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.
Shakespeares Taming of the shrew Act 1 contains two parts, including the induction. None of Shakespeares 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 hes higher power because he is the male. He tries to emphasise this by his language, he uses loud, aggressive, arrogant language, “The Slys are no rouges”, “Yare 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 Slys 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 lords 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 Lords 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 insights into the rest of the story as Petruchio aims to tame Katherina and establishes this theme. The deception is shown through comedy, as Slys reaction to the situation is comical. Transformation is shown through Slys attitude change when hes presented with this new lifestyle, “upon my life, I am a Lord indeed”.
The Lords 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, as they are both out for all they can get, (Sly is taking the chance of being a Lord to his advantage, and Petruchio marries Katherina for the dowry). Also, it could be said that because Sly is watching this play, it is a learning experience for him and it changes his attitude to women. Petruchio also changes his attitude to Katherina at the end, as he no longer feels he has to tame her. The Lord and Sly could also be representing Lucentio and Tranios, as both plots involve them changing roles, (Sly becomes the Lord, and Tranio becomes Lucentio). Sly and Katherina also link to each other. Slys story dramatizes the idea that a persons environment and the way he or she is treated by others determines his or her behaviour, an idea that Katherines story in the main play also shows this. The lord portrays Slys new role as having no will of his own. The lords huntsman emphasizes this when asked if Sly would fall for the deception and forget himself he replies, “Believe me, lord, I think he cannot choose”. The huntsmans words could apply to Katherine as well, as two wealthy and powerful men–her father, Baptista, and her suitor, Petruchio, control her. Katherine is forced to play the part of a wife, which she initially rejects. The suggestion that Katherine, like Sly, “cannot choose” suggests that she is as much a plaything of Petruchio as Sly is of the lord. The Induction also introduces the topic of marriage into the play. Sly resists all the servants attempts to convince him that he is a lord until they tell him that he has a wife, at which point he immediately changes his attitude: “Am I a lord? And have I such a lady?” Shakespeare emphasises this change with language. The humour of the situation is even though Sly is at first trying to make sense of his situation, as soon as he discovers that he might be able to get sex, he immediately stops caring whether his situation is real or not, commanding his wife to “undress you and come now to bed”. Shakespeare here introduces the idea that comes into play later, as he suggests that marriage is something that people use for their own benefit rather than the stereotypical meaning of true marriage. Also, the roles of class, gender, and marital status, which in normally would be important, become replaced with appearance and perception. The characters all emphasise the relationship, manipulation and deception theme. The structure of insight, the linked characters all establish the main themes and characters of the play.
Scene 1, act 1, is the beginning of the actually play. Shakespeare wastes no time in establishing who is the “shrew” of the play. Soon into the first scene he introduces the public perception of Katherine as hateful and sharp-tongued. In their critical rejections of Katherine, Hortensio and Gremio identify they dislike her because shes “too rough”, and they want mates “of gentler, milder mould”. After watching Katherine for only a few seconds, Tranio remarks, “That wench is stark mad,” indicating just how bad Katherines behaviour is, establishing her character. Throughout the play, the characters compare their ideas