Study Guide

The Taming of the Shrew Education

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Induction, Scene 2
Christopher Sly

What, would you make me mad? Am not I Christopher
Sly, old Sly's son of Burton Heath, by birth a
pedlder, by education a cardmaker, by transmutation
a bearherd, and now by present profession a
tinker? (Induction.2.17-21)

This passage does a lot to demonstrate the formal education divide in the play – as it is today, formal education in the play is indicative of social class and power. Its distribution between the haves and the have-nots becomes clear when Sly reveals a laundry list of low-level trade jobs.

Act 1, Scene 1

Let's be no stoics nor no stocks, I pray,
Or so devote to Aristotle's checks
As Ovid be an outcast quite abjured.
Balk logic with acquaintance that you have,
And practise rhetoric in your common talk;
Music and poesy use to quicken you;
The mathematics and the metaphysics—
Fall to them as you find your stomach serves you.
No profit grows where is no pleasure ta'en:
In brief, sir, study what you most affect. (1.1.31-40)

Tranio's insistence that Lucentio study "Ovid" is actually a clever way of promoting the relevance of real–life experience – falling in love. Critics point out that Shrew tends to agree with Tranio's point of view. Formal education is often usurped by worldly learning.

Counsel me, Tranio, for I know thou canst.
Assist me, Tranio, for I know thou wilt.
Master, it is no time to chide you now.
Affection is not rated from the heart.
If love have touched you, nought remains but so:
Redime te captum quam queas minimo. (1.1.159-164)

Tranio's role as advisor and mentor is unusual because elsewhere in the play, servants don't subvert the typical dynamic of power between master and servant. Tranio is helpful when it comes to Lucentio getting his way, but it's doubtful that Lucentio's father would see the servant as a good "teacher" for his son.


Tranio, since for the great desire I had
To see fair Padua, nursery of arts,
I am arrived for fruitful Lombardy,
The pleasant garden of great Italy,
And by my father's love and leave am armed
With his good will and thy good company.
My trusty servant, well approved in all,
Here let us breathe and haply institute (1.1.1-8)

Lucentio arrives in Padua with good intentions – he believes his commitment to his studies will please his family. This plan is quickly abandoned, however, when Lucentio falls in love with Bianca and decides to dress up as a "tutor," an ironic twist. Bianca, however, is the one who teaches Lucentio a lesson when she turns out not to be the silent and obedient woman Lucentio expects her to be.

Act 1, Scene 2

Ah, Tranio, what a cruel father's he!
But art thou not advised he took some care
To get her cunning schoolmasters to instruct her?
Ay, marry, am I, sir—and now 'tis plotted! (1.2.188-191)

Education is aligned with deception, no doubt, but here, Tranio's pun on "plotted" also underscores the fact that Baptista's request for tutors to school his daughters unwittingly sets the sub "plot" in motion.

Act 2, Scene 1
Christopher Sly

Are you my wife, and will not call me 'husband'?
My men should call me 'lord.' I am your goodman. (Induction.2.105-106)

Sly's ignorance of the social customs of the nobility is pretty evident here, as he is upset when his "wife" calls him her "lord." It's not apparent that Sly will ever learn how to be like a nobleman, calling into question the idea that experiential learning is useful and valuable.

Act 3, Scene 1

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
, 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. (3.1.33-38)

When Lucentio reads an excerpt from Ovid's Heroides and reveals his love for Bianca instead of translating the Latin lines to English, education becomes a disguise (like any other costume in play) for the act of courtship. The theme of education in this passage can also help us think about how the act of translation (turning words from one language into another while retaining the same sense or meaning) is a kind of transformation. While Lucentio's outside appearance changes (from Lucentio to "Cambio"), the person on the inside remains exactly the same.


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. (3.1.16-20)

Bianca's insistence that she is no mere schoolboy asserts her control over her own education and also over her relationship with men. We don't know it yet, but at this moment in the play, Bianca is aware that her "tutors" (at least Lucentio anyway) are actually suitors.

Act 4, Scene 2

Faith, he is gone unto the taming school.
The taming-school? What, is there such a place?
Ay, mistress, and Petruchio is the master,
That teacheth tricks eleven and twenty long
To tame a shrew and charm her chattering tongue. (4.2.56-60)

This dialogue sets up the idea that Petruchio is some kind of master teacher. He will teach Hortensio how to control the Widow while he teaches Kate to control her "tongue." The words "tricks" and "charm" are interesting as they make Petruchio sound like a magician. We're not sure if this implies a kind of supernatural ability on Petruchio's part because the terms can also suggest that Petruchio's tactics are not real – rather, they're like the slight of hand tricks magicians use to fool audiences. This makes sense, especially given that Hortensio doesn't really learn anything thing at the so-called "taming school." The whole concept, it seems, is mere fantasy.

Act 4, Scene 5
Katherine Minola

Young budding virgin, fair and fresh and sweet,
Whither away, or where is thy abode?
Happy the parents of so fair a child!
Happier the man whom favorable stars
Allot thee for his lovely bedfellow! (4.5.41-45)

In this scene, where Petruchio breaks Katherine, we note that Kate has learned to be an actor. Here, as she pretends that Vincentio is a lovely young woman, she demonstrates his newly acquired skill and also hones her impromptu acting chops. The term "Petruchio's taming school," applies not only to Hortensio's so-called apprenticeship but also to Katherine's role as a student to Petruchio.

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