This set of pen-and-ink drawings by the artist Byam Shaw (1872–1919) shows a series of comic scenes from The Taming of the Shrew. They were produced as illustrations for a beautiful, pocket-sized book in the Chiswick Shakespeare series, printed between 1899–1902.
Clothing and transformation in The Taming of the Shrew
With their luxurious folds of fabric and intricately patterned clothes, Shaw’s drawings seem to highlight the crucial role played by clothing in the drama. From the first to the last scene, Shakespeare uses costume as a radical means of exploring social transformation. Clothes seem to enable people to shift or exchange their status. But they also remind us that appearances may be deceptive – a person’s costume can disguise who they really are.
What do these images show?
- These little designs were used to mark the start of the Induction, the five acts and the end of the play.
- Sly, the drunken tinker, is ‘convey’d to bed, / Wrapp’d in sweet clothes’ to convince him that he is a ‘mighty lord’ (Ind.1.37–38, 65).
- The gentleman Hortensio poses as a music tutor in order to woo Bianca, but Katherina smashes the lute over his head (2.1.153–54).
- Lucentio and Hortensio compete for Bianca’s attention, both disguised as tutors (Act 3, Scene 1).
- Petruchio rejects convention by arriving at his wedding dressed in ‘unreverent robes’ (3.2.112) – ‘a new hat and an old jerkin; a pair of old breeches thrice turn’d; a pair of boots that have been candle-cases’ (3.2.43–45).
- On the journey home from their wedding, Petruchio starts to ‘tame’ his wife by forcing her to wade through the dirt when she falls off her horse (4.1.72–84).
- Katherina shows her transformation from ‘wild-cat’ (1.2.196) to obedient wife by coming when Petruchio calls her and trampling her cap ‘under-foot’ (5.2.119–22).
- Full title:
- Taming of the shrew, a set of seven original drawings
- c. 1900
- Drawing / Illustration / Image
- John Byam Liston Shaw
- Usage terms
Folger ART Box S534 no.30 part 1 (size S) (Digital Image filenames: 35176; 35177; 35178; 3139; 35179; 35180; 35181). Used by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
- Held by
- Folger Shakespeare Library
- FOLGER, Source call number: ART Box S534 no.30 parts 1-7(size S)
- Article by:
- Penny Gay
Penny Gay investigates how The Taming of the Shrew both draws on and challenges comic conventions.
- Article by:
- Emma Smith
- Comedies, Gender, sexuality, courtship and marriage
Emma Smith explores how clothing complicates ideas about gender and social status in The Taming of the Shrew.
- Article by:
- Rachel De Wachter
- Comedies, Gender, sexuality, courtship and marriage, Power, politics and religion
Does The Taming of the Shrew advocate sexual inequality or does it show and critique men’s attempts to subordinate women? Rachel De Wachter discusses how we should think about relations between the sexes in the play, and examines how writers, directors and actors have explored this question over the past four centuries.