The Taming of the Shrew By William Shakespeare Summary and Analysis Act V: Scene 1

Summary

Lucentio (no longer disguised as Cambio) and Bianca head to the church to be married while her father is busy making arrangements with Tranio and the Pedant. Petruchio, Kate, Vincentio, and Grumio arrive in Padua and stop at Lucentio's house. Vincentio insists his companions join him for a drink, but upon knocking at the door and announcing himself, he is surprised to find another man who claims to be Lucentio's father. When Biondello appears, Vincentio questions him. Biondello pretends not to recognize his master's father. When Tranio comes to investigate the commotion, he too pretends not to know Vincentio. When the Pedant defends Tranio, claiming he's Lucentio, Vincentio moans that Tranio must have murdered the real Lucentio and assumed his persona. Baptista, unwilling to put up with such wild behavior, orders Vincentio to prison. At this point the newlyweds, Lucentio and Bianca, return.

Lucentio explains what has happened, why Tranio was masquerading as his master, and announces his marriage to Bianca. Baptista and Vincentio reconcile minimally and enter the house to untangle the situation in which they find themselves. Gremio, realizing he has no hope for a spouse, goes inside to join the wedding feast. Petruchio asks Kate for a kiss, and when she refuses, he threatens to return home again. Good humoredly, she kisses her husband before heading in to the feast.

Analysis

Finally, in Act V, Scene 1, we arrive at the long awaited discovery scene. As wise connoisseurs of drama, we've known from the beginning that the disguising must be unraveled, and so it is, and in fine comic fashion. Of course, in keeping with comic tradition, little punishment is doled out, although Vincentio's feathers are certainly ruffled. After all, what gentleman wants to find out that not only has his identity been successfully stolen, but stolen by someone of a lower class, at that!

Vincentio's arrival marks a return of order to the play. He is an outside force who is sober in judgment. Innocent of what has transpired in Padua since his son's arrival (and used to being treated as his high rank would dictate), he is unprepared for what he finds upon reaching Lucentio's house and has no reason not to be outraged. The Pedant has successfully assumed Vincentio's identity — so fully, in fact, that he feels comfortable in disparaging the real Vincentio's wife, offering a backhanded slur about her reputation, stating Tranio is really Lucentio "so his mother says, if I may believe her" (33).

Of course before the mistaken identities can be sorted out, confusion must reach its apex, and it does so with Biondello and then Tranio refusing to acknowledge they know Vincentio. What they're doing, in part, is attempting to buy time for their master, Lucentio, who has not yet returned from his secret marriage to Bianca. When Lucentio finally returns (line 101), Tranio, Biondello, and the Pedant all retreat "as fast as may be" (s.d. 105), glad to extract themselves from a situation in which they were not likely to fare well.

Baptista's and Vincentio's anger seems to be diffused upon the announcement that Lucentio and Bianca are married. Their response is, of course, the appropriate response given this is a comedy. In keeping with comic tradition, Shakespeare necessarily moves toward positive resolution and re-establishment of the proper social order, and how else could he do that, in this case, but have the two fathers pass over the wrongs done to them and celebrate their children's marriage. Note, however, that as the two patriarchs leave for the feast, Vincentio comments he will "be revenged for this villainy" (128) while Baptista vows "to sound the depth of this knavery" (129). Shakespeare is careful to keep all retribution off stage, as he does in all his comedies, so we are not distracted by punishment, but rather, invigorated by the successful marriages.

As the scene ends, all but Petruchio and Kate have gone inside to the wedding feast. The last few lines are very telling and solidify the change in the couple (not just Kate) brought about in the prior scene. Kate begins their exchange this time, suggesting "Husband, let's follow, to see the end of this ado" (134). Surely she is not powerless since she is capable of suggesting the route of action they, as a couple, should take. Petruchio agrees to her suggestion, but desires a kiss first. Up until this point, we have seen no such display of affection, and Kate's initial refusal, we learn, is not because she doesn't want to kiss him, but that she doesn't want to kiss him in public. She relents and gives Petruchio a kiss, but again, it is under subtle threat (more comic than real, this time) of having to return home and miss the feast. Petruchio, himself, seems genuinely pleased at the situation, wondering "Is not this well?" (142). The scene closes with Petruchio addressing his bride as "my sweet Kate" (142), a phrase which here assumes genuine sincerity as opposed to the ironic terms of endearment uttered in Act II. Just as much as Katherine has changed, so too has Petruchio. It seems the two have truly come to love each other.

Glossary

father's (9) father-in-law's.

"You shall not choose but drink" (11) "I insist that you drink."

flat (35) absolute; positive.

cozen (38) to cheat; defraud.

good shipping (40) bon voyage.

crackhemp (43) rogue likely to end up being hanged.

offer (59) dare.

copintank (62) high-crowned, sugar-loaf shape.

"good husband" (63) "good provider."

'cerns (70) concerns.

maintain (71) afford.

coney-catched (93) tricked.

"wert best" (98) "might as well."

haled (101) pulled forcibly; dragged; hauled.

counterfeit supposes (110) suppositions; false appearances.

packing (111) conspiracy.

"My cake is dough" (132) "I'm out of luck."

"Out of hope of all but" (133) "Having no hope except."

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