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?

  1. These little designs were used to mark the start of the Induction, the five acts and the end of the play.
  2. 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).
  3. 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).
  4. Lucentio and Hortensio compete for Bianca’s attention, both disguised as tutors (Act 3, Scene 1).
  5. 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).
  6. 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).
  7. 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).