The Shrew in Disguise

Within The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare plays with variations of disguise that goes on within the play-within-a-play as well as the Introductions. Implemented in the two Introductions, the ploy is set forth onto Sly by convincing the drunkard that he is not who he thinks he is, “say that he dreams, for he is nothing but a mighty lord” (Introduction 1, l. 62 – 63). The entire cast for the Introductions swap roles (besides the players, whom are skilled in the art of disguise) illustrating how clothing can dignify the barriers of social class and how easily one can become mobile just through attire. Even convincing Sly that he is a lord rather than a beggar comments on how easily swayed the characters of the story are willing to accept the role they are given to play. Especially in Act I, during the stage direction of Tranio and Lucentio exchanging clothing (1.2, l. 208), the action is done without a second thought. But because of the disguises that most of the characters commit to, both within the introduction and the play-within-a-play, are we as readers supposed to acknowledge and identify the disguised characters as whom they are playing as, or do we see them as the original character playing the role of another? Because aren’t all the characters taking on the role of another character that is not whom they were first introduced as, therefore becoming players themselves in a way? Because from what I got from reading the play, The Taming of the Shrew is a play about what it means to play a role.

I feel that, because of the many different disguises that are worked into the play-within-a-play, The Taming of the Shrew hones in on the essence of what actors strive for in their field whether it was in Shakespeare’s time or modern day. The art of illusion, the mask that people put on in order to change who they are, is expressed through the motif of social mobility through these disguises. As well, the complexity and confusion that goes with remembering which character is disguised as who incorporates the idea of how important maintaining that outward disguise is for the characters in the play. I know that when I see movies or plays, I constantly call the actors by the character’s that they play, that false persona they the actors had successfully portrayed themselves as. The constant use of personas in this play (i.e., Christopher Sly to a lord, Tranio as Lucentio, Lucentio as Cambio, Hortensio as Litio), makes me wonder if maybe those who do not undergo physical changes as of where I stopped reading (Bianca, Katharina, Petruchio) are committed to exhibit an internal or emotional disguise, like maybe the shrewdness of Katharina?


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