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Explore the different nature of disguise and identity in 'The taming of the shrew.'

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Introduction

Explore the different nature of disguise and identity in 'The taming of the shrew.' The theme of disguise and deception to hide true identity is central to both the induction and the main action of the play; nearly every character pretends to be someone they are not. This trickery is portrayed in many ways. Sometimes an actual disguise is required, but with other characters the "disguise" is not an alteration of their physical appearance, but a change of their personality. Some characters appear to change their personality rather than alter their appearance. Most of the play's humour comes from the way in which characters create false realities by disguising themselves as other people, a device first introduced in the induction. Initially this is accomplished by having Christopher Sly believe he is someone he is not and then by having the main play performed for him. By putting The Taming Of The Shrew in a 'play within a play' structure, Shakespeare immediately lets the audience know that the play is not real thus making all events in the play false realities. Almost all characters in the play take on identities other than their own at some point of time during the play. The play contains many different types of disguise; the majority are physical changes in appearance. Tranio as Lucentio, Lucentio as Cambio, and Hortensio as Litio are all examples of this. However some disguises involve changes in personality, for example Petruchio as a "tamer" and Katherina as a the 'shrew' of the play, then as an obedient wife. ...read more.

Middle

This is finally shown during the scene when Katherina, to conform to Petruchio's instructions, willingly acknowledges Vincentio to be a woman, when she clearly knows he is a man. From this, the audience can assume that Katherina is finally tamed. Petruchio is the kind of lively person who would be disappointed in a victory too easily won, and disappointed in Kate if she were genuinely tamed. The audience does find however, it may be the case that Katherina is still as fiery as ever. During Katherina's final speech of the play, she attacks the other wives for not adhering to their husbands. She says "Thy husband is thy lord...I am ashamed that women are so simple / To offer war where they should kneel for peace." This reinforces the fact that she now appears obedient, but her harsh words also suggest that she has not been truly tamed. These changes of character work simply because most of the characters are too superficial to realise. The importance of outward appearance in the play is highlighted by the character's reactions to Bianca and Katherina. When people initially encounter Bianca, they usually have one reaction. As Lucentio puts it, he " saw sweet beauty in her face," and he also says "Sacred and sweet was all I saw in her." Her innocent appearance lends to the deception that she is docile and easily controlled. Lucentio later finds out this is not the case. Even among the various suitors she has, she skilfully placates them so that they continue to adorn her with gifts while she continually keeps them at bay. ...read more.

Conclusion

In Petruchio's case, it seems from face value that he is really attracted to Katherina and just wants to bring out her true personality to light. However, Petruchio seems totally obsessed with money, shown in the way he bets "twenty crowns" on Katherina's obedience at the end of the play, and also seen when he enquires about the dowry he will receive. So, depending on the way you look at it, Petruchio is either a fine man, or a greedy individual only concerned with gaining wealth and admiration for completing a difficult challenge by putting an innocent girl through torment. Hortensio changes his appearance to defy a perhaps unfair ruling of Baptista, but also encourages Petruchio to marry Katherina for selfish reasons. Bianca keeps playing to what is expected of her in order too keep on receiving praise and adulation, but revels her true personality at the end when she refuses to attend to Lucentio. Lucentio's disguise is for the same reason as Hortensio's, but he takes advantage of Baptista's trust. I feel the only conclusion I can draw is that no form of deception in morally sound, despite how unfair the restrictions being violated are. Human nature is ever changing but the masks that people put on change even more. Whether hiding behind nasty, good-natured, or angelic attitudes, the true character of a person still lies underneath. As seen by the personality shifts that Katherina, Petruchio and Bianca experience, people often do not act the way their appearances might suggest. From not paying attention to what he sees at face value, Petruchio has a far better deal in marriage than Lucentio, who fell in love with Bianca for her looks rather than her personality. ...read more.

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