Essay Rehearsal 4: The Taming of the Shrew – When characters object to Petruchio’s bizarre wedding attire, he asserts: “To me, she’s married, not unto my clothes” (3.2.119). His comment implies that there is a difference between a person’s inner identity and his/her externals. On the other hand, when Katherine indicates that she wants the cap that the Haberdasher delivers because “gentlewomen wear such caps as these” (4.3.74), Petruchio deprives her of it, saying that “When you are gentle, you shall have one too” (75). This comment suggests that synchronization of a person’s interior condition and external features are desirable. What is the basis of identity?—something interior (such as one’s feelings, the anger of one’s heart, to vary Katherine’s phrase), or the combination of externals (such as caps and gowns)?
This essay rehearsal activity invites you to examine the resonance between the central story of The Taming of the Shrew and its frame: the story of Christopher Sly, with its metamorphosis of him from a drunken tinker to the lord of the manor. When Sly affirms who he is, what does he base his sense of his identity on? When the Lord outlines how they will re-construct Sly’s identity, what do they base a sense of identity on?