Disguises

Unlike a play like The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew deals not with unintentional mistaken identity, but rather very intentional mistaken identity.

Four characters take on the guise of others:

  • Lucentio, in an attempt to woo Bianca, takes on the role of “Cambio,” a tutor under the employ of Bianca’s “pantaloon” suitor Gremio, one “as cunning in Greek, Latin, and other languages” (II.i.8-81).  He uses his position at the side of Bianca to undermine the wooing of his employer.
  • Tranio, Lucentio’s man servant, takes on the role of “Lucentio,” his master, so that Tranio/Lucentio may “Keep house and port and servants as (the real Lucentio) should” (I.i.201).  This false Lucentio takes on the wooing of Bianca to further frustrate the amorous endeavors of both Gremio and Hortensio.
  • Hortensio, himself, takes on the role of “Litio,” a tutor under the employ of Petruchio.  Hortensio, like Lucentio, wants to both woo AND be close to Bianca, and uses this disguise to be closer to the target of his affection, so that he can “Have leave and leisure to make love to her // And unsuspected court her by herself” (I.ii.134-135).
  • The (unnamed) Pedant, takes on the role of “Vincentio,” the faux “Lucentio”‘s father, in an attempt to escape what he believes is a death sentence for all those from the Pedant’s town of Mantua in Padua; he believes this The Comedy of Errors-like danger because Tranio/Lucentio tells him so, and in return for safe haven in Padua (so that he can take care of his “bills for money by exchange” [IV.ii.89] that he must deliver in town).

Lucentio reveals to Bianca both his and Tranio’s disguise in his Latin lesson.  Hortensio/Litio reveals his disguise to Tranio/Lucentio as Hortensio gives up the chase for Bianca.  The Pedant’s disguise is the only one that is uncovered by others, as the ensuing wackiness of Act Five comes to a head.

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