In Shakespeare’s comedy, “The Taming of the Shrew,” one of the main ways that the theme is shown is by mistaken identity. The main theme of this play is that what a person is really like is more important than how they appear to be. This is shown by Petruchio’s relationship with Katherine; the changing roles of Tranio, Lucentio, and Hortensio; and the true characters of Bianca and Katherine. All three of these situations help to enrich the theme.
The first predicament that supports the theme is Petruchio’s relationship with Katherine. When we first meet Petruchio, he is only after the money of Katherine and accepts her harshness as simply a goal he must overcome. He is mistaken for a person who is only after money, not love at all. Yet when he meets Kate, he begins to fall for her. While he still argues and attempts to train her, it is for his own benefit. He wants her to be less harsh so she can fall in love with him.
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Petruchio ends up truly caring for and loving Kate, despite the front he puts up having his true identity revealed. As a result of this Katherine, whom we thought would never love anyone, at the end of the story is the only wife who comes when she is beckoned. The other wives only make up excuses. This shows how Kate has a mistaken identity because she appears rude and insolent. This situation is one of the ways Shakespeare uses mistaken identity to display theme.
Another part of the theme is that when a person changes outfit’s and roles, their personalities and attitudes stary the same. The first and most prominent role change is the one between Lucentio and Tranio. Lucentio, in order to marry Bianca, exchanges outfits with his servant Tranio in order to become a tutor for Bianca. Although Tranio appears to be a nobleman, he is really just a simple servant. His identity did not change despite the fact that his outfit did. In the same fashion, Lucentio becomes Cambio, the tutor. His true self is as a nobleman, but due to his love of Bianca, he tries to change himself. Just like Tranio, despite the change of outfit, Lucentio’s real personality is not altered. Henceforth came Hortensio, the least successful pretender. He too becomes a tutor for Bianca but is rejected by her. Before the changing of clothes, Hortensio is in competition with Lucentio for Bianca and still is despite the change in clothing. What Shakespeare is trying to convey is that although you can change your clothes, you can’t change the person who wears them.
The most effective way Shakespeare demonstrates this theme is through Bianca and Kate. On the outside, Kate appears harsh, cruel and frightening to all of the characters. Even her father is scared of her monstrous temper, begging anyone to marry her. Yet as her relationship with Petruchio grows, her true identity emerges. She becomes much less of a shrew, her mistaken identity, and begins to become a benevolent person, her true identity. This overcomes her other self and shines through. Despite all of her outward appearances, she is truly a good person in her heart. Yet Bianca’s scenario is different. She is perceived as a sweet and gentle person, a false precept, devoting herself to her studies and never wanting anything else out of life. Yet once she achieves her goal, to be married, her true self appears.
She becomes quarrelsome and apathetic, not coming at the call of Lucentio or accusing him of simply hunting her, not at all caring for her. She becomes almost what her sister was. Furthermore, to find out what Kate and Bianca are really like is the conflict of the play. On one level, it is Petruchio’s conflict to tame Kate or live with a shrew the rest of his life. To tame Kate is also to reveal her actual personality. With Lucentio, he is after Bianca, and to fall head over heels in love with her. To fall in love with someone can also be to find out about them and see who they really are in their heart. The main theme being conveyed is displayed through these two sisters and their alter egos.
Mistaken identity is the main conflict of this play, yet it also serves to tell the reader or audience what the theme is. Through appearance changes, character relationships, and inner personalities, the theme is displayed, the theme being that what someone’s real identity is more imprtant than what they seem to be. This is proved by superb manipulation of characters and plot with examples illustrating the theme masterfully and with great emphasis.
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