Act 1


    In a pub, Christopher Sly is drunk and the hostess would like to throw him out of the pub because he will not pay for the glasses he has broken. In his inebriated stupor, he falls asleep.

    A lord arrives from hunting, and decides to play a trick on Sly by dressing his servant Bartholomew like a woman and sending him to speak to Sly. The lord plans to ‘persuade him that he hath been a lunatic’ and asleep for many years. Sly is confused by the stories that he is told and begins to think that he is not a tinker but a lord, married to a lady. In his confusion, he asks ‘Am I a lord and have I such a lady? Or do I dream? Or have I dreamed till now?’

    A group of actors arrive at the pub and offer to perform a kind of 'history' play for Sly and his wife. Their play is presented in the following scenes of The Taming of the Shrew.

    What do we learn?

    • Sly has broken some glasses and will not pay for them.
    • Sly is a tinker.
    • Sly is convinced that he has been asleep for fifteen years.

    Act 1 Scene 1

    Supported by his ‘father's love and leave’, Lucentio has travelled from Pisa to study at the university in Padua. His servant Tranio hopes that they will be ‘no stoics nor no stocks’ and have fun in this new city.

    As they wait for Lucentio’s other servant Biondello, they see local merchant Baptista with his two daughters, Katherina and Bianca. Hortensio and Gremio are in love with Bianca, but Baptista will not allow her to marry until her older sister has a husband. Neither Hortensio nor Gremio wish to marry the ‘stark mad or wonderful froward’ Katherina. Bianca says her books and instruments will be her 'only company’ until her sister is married, and Baptista asks Gremio and Hortensio to find some ‘cunning men’ to be teachers to live in his house. Lucentio has fallen in love with Bianca (‘I burn; I pine; I perish’), and decides to disguise himself as a schoolteacher to get close to her. He asks Tranio to help him in his pursuit of Bianca’s love by pretending to be him, and the two exchange clothes.

    Biondello finally arrives and is confused to see Tranio wearing his master's clothes. Lucentio quickly instructs him that the plan is to ‘save [his] life’, misleading Biondello into believing that he killed someone on arrival and now must be in hiding. Biondello agrees to serve Tranio as his master.

    What do we learn?

    • Baptista would like Gremio or Hortensio to marry Katherina, but they say she is too ‘rough’.
    • Lucentio and Tranio are good friends and loyal to one another.
    • Although they are rivals for Bianca’s love, Gremio and Hortensio plan to find Katherina a husband so one of them can marry Bianca, saying that the one that ‘runs the fastest gets the ring’.

    Act 1 Scene 2

    Petruchio arrives in Padua from Verona with ‘crowns in [his] purse’, looking to find a rich wife. His ‘best-beloved and approved’ friend Hortensio tells him that there is a very rich, beautiful woman who he could marry, but she is ‘intolerable curst’. Petruchio is not fazed by stories of Katherina’s behaviour and decides that he will ‘Board her though she chide as loud / As thunder when the clouds in autumn crack’.

    Hortensio asks Petruchio to help him in his pursuit of the ‘jewel’ Bianca by introducing him to Baptista, in disguise, as a schoolteacher for Bianca. Meanwhile, Lucentio, disguised as the schoolteacher Cambio, has convinced Gremio to introduce him to Baptista by saying he will use the lessons to persuade Bianca to love Gremio, ‘as firmly as yourself were still in place’.

    The men wish Petruchio luck in his visit to ‘woo this wildcat’ but Petruchio is determined: ‘Think you a little din can daunt my ears?’ Tranio, disguised as Lucentio, introduces himself to Hortensio and Gremio as another suitor for Bianca’s love. Gremio fears that this new ‘gentleman will out-talk us all’.

    What do we learn?

    • Petruchio is rough and violent with his servant Grumio.
    • Petruchio's father, Antonio, has recently died.
    • Petruchio is intrigued by the tales of Katherina’s behaviour.

    Things to notice in Act 1

    • Take note of how Katherina is described by others in Act 1 and look at her dialogue in Scene 1. Do you think she deserves her reputation?

    • Notice the way Petruchio treats his servant, Grumio. What does this tell us about his character?

    • Compare the ways in which Bianca and Katherina are described. How do you think their personalities differ?

    • Act 1 is important because it sets up each character's ambition and the problems facing their character – Baptista wants Katherina to be married before Bianca; and Lucentio, Petruchio, Hortensio and Gremio all wish to find a wife. Can you identify the biggest problem facing each character in this act? What is stopping them from getting what they want?

  • Act 2

    Act 2 Scene 1

    Katherina torments Bianca about her suitors; tying her up, physically attacking her and making her a ‘bondmaid and a slave’. Katherina wants to know who Bianca wishes to marry, however Bianca states that she ‘never yet beheld that special face’. Baptista despairs over what to do with the ‘devilish spirit’ of his daughter.

    Gremio arrives at Baptista's house with a Latin teacher Cambio (who is Lucentio in disguise), and Petruchio arrives with a music teacher Licio (who is Hortensio in disguise). Petruchio says that he has heard of Katherina and ‘her beauty and her wit’ and wishes to marry her, offering Licio as a gift. Baptista welcomes Licio but warns Petruchio against Katherina. Gremio puts forward Cambio as a gift and Baptista welcomes him into his household. Tranio introduces himself to Baptista as Lucentio and expresses his interest in Bianca, gifting her some books and a lute.

    Petruchio and Baptista discuss the marriage of Katherina further, including Katherina’s dowry of ‘one half of [Baptista’s] lands’. Baptista’s only stipulation is that Petruccio must first win ‘the special thing’, her love. Petruchio accepts, promising that ‘where two raging fires meet together’ / They do consume the thing that feeds their fury’. Hortensio, as Licio, has tried to teach Katherina the lute and she has broken the instrument over his head. This excites Petruchio and he plans to react in opposition to everything she says and does in order to confuse her. Katherina and Petruchio war with words, and she tells him to ‘beware [her] sting’ and hits him.

    Petruchio tells Katherina that they will marry because he was ‘born to tame’ her. Petruchio leaves to buy wedding clothes and asks Baptista to prepare for the wedding on his return that Sunday, leaving an angry Katherina who does not wish to marry ‘A madcap ruffian and a swearing Jack’. Gremio and Tranio (as Lucentio) argue over who will win Bianca’s love now that she is free to marry. Baptista stops the argument by saying that whoever offers the biggest dowry can marry Bianca. Tranio promises ‘two thousand ducats by the year’ so Baptista agrees that on the Sunday after Katherina and Petruchio marry, Bianca will marry Lucentio, as long as Lucentio’s father gives assurance of the dowry money.

    What do we learn?

    • Baptista does not know how to manage Katherina’s behaviour and feels greatly ‘grieved’ by having her as his daughter.
    • There are three people disguised in this Act: Lucentio as Cambio, Hortensio as Licio and Tranio as Lucentio.
    • Lucentio is wealthier than Gremio.

    Things to Notice in Act 2

    • Marriage is conducted as a business transaction between fathers and husbands. How do Baptista's business negotiations between Bianca’s suitors and Petruchio compare?

    • Look at Katherina's treatment of Bianca at the start of this act. How do you think her physical violence contributes to her reputation?

    • Examine Katherina and Petruchio’s first meeting. Do you think they are well suited?

    • Act 2 is important because it sets up potential solutions – Petruchio arrives with a marriage proposal for Katherina, allowing Baptista to decide that ‘Lucentio’ is the best husband for Bianca. What problems do you foresee with these solutions?

  • Act 3

    Act 3 Scene 1

    Lucentio, as Cambio, and Hortensio, as Licio, argue over who will teach Bianca. Bianca interrupts them saying that she will ‘not be tied to hours nor ‘pointed times’: whilst Licio tunes his instrument, she will listen to Cambio reading Latin. Instead of translating the passage, Lucentio reveals his and Tranio’s true identities to Bianca. Bianca says she doesn’t trust him but will listen. She tells him to ‘presume not’ but also ‘despair not’.

    Next, Bianca has a music lesson with Licio, during which he attempts to reveals his true identity as Hortensio, however Bianca pretends not to understand, saying she ‘like[s] it not’. They are interrupted by a servant asking Bianca to help Katherina prepare for the wedding. Hortensio notices that Cambio looks like he is in love with Bianca, and wonders whether there is hope in still pursuing her if Bianca will ‘cast [her] wandering eyes on every stale’.

    What do we learn?

    • Bianca is intelligent and studious, learning both Latin and music.
    • Hortensio suspects that ‘Cambio’ is in love with Bianca.
    • Katherina and Petruchio will marry the next day.

    Act 3 Scene 2

    Everyone has gathered for the wedding, but Petruchio is late, humiliating Katherina. She feels she has been 'forced / To give [her] hand opposed against [her] heart’. News arrives that Petruchio is coming, but dressed in a very strange outfit of ‘a new hat and an old jerkin’ with a broken ‘old rusty sword’. Baptista is shocked by the ‘eyesore’ of Petruchio’s choice of clothing.

    Meanwhile, Tranio explains to Lucentio his plan to find a man to pretend to be Lucentio’s father Vincentio. This person will confirm Lucentio’s financial status to Baptista, thus allowing the marriage of Bianca to Lucentio. Lucentio wonders if it might be better to elope. Gremio returns from the church and reports that 'Such a mad marriage never was before’, because Petruchio’s behaviour has been so strange that Katherina has been stunned into silence. Petruchio announces that he and Katherina will not stay for the wedding feast. Katherina argues, saying that ‘a woman may be made a fool / If she had not a spirit to resist’ but Petruchio demands that they leave for Verona. Baptista announces that this shall be a practice feast for Bianca and Lucentio (who is still Tranio in disguise).

    What do we learn?

    • Katherina feels humiliated to be forced to marry a ‘mad-brained rudesby’.
    • Lucentio has noticed that ‘Licio’ is watching him and Bianca very closely.
    • Baptista, Gremio, Lucentio, Tranio and Bianca all laugh at Katherina and Petruchio’s ‘mad’ marriage.

    Act 3 Scene 3

    At Petruchio’s house in Verona, Grumio and the other servants prepare for the arrival of their master and Katherina, who are ‘almost frozen to death’. The servants have heard tales of Katherina’s behaviour, but Grumio tells another servant Curtis that Petruchio has already changed her. He tells of their horrible journey from Padua to Verona; Katherina fell from her horse and Petruchio blamed and beat Grumio, so Katherina ‘waded through the dirt to pluck him off’ Grumio. Curtis remarks that Petruchio is ‘more shrew than she’.

    On his arrival, Petruchio is rude to his servants and makes demands for food and water. When the servant brings food, Petruchio sends it away saying it is ‘burnt, and so is all the meat’ even though Katherina says it is ‘well'. Petruchio explains to the audience that he has ‘politically begun [his] reign’ and will deny her food and sleep to ‘curb her mad and headstrong humour’.

    What do we learn?

    • On the journey to Verona, Katherina fell from her horse and they both lost their horses.
    • Petruchio has a household of several servants.
    • Petruchio’s servant Curtis pities Katherina as a ‘poor soul’ who is subjected to Petruchio’s distressing behaviour.

    Act 3 Scene 4

    Hortensio, disguised as Licio, and Tranio, disguised as Lucentio, watch Lucentio, disguised as Cambio, teach Bianca about The Art of Love. Hortensio is shocked by Bianca's apparent infidelity and reveals his identity. Tranio convinces Hortensio that they will both give up their love for Bianca and they ‘firmly vow / Never to woo her more’. Hortensio decides to marry a wealthy widow, saying he values ‘Kindness in women, not their beauteous looks’. Tranio reveals to Bianca and Lucentio that he has rid them of the bother suitors. Tranio jokes that Hortensio will tame this widow as he has been to Petruchio's 'taming school’.

    Biondello arrives with news that he has found an ‘ancient angel’ to pretend to be Vincentio, Lucentio's father, and ensure Lucentio’s marriage to Bianca. Tranio tells the ’angel’ he must disguise himself as Vincentio in order to save his life; in return, he asks the stand-in to assure Baptista of his financial status.

    What do we learn?

    • Bianca and Lucentio have formed a romantic relationship in secret.
    • A wealthy widow has been in love with Hortensio for a long time.
    • Tranio tricks the ’ancient angel’ into the disguise by telling him it is unsafe for people from Mantua to be found in Padua.

    Things to notice in Act 3

    • The Taming of the Shrew was first published as one of Shakespeare’s comedies. What comic elements can you find in this act?

    • Consider Bianca’s relationship with her two tutors. What is revealed about her character and status?

    • Petruchio is described several times in this act as ‘mad’. Why do you think he is viewed in this way? What do you think this says about his character and attitude to others?

    • Act 3 explores true natures and hidden identity. Both Lucentio and Hortensio reveal their true identities to Bianca through their pretend lessons as schoolteachers, and Tranio adds another complexity to the disguise plot as they now need someone to pretend to be Vincentio, Lucentio’s father. In contrast, Petruchio is not in disguise but puts on odd clothes and displays strange behaviours. Who is revealing their true identity?

  • Act 4

    Act 4 Scene 1

    Katherina is in great distress, asking ‘did he marry me to famish me?’ She has been starved of food and sleep, but Petruchio says he ‘does it under name of perfect love’. She asks Grumio for help in finding some food, but he teases her by suggesting a dish and then saying it is not good enough for her. Petruchio and Hortensio arrive with a plate of meat, and although Katherina is reluctant, she thanks her husband.

    Petruchio tells her to eat quickly as they will then return to her father's house and ‘reveal it as bravely as the best’, wearing beautiful clothes and jewellery. A tailer and haberdasher bring a beautiful hat and gown for Katherina. She likes them, but Petruchio sends them away calling the hat 'lewd and filthy’ and the dress ‘carved like an apple tart’. He secretly sends Hortensio to ensure the two sellers are paid. They are about to depart for Baptista's house when Petruchio says it is seven o’clock in the morning; Katherina says it is two o'clock. He reprimands her for ‘crossing’ or contradicting him and says ‘It shall be what o’clock I say it is’.

    What do we learn?

    • Grumio will not help Katherina to find food.
    • Hortensio admires Petruchio’s taming of Katherina, saying that Petruchio could ‘command the sun’.
    • Petruchio asks Hortensio to pay the tailor to cover his displays of strange behaviour.

    Act 4 Scene 2

    Tranio, disguised as Lucentio, arranges for the merchant, disguised as Vincentio, to meet Baptista. Tranio encourages the merchant to ‘hold [his] own' and successfully play his part in the trick. The merchant and Baptista agree to the marriage, and decide to sign the legal documents at Lucentio's house that evening, as Baptista fears being overheard in his own house by the servants as ‘pitchers have ears’.

    Baptista sends Cambio to tell Bianca of the news that Lucentio's father has agreed to the marriage. Biondello tells Lucentio that Tranio has arranged it so that Bianca and Lucentio can secretly elope to St Luke’s Church to marry that evening whilst Baptista is occupied with a ‘counterfeit assurance’.

    What do we learn?

    • Baptista is happy with Bianca’s marriage to Lucentio because there is ‘sufficient dower’.
    • Baptista does not trust his servants to keep the engagement secret.
    • The documents that Baptista and the merchant will sign are ‘counterfeit’ because the merchant is not actually Vincentio.

    Act 4 Scene 3

    As they are about to set off on the journey to Padua, Petruchio comments on the shining moon. Katherina argues that she ‘know[s] it is the sun that shines so bright’. Upon hearing her contradict him again, Petruchio threatens to return home, so Katherina gives in that it is ‘moon or sun or what you you please’. Petruchio pushes her further to agree with him and she relents: ‘What you will have named, even that it is, / And so it shall be so for Katherine.’

    They encounter the real Vincentio, Lucentio’s father, and Petruchio calls him a young woman with a ‘heavenly face’; Katherina goes along with this description but Petruchio calls her ‘mad’ because Vincentio is actually an old man. Katherina apologies for her ‘mad mistaking’. Vincentio reveals that he is on his way to visit his son, and Petruchio tells him of Lucentio’s planned marriage to Bianca.

    What do we learn?

    • Vincentio is travelling from Pisa to Padua to visit Lucentio.
    • Hortensio encourages Katherina to obey Petruchio.
    • Bianca has a ‘wealthy’ dowry and is of ‘worthy birth’.

    Act 4 Scene 4

    Lucentio and Bianca elope to the church moments before Petruchio, Katherina and Vincentio arrive at Lucentio’s house. The merchant, disguised as Vincentio, meets the real Vincentio and an argument breaks out. Petruchio calls it ‘flat knavery to take upon you another man’s name’, and Vinentio fears he has been tricked and ‘undone’, accusing his son of sending all his money at university whilst he ‘play[s] the good husband at home’.

    Tranio and the merchant maintain the lie that they are the real Lucentio and Vincentio, whilst Vincentio argues the truth that this is Tranio in disguise and then accuses him of murdering his son. Tranio calls an officer and, as Vincentio is about to be taken to prison, Lucentio and Bianca return. Tranio and the merchant run away whilst Lucentio asks for his father’s forgiveness. Lucentio explains the truth that ‘love wrought these miracles’, however Vincentio remains furious with Tranio, saying he’ll ‘slit the villain’s nose’.

    Petruchio asks Katherina to kiss him in the middle of the street and she agrees, which pleases Petruchio (‘Is not this well? Come my sweet Kate.’).

    What do we learn?

    • Vincentio is friendly to Petruchio and insists they drink together before he goes to Baptista’s house.
    • Tranio has been in Vincentio’s household since he was three years old.
    • Bianca and Lucentio have married in secret.

    Things to notice in Act 4

    • The act begins with a recounted story of Petruchio’s treatment towards Katherina from the perspective of his servant. Why do you think Shakespeare chooses to deliver the plot this way, rather than allow the audience to see it?

    • Petruchio speaks to the audience at the end of Act 4 Scene 1 about his intentions to tame Katherina. What does this reveal about his character? You can explore this further in Petruchio’s Language.

    • Note how Bianca is excluded from all discussions surrounding her marriage. What does this reveal about the transactional nature of marriage in Padua?

    • Act 4 has more scenes that any other act and features much of the story of Katherina’s transformation of behaviour. In the three scenes in which we see Katherina being ‘tamed’, do Petruchio’s tactics change? How do Katherina’s responses differ?

  • Act 5

    Act 5 Scene 1

    There is a wedding banquet, celebrating not only the marriage of Bianca and Lucentio, but also of Katherina and Petruchio, and of Hortensio and the widow. The couples joke and tease one another, and Petruchio mocks Hortensio saying he 'fears his widow’. Petruchio, Lucentio and Hortensio decide to have a bet 'whose wife is most obedient / To come at first when he doth send for her’.

    Bianca is ‘busy, and she cannot come’, whilst the widow will not be ‘entreated’ and bids Hortensio to ‘come to her’. Katherina comes immediately to Petruchio saying ‘What is your will’. Winning the bet, Petrucchio tells her to bring the two other women to him, which she does and Petruchio admires her ‘new-built virtue and obedience’. Petruchio tells Katherina to describe the ‘duty’ women owe to their husbands. Katherina tells the two women that women are ‘bound to serve, love and obey’ their husbands. Petruchio celebrates ‘being a winner’ and retires to bed with Katherina.

    What do we learn?

    • Petruchio mocks Hortensio for being scared of his new wife.
    • The wager placed on their wives’ obedience is twenty crowns.
    • Baptista offers to pay half of Lucentio’s bet.

    Things to notice in Act 5

    • Tranio has been instrumental in much of the disguise plotting. What happens to him after the truth is revealed?

    • Consider Katherina's final speech to the other two wives. Do you think she is sincere in her words? You can explore this further in Katherina’s Language.

    • Note how often the theme of obedience reoccurs as part of the marriage transaction. How do you think this act comments on this theme?

    • Act 5 provides resolutions for all three marriage stories, however it invites questions about the compatibility of these marriages. Both the widow and Bianca unexpectedly disobey their husbands, whereas the formerly wild Katherina is obedient. Do you think they have successful marriages?