A quick synopsis of The Taming of the Shrew: Set in Padua, Italy, Lucentio and other suitors pursue Bianca, but are told by her father, Baptista, that her bad-tempered older sister, Katherine, must marry first. They encourage Petruchio, who has come to Padua to find a wealthy wife, to court Katherine and free Bianca to marry. Petruchio negotiates marriage terms with Baptista, then has a stormy meeting with Katherine, after which he assures Baptista that the two have agreed to marry. Petruchio arrives late to their wedding dressed in strange clothes; he behaves rudely and carries Katherine away before the wedding dinner. At his home, he embarks on a plan to “tame” Katherine as one would tame a wild hawk. Without much food and kept without sleep, Katherine eventually agrees with everything Petruchio says, however absurd. He takes her back to Padua, where they attend Bianca’s wedding. There Katherine proves more obedient to her husband than the other wives, whom she chastises before she and Petruchio go off to consummate their marriage. Taming of the Shrew not only explores complex relationships between men and women, but is a fascinating commentary on the social and political climate of the Elizabethan period.
Baptista Minola (can be changed to a female if necessary): A wealthy gentleman of Padua and Katherina and Bianca’s father, Baptista is a harried father, having difficulty marrying his two daughters because the older one is a notorious shrew. He is not, however, an object of sympathy. He ignores the question of his daughters’ happiness in seeking mates for them, and Katherina may be a shrew chiefly because of the way he treats her.
Vincentio: An old merchant of Pisa and Lucentio’s father, Vincentio is extremely fond of his son and is grief-stricken when he discovers that Lucentio may have come to harm. He arrives in Padua amidst much confusion and is almost jailed as an imposter before Lucentio arrives and clears matters up.
Lucentio: A young student in love wtih Bianca, Lucentio changes clothes with his servant and offers himself as Bianca’s tutor, thus ensuring he can woo Bianca privately. He ultimately does win her hand, although both he and Bianca are immature and no match for Petruchio and Katherina.
Petruchio: A gentleman of Verona, Petruchio arrives in Padua looking for a wife and is soon pointed toward Katherina, whom he roughly courts and quickly marries. His character has two levels. On the surface, he appears to be rough and unfeeling, but underneath it all he is intelligent and understanding–and deeply in love with his new wife. Certainly, he is somewhat less than gentle, but he has a keen sense of humor and is the perfect match for Katherina.
Gremio: An elderly and wealthy suitor of Bianca, Gremio gets “Cambio” (the disguised Lucentio) to pose as tutor to her, on the understanding that he will woo her on his behalf; however, Lucentio woos and wins her for himself.
Hortensio: Another suitor for Bianca’s hand and an honest friend of Petruchio, Hortensio is basically a good man but perhaps a bit foolish. He continues his suit of Bianca without encouragement from her, but finally abandons it, declaring “kindness in women, not their beauteous looks, / Shall win my love” (4.2.41-42).
Tranio (can be a female playing a male): Lucentio’s lighthearted and mischievous servant, Tranio changes clothes and positions with Lucentio so his master can woo Bianca. He accepts this with some reluctance initially, but soon warms to the role.
Biondello (can be a female, this role requires an agile and athletic body): Lucentio’s servant, Biondello assumes the role of Tranio’s servant when Tranio assumes the role of their master.
Grumio: Petruchio’s comic servant, Grumio is rather dense, but not stupid. He has a keen sense of humor and a great love of jokes and tricks.
Katherina: Baptista’s daughter and Bianca’s older sister, Katherina is known throughout Padua as “Kate the Curst”; however, she has a much deeper character than the term would imply. She appears mean to Bianca, but only because she has continually been second in her father’s affections. The transformation which she undergoes after she marries Petruchio is not one of character, but one of attitude. She alters dramatically from the bitter and accursed shrew to the obedient and happy wife when she discovers that her husband loves her enough to help her, in contrast to those who treated her badly. Beneath the surface the shrew is not a shrew at all.
Bianca: Baptista’s daughter and Katherina’s younger sister, Bianca is an unkind sister and later a disobedient wife. She fosters her father’s attitude of favoritism for herself and dislike for Katherina by playing the part of a noble victim. Her disregard for the wishes of her new husband, Lucentio, leads to grim speculation as to what her behavior may be when they have been married longer. Ironically, as the play ends, she is more of a shrew than her sister.
Widow: The third wife in this play of comparisons, the Widow marries Hortensio after he finds he has lost Bianca to Lucentio. At Lucentio’s banquet she loses her husband a wager when she does not come obediently when he calls.
Servants of the House of Petruchio (some can be female): Curtis, Nathaniel, Joseph, Peter, Nicholas, Philip
Pedant: pretends to be Vincentio
Haberdasher (male or female)
Tailor (male or female)
Servants to the House of Minola (added servants, female)
Dancers, singers: played mainly by the servants
Musicians: Flute or recorder, violin, percussion, guitar.