The Taming Of The Shrew - Humor

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The Taming Of The Shrew - Humor

In The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare creates humour through his characters by creating false realities (as demonstrated by Petruchio's behaviour and attire in the scene of his wedding) and by the use of subterfuge and mistaken identity (shown in the final scenes with the transformation of Kate and Bianca's respective personas). He also uses irony quite extensively, especially towards the end of the play (as can be seen in the final ‘wager' scene).

The concept that ‘things are not always as they seem' is quite evident in the events surrounding, and including, Petruchio's wedding ceremony. This particular scene in the play demonstrates how the use of false realities (a real situation falsely presented in order to deliberately deceive) can be used to create humour. Biondello describes Petruchio's appearance to Baptista, and by doing so sets up the expectations of the audience. He says that Petruchio comes wearing:

New hat and old jerkin; a pair of old breeches thrice turned; a pair of boots that have been candle-cases, one buckled another laced; an old rusty sworde…with a broken hilt and chapeless; his horse hipped…with an old mothy saddle
(Act III Scene II)

This depiction of Petruchio conforms to Shakespeare's technique of using false realities, in order to create humour. This can also be seen in the false identity that Petruchio puts forth in his quest for dominion over Kate (that of the eccentric egomaniac). However, these false realities are not enough by themselves, as the audience has nothing to go by but what they see before them, and so they are not to know that this is not Petruchio's true personality, and so Shakespeare employs another essential element of humour: he lets the audience know what is truly transpiring, while the characters themselves remain oblivious to the truth. He does this using a soliloquy, in which Petruchio states the strategies he shall use in order to tame Kate:

She ate no meat today nor none shall she eat…and as with the meat some undeserved fault I'll find about the making of the bed… This is the way to kill a wife with kindness…he that knows better how to tame a shrew, not let him speak
(Act IV Scene I)

This soliloquy serves to reinforce the fact that ‘things are not always as they seem'. So the knowledge gleaned from this soliloquy means that we find the other events in...

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