Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The purpose of this dissertation is to show that The Taming of the Shrew is a richer, more complex, more finely crafted, and more meaningful play than has ordinarily been thought, even by those who profess admiration for it. My critical approach is to look at the play with "performance," both real and ideal, constantly in mind.

My first chapter touches on the relationship between Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew and an anonymous play, The Taming of a Shrew, written at approximately the same time. The plots of these two plays are similar. The major difference is that the anonymous play concludes with Christopher Sly, Shakespeare's play does not. Whereas most critics consider Shakespeare's play unfinished, I explain why Shakespeare's ending is the more satisfying one.

My emphasis in the chapter on structure is on the symmetrical design of the entire play and of each scene. Rather than use the more common division into act and scene, I explain structure in terms of the cleared stage. Unlike the critics who use the exits and entrances of characters as the primary criteria for determining the symmetry, I also use the verbal echoes and the juxtaposition of similar actions, themes and characterization.

I concentrate on Christopher Sly, Bianca, and Katherine in the chapter on character. I selected these three because critics have generally agreed on the basic outlines of their characters. The text, however, does not necessitate the traditional interpretation. My analysis depended on the assumption that it is the reader who creates the Shakespearean characters, because it is the reader who determines how a character speaks. When the dialogue and the action in the play are considered together, the characters can be seen as more complex than those found in less serious comedy.

The last chapter includes a stage history of The Taming of the Shrew and various twentieth-century productions. After examining the reviews of this play, I show that The Taming of the Shrew has an elasticity matched by only a few of Shakespeare's other plays and ranks only slightly below the comic masterpieces of Shakespeare's maturity.