It would seem that in the introduction and the first two acts of the play that a character’s identity is not sacred or worth much of anything, at least to rich or noble men. The Lord in the introduction, along with Lucentio and Hortensio in the play seem to find their identities, or the identities of others disposable.
Sly, the poor man who the Lord is playing with seems proud of his identity as a Sly at first. In the third line of the introduction he says “The Slys are no rouges. Look at the Chronicles…” and when he wakes in line 5 of Intro.2 he holds strong that he is “..,Christopher Sly. Call me not ‘honour’ nor ‘lordship’.” But it doesn’t take too long for him to change his mind and give in to this new identity presented to him.
Part of his giving in so easily seems to be the tie between identity and possessions. This relationship is brought up by the Lord who who in Intro. 1 lists off all the things that will make Sly give up on his own identity. All of them were material goods and servants. When Lucentio (Who, like Sly introduces himself proudly with his families accreditations) Decides to switch identities with Tranio all that is required to beguile everyone is for Tranio to “Take my coloured hat and cloak” (1.1, 201)
Oddly enough a strong willed identity, that of Katherine’s is what creates all the fuss and havoc. Bianca on the other hand seems to have a non personality, men are attracted to her silence and non-opinions. The lack of identity possessed by her sister is part of what frustrates Katherine the most as proven when binds her up in act 2 scene 1.
There are other little tidbits that play with Identity. The Lord in the introduction for instance identifies all of his dogs by name, but uses the term “Sirrah” to refer to all of his nameless servants. There are also the characters of Gremio, a rich lord, and Grumio a rude and ignorant servant. The vowels in their names also imitate their stations. While it may not have been so confusing on a stage, reading it, particularly in act 1 scene 2 where they speak one after the other, in very confusing.
The whole thing brings into question how flexible is identity? Is it so easy to shed and forget? Or, like Katherine (at least thus far) should we not bend who we are to be what others want of us?