Taming of the Shrew - How effective is Act 1 scene 1 in establishing the main theme and characters in the plot.

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How effective is Act 1 scene 1 in establishing the main theme and characters in the plot.

Shakespeare’s Taming of the shrew Act 1 contains two parts, including the induction. None of Shakespeare's other plays begins with this, in which a full five-act play is performed within another play. 

The induction is a separate story, but shows relevance in introducing the main themes that Shakespeare uses in the rest of the play. The style of the structure is to give the reader an insight to the rest of the story, by creating a context.

The induction provides themes of relationships, transformation, deception, manipulation and comedy establishing them for the rest of the play.  The theme of relationship is shown through Sly and the Hostess, the Lord and Sly and the Lord and the Huntsmen. Sly and the Hostess show a relationship of conflict through power. The Hostess is wealthier but Sly feels he’s higher power because he is the male. He tries to emphasise this by his language, he uses loud, aggressive, arrogant language, “The Sly’s are no rouges”, “Y’are a baggage…” We know he is poorly educated as he uses colloquial language and makes mistakes in his arguments, “We came in with Richard Conqueror” and “Therefore paucas pallabris, let the world slide. Sessa”! Paucas pallabris is corruption of the Spanish pocas Palabras, and Sly mixes William the Conqueror with Richard Coeur-de-lion. It insights into Sly’s character, as we know he has a bad attitude to women, he is a drunk and does not have a high status in society.

        The tone changes from this light-hearted bickering to a more serious tone as the Lord and his train enter the play. They show an image of hunting, representing wealth and respect, “Huntsman, I charge thee, tender well my hounds”. The lord shows a relationship of equality with his huntsmen, as he talks to them as equals. The lord gives a long speech showing his importance and power, “Carry him gentle to my fairest chamber”. He jokes about transformation and uses sly as entertainment, “I will practise of this drunken man”. The lord's practical joke on Sly reinforces one of the central themes of the main play. Sly is used as entertainment, as the play is supposed to be entertainment for the audience. Shakespeare uses the structural technique of binary oppositions to show Sly and the Lord’s characteristics. Their relationship emphasises relationships of power later on in the play. The Lord intends to tame Sly, by seeing if someone can be transformed if given a different class. This insight’s into the rest of the story as Petruchio aims to tame Katherina and establishes this theme. The deception is shown through comedy, as Sly’s reaction to the situation is comical. Transformation is shown through Sly’s attitude change when he’s presented with this new lifestyle, “upon my life, I am a Lord indeed”.

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The Lord’s language is informal, commanding and descriptive, “Say, what is it your honour will command?” Deception is shown through the Lords practical joke on Sly. The end of the induction provides a vital question for the reader, was sly in fact manipulating the Lord at the end, or did he actually believe he is a Lord? This subsequently reflects to when the reader questions if Katherina was manipulating Petruchio at the end of the play, establishing the main themes.

        The characters in the induction could be described as representing characters in the main play. Sly could be representing Petruchio, ...

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