Study Guide

The Taming of the Shrew Society and Class

By William Shakespeare

Society and Class

Although we often think of The Taming of the Shrew as being solely interested in the nuances of the 16th-century bourgeois elite, it does much to highlight differences between social classes. In the frame story, Shakespeare goes out of his way to demonstrate the discrepancies between the powerless and lower class Christopher Sly and the noble Lord. Attention to such social disparity carries over into the inset play, where we're asked to recognize the similarities between class hierarchy and the gender hierarchy within the merchant class.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. How does the Induction draw out attention to social disparity?
  2. What is the effect of Sly naming a long list of all the jobs he has held? What does this reveal about Sly?
  3. Why does Kate complain that Petruchio treats her worse than a beggar? What does this suggest about Kate's social position?
  4. How would you describe the characteristics and interests of the upper-middle-class figures in the inset play?

Chew on This

In the play, the Lord's elaborate practical joke emphasizes the social disparity between the nobility and the lower-classes.

The similar circumstances shared by Kate and Christopher Sly suggest that even noblewomen are viewed as second-class citizens.

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