| Tales from Shakespeare|
|by Charles and Mary Lamb|
|First published in 1807, these simple retellings of the plots of Shakespeare's plays have delighted generations of children, while serving as an excellent introduction to the dramas of our greatest playwright. Shakespeare's own language is used as much as possible to accustom children to the English of the Elizabethan age and so make easier their transition to the reading of the plays themselves. Numerous black and white illustrations by Louis Rhead complement the text. Ages 10-14 |
TAMING OF THE SHREW
ATHARINE, the Shrew, was the eldest daughter of Baptista, a rich
gentleman of Padua. She was a lady of such an ungovernable spirit
and fiery temper, such a loud-tongued scold, that she was known
in Padua by no other name than Katharine the Shrew. It seemed
very unlikely, indeed impossible, that any gentleman would ever
be found who would venture to marry this lady, and therefore
Baptista was much blamed for deferring his consent to many
excellent offers that were made to her gentle sister Bianca,
putting off all Bianca's suitors with this excuse, that when the
eldest sister was fairly off his hands they should have free
leave to address young Bianca.
It happened, however, that a gentleman, named Petruchio, came to
Padua purposely to look out for a wife, who, nothing discouraged
by these reports of Katharine's temper, and hearing she was rich
and handsome, resolved upon marrying this famous termagant, and
taming her into a meek and manageable wife. And truly none was so
fit to set about this herculean labor as Petruchio, whose spirit
was as high as Katharine's, and he was a witty and most
happy-tempered humorist, and withal so wise, and of such a true
judgment, that he well knew how to feign a passionate and furious
deportment when his spirits were so calm that himself could have
laughed merrily at his own angry feigning, for his natural temper
was careless and easy; the boisterous airs he assumed when he
became the husband of Katharine being but in sport, or, more
properly speaking, affected by his excellent
 discernment, as the
only means to overcome, in her own way, the passionate ways of
the furious Katharine.
A-courting, then, Petruchio went to Katharine the Shrew; and
first of all he applied to Baptista, her father, for leave to woo
his gentle daughter Katharine, as Petruchio called her, saying,
archly, that, having heard of her bashful modesty and mild
behavior, he had come from Verona to solicit her love. Her
father, though he wished her married, was forced to confess
Katharine would ill answer this character, it being soon apparent
of what manner of gentleness she was composed, for her
music-master rushed into the room to complain that the gentle
Katharine, his pupil, had broken his head with her lute for
presuming to find fault with her performance; which, when
Petruchio heard, he said:
"It is a brave wench. I love her more than ever, and long to have
some chat with her." And hurrying the old gentleman for a
positive answer, he said: "My business is in haste, Signor
Baptista. I cannot come every day to woo. You knew my father. He
is dead, and has left me heir to all his lands and goods. Then
tell me, if I get your daughter's love, what dowry you will give
Baptista thought his manner was somewhat blunt for a lover; but,
being glad to get Katharine married, he answered that he would
give her twenty thousand crowns for her dowry, and half his
estate at his death. So this odd match was quickly agreed on and
Baptista went to apprise his shrewish daughter of her lover's
addresses, and sent her in to Petruchio to listen to his suit.
In the mean time Petruchio was settling with himself the mode
courtship be should pursue; and he said: "I will woo her with
some spirit when she comes. If she rails at me, why, then I will
tell her she sings as sweetly as a nightingale; and if she
frowns, I will say she looks as clear as roses newly washed with
dew. If she will not speak a word, I will praise the eloquence of
her language; and if she bids me leave her, I will give her
thanks as if she bid me stay with her a week."
Now the stately Katharine entered, and Petruchio first addressed
"Good morrow, Kate, for that is your name, I hear."
Katharine, not liking this plain salutation, said, disdainfully,
"They call me Katharine who do speak to me."
"You lie," replied the lover; "for you are called plain Kate, and
bonny Kate, and sometimes Kate the Shrew; but, Kate, you are the
prettiest Kate in Christendom, and therefore, Kate, hearing your
mildness praised in every town, I am come to woo you for my
A strange courtship they made of it. She in loud and angry terms
showing him how justly she had gained the name of Shrew, while he
still praised her sweet and courteous words, till at length,
hearing her father coming, he said (intending to make as quick a
wooing as possible):
"Sweet Katharine, let us set this idle chat aside, for your
father has consented that you shall be my wife, your dowry is
agreed on, and whether you will or no I will marry you."
And now Baptista entering, Petruchio told him his daughter had
received him kindly and that she had promised to be married the
next Sunday. This Katharine denied, saying she would rather see
him hanged on Sunday, and reproached her father for wishing to
wed her to such a madcap ruffian as Petruchio. Petruchio desired
her father not to regard her angry words, for they had agreed she
should seem reluctant before him, but that when they were alone
he had found her very fond and loving; and he said to her:
"Give me your hand, Kate. I will go to Venice to buy you
 fine apparel
against our wedding-day. Provide the feast, father, bid the
wedding guests. I will be sure to bring rings, fine array, and
rich clothes, that my Katharine may be fine. And kiss me, Kate,
for we will be married on Sunday."
On the Sunday all the wedding guests were assembled, but they
waited long before Petruchio came, and Katharine wept for
vexation to think that Petruchio had only been making a jest of
her. At last, however, he appeared; but he brought none of the
bridal finery he had promised Katharine, nor was he dressed
himself like a bridegroom, but in strange, disordered attire, as
if he meant to make a sport of the serious business he came
about; and his servant and the very horses on which they rode
were in like manner in mean and fantastic fashion habited.
Petruchio could not be persuaded to change his dress. He
Katharine was to be married to him, and not to his clothes. And,
finding it was in vain to argue with him, to the church they
went, he still behaving in the same mad way, for when the priest
asked Petruchio if Katharine should be his wife, he swore so loud
that she should, that, all amazed, the priest let fall his book,
and as he stooped to take it up this mad-brained bridegroom gave
him such a cuff that down fell the priest and his book again. And
all the while they were being married he stamped and swore so
that the high-spirited Katharine trembled and shook with fear.
After the ceremony was over, while they were yet in the church,
he called for wine, and drank a loud health to the company, and
threw a sop which was at the bottom of the glass full in the
sexton's face, giving no other reason for this strange act than
that the sexton's beard grew thin and hungerly, and seemed to ask
the sop as he was drinking. Never sure was there such a mad
marriage; but Petruchio did but put this wildness on the better
to succeed in the plot he had formed to tame his shrewish wife.
Baptista had provided a sumptuous marriage feast, but when they
returned from church, Petruchio, taking hold of Katharine,
declared his intention of carrying his wife home instantly, and
no remonstrance of his father-in-law, or angry words of the
enraged Katharine, could make him change his purpose. He claimed
a husband's right to dispose of his wife as he pleased, and away
he hurried Katharine off; he seeming so daring and resolute that
no one dared attempt to stop him.
Petruchio mounted his wife upon a miserable horse, lean and lank,
which he had picked out for the purpose, and, himself and his
servant no better mounted, they journeyed on through rough and
miry ways, and ever when this horse of Katharine's stumbled he
would storm and swear at the poor jaded beast, who could scarce
crawl under his burthen, as if he had been the most passionate
At length, after a weary journey, during which Katharine had
heard nothing but the wild ravings of Petruchio at the
and the horses, they arrived at his house. Petruchio welcomed her
kindly to her home, but he resolved she should have neither rest
nor food that night. The tables were spread, and supper soon
served; but Petruchio, pretending to find fault with every dish,
threw the meat about the floor, and ordered the servants to
remove it away; and all this he did, as he said, in love for his
Katharine, that she might not eat meat that was not well dressed.
And when Katharine, weary and supperless, retired to rest, he
found the same fault with the bed, throwing the pillows and
bedclothes about the room, so that she was forced to sit down in
a chair, where, if, she chanced to drop asleep, she was presently
awakened by the loud voice of her husband storming at the
servants for the ill-making of his wife's bridal-bed.
PETRUCHIO ENTERTAINS HIS WIFE AT DINNER
The next day Petruchio pursued the same course, still speaking
kind words to Katharine, but, when she attempted to eat, finding
fault with everything that was set before her, throwing the
 breakfast on the floor as he had done the supper; and Katharine,
the haughty Katharine, was fain to beg the servants would bring
her secretly a morsel of food; but they, being instructed by
Petruchio, replied they dared not give her anything unknown to
"Ah," said she, "did he marry me to famish me? Beggars that come
to my father's door have food given them. But I, who never knew
what it was to entreat for anything, am starved for want of food,
giddy for want of sleep, with oaths kept waking, and with
brawling fed; and that which vexes me more than all, he does it
under the name of perfect love, pretending that if I sleep or
eat, it were present death to me."
Here the soliloquy was interrupted by the entrance of Petruchio.
He, not meaning she should be quite starved, had brought her a
small portion of meat, and he said to her:
"How fares my sweet Kate? Here, love, you see how diligent I am.
I have dressed your meat myself. I am sure this kindness merits
thanks. What, not a word? Nay, then you love not the meat, and
all the pains I have taken is to no purpose." He then ordered the
servant to take the dish away.
Extreme hunger, which had abated the pride of Katharine, made her
say, though angered to the heart, "I pray you let it stand."
But this was not all Petruchio intended to bring her to, and he
replied, "The poorest service is repaid with thanks, and so shall
mine before you touch the meat."
On this Katharine brought out a reluctant "I thank you, sir."
And now he suffered her to make a slender meal, saying: "Much
good may it do your gentle heart, Kate. Eat apace! And now, my
honey love, we will return to your father's house and revel it as
bravely as the best, with silken coats and caps and golden rings,
with ruffs and scarfs and fans and double change of finery." And
to make her believe be really intended to give her these gay
things, he called in a tailor and a haberdasher, who brought some
new clothes he had ordered for her, and then, giving
 her plate to
the servant to take away, before she had half satisfied her
hunger, he said:
"What, have you dined?"
The haberdasher presented a cap, saying, "Here is the cap your
worship bespoke." On which Petruchio began to storm afresh,
saying the cap was molded in a porringer and that it was no
bigger than a cockle or walnut shell, desiring the haberdasher to
take it away and make it bigger.
Katharine said, "I will have this; all gentlewomen wear such caps
"When you are gentle," replied Petruchio, "you shall have one,
too, and not till then."
The meat Katharine had eaten had a little revived her fallen
spirits, and she said: "Why, sir, I trust I may have leave to
speak, and speak I will. I am no child, no babe. Your betters
have endured to hear me say my mind; and if you cannot, you had
better stop your ears."
Petruchio would not hear these angry words, for he had happily
discovered a better way of managing his wife than keeping up a
jangling argument with her; therefore his answer was:
"Why, you say true; it is a paltry cap, and I love you for not
"Love me, or love me not," said Katharine, "I like the cap, and I
will have this cap or none."
"You say you wish to see the gown," said Petruchio, still
affecting to misunderstand her.
The tailor then came forward and showed her a fine gown he had
made for her. Petruchio, whose intent was that she should have
neither cap nor gown, found as much fault with that.
"Oh, mercy, Heaven!" said he, "what stuff is here! What, do you
call this a sleeve? it is like a demi-cannon, carved up and down
like an apple tart."
The tailor said, "You bid me make it according to the fashion of
the times"; and Katharine said she never saw a better-fashioned
gown. This was enough for Petruchio, and privately
 desiring these
people might be paid for their goods, and excuses made to them
for the seemingly strange treatment he bestowed upon them, he
with fierce words and furious gestures drove the tailor and the
haberdasher out of the room; and then, turning to Katharine, he
"Well, come, my Kate, we will go to your father's even in these
mean garments we now wear."
And then he ordered his horses, affirming they should reach
Baptista's house by dinner-time, for that it was but seven
o'clock. Now it was not early morning, but the very middle of the
day, when he spoke this; therefore Katharine ventured to say,
though modestly, being almost overcome by the vehemence of his
"I dare assure you, sir, it is two o'clock, and will be
suppertime before we get there."
But Petruchio meant that she should be so completely subdued that
she should assent to everything he said before he carried her to
her father; and therefore, as if he were lord even of the sun and
could command the hours, he said it should be what time he
pleased to have it, before he set forward. "For," he said,
"whatever I say or do, you still are crossing it. I will not go
to-day, and when I go, it shall be what o'clock I say it is."
Another day Katharine was forced to practise her newly found
obedience, and not till he had brought her proud spirit to such a
perfect subjection that she dared not remember there was such a
word as contradiction would Petruchio allow her to go to her
father's house; and even while they were upon their journey
thither she was in danger of being turned back again, only
because she happened to hint it was the sun when he affirmed the
moon shone brightly at noonday.
"Now, by my mother's son," said he, "and that is myself, it shall
be the moon, or stars, or what I list, before I journey to your
father's house." He then made as if he were going back again. But
Katharine, no longer Katharine the Shrew, but the obedient wife,
said, "Let us go forward, I pray, now we have
 come so far, and it
shall be the sun, or moon, or what you please; and if you please
to call it a rush candle henceforth, I vow it shall be so for
This he was resolved to prove, therefore he said again, "I say it
is the moon."
"I know it is the moon," replied Katharine.
"You lie. It is the blessed sun," said Petruchio.
"Then it is the blessed sun," replied Katharine; "but sun it is
not when you say it is not. What you will have it named, even so
it is, and so it ever shall be for Katharine."
Now then he suffered her to proceed on her journey; but further
to try if this yielding humor would last, he addressed an old
gentleman they met on the road as if he had been a young woman,
saying to him, "Good morrow, gentle mistress"; and asked
Katharine if she had ever beheld a fairer gentlewoman, praising
the red and white of the old man's cheeks, and comparing his eyes
to two bright stars; and again he addressed him, saying, "Fair,
lovely maid, once more good day to you!" and said to his wife,
"Sweet Kate, embrace her for her beauty's sake."
The now completely vanquished Katharine quickly adopted her
husband's opinion, and made her speech in like sort to the old
gentleman, saying to him: "Young budding virgin, you are fair and
fresh and sweet. Whither are you going, and where is your
dwelling? Happy are the parents of so fair a child."
"Why, how now, Kate," said Petruchio. "I hope you are not mad.
This is a man, old and wrinkled, faded and withered, and not a
maiden, as you say he is."
On this Katharine said, "Pardon me, old gentleman; the sun has so
dazzled my eyes that everything I look on seemeth green. Now I
perceive you are a reverend father. I hope you will pardon me for
my sad mistake."
"Do, good old grandsire," said Petruchio, "and tell us which way
you are traveling. We shall be glad of your good company, if you
are going our way."
The old gentleman replied: "Fair sir, and you, my merry
mis-  tress, your strange encounter has much amazed me. My name is Vincentio,
and I am going to visit a son of mine who lives at Padua."
Then Petruchio knew the old gentleman to be the father of
Lucentio, a young gentleman who was to be married to Baptista's
younger daughter, Bianca, and he made Vincentio very happy by
telling him the rich marriage his son was about to make; and they
all journeyed on pleasantly together till they came to Baptista's
house, where there was a large company assembled to celebrate the
wedding of Bianca and Lucentio, Baptista having willingly
consented to the marriage of Bianca when he had got Katharine off
When they entered, Baptista welcomed them to the wedding feast,
and there was present also another newly married pair.
Lucentio, Bianca's husband, and Hortensio, the other new-married
man, could not forbear sly jests, which seemed to hint at the
shrewish disposition of Petruchio's wife, and these fond
bridegrooms seemed highly pleased with the mild tempers of the
ladies they had chosen, laughing at Petruchio for his less
fortunate choice. Petruchio took little notice of their jokes
till the ladies were retired after dinner, and then he perceived
Baptista himself joined in the laugh against him, for when
Petruchio affirmed that his wife would prove more obedient than
theirs, the father of Katharine said, "Now, in good sadness, son
Petruchio, I fear you have got the veriest shrew of all."
"Well," said Petruchio, "I say no, and therefore, for assurance
that I speak the truth, let us each one send for his wife, and he
whose wife is most obedient to come at first when she is sent for
shall win a wager which we will propose."
To this the other two husbands willingly consented, for they were
confident that their gentle wives would prove more obedient than
the headstrong Katharine, and they proposed a wager of twenty
crowns. But Petruchio merrily said he would lay as much as that
upon his hawk or hound, but twenty times as much upon his wife.
Lucentio and Hortensio raised the wager to a
 hundred crowns, and
Lucentio first sent his servant to desire Bianca would come to
him. But the servant returned, and said:
"Sir, my mistress sends you word she is busy and cannot come."
"How," said Petruchio, "does she say she is busy and cannot come?
Is that an answer for a wife?"
Then they laughed at him, and said it would be well if Katharine
did not send him a worse answer. And now it was Hortensio's turn
to send for his wife; and he said to his servant, "Go, and
entreat my wife to come to me."
"Oh ho! entreat her!" said Petruchio.
"Nay, then, she needs must come."
"I am afraid, sir," said Hortensio, "your wife will not be
entreated." But presently this civil husband looked a little
blank when the servant returned without his mistress; and he said
"How now? Where is my wife?"
"Sir," said the servant, "my mistress says you have some goodly
jest in hand, and therefore she will not come. She bids you come
"Worse and worse!" said Petruchio. And then he sent his servant,
saying, "Sirrah, go to your mistress and tell her I command her
to come to me."
The company had scarcely time to think she would not obey this
summons when Baptista, all in amaze, exclaimed:
"Now, by my holidame, here comes Katharine!"
And she entered, saying meekly to Petruchio, "What is your will,
sir, that you send for me?"
"Where is your sister and Hortensio's wife?" said he.
Katharine replied, "They sit conferring by the parlor fire."
"Go, fetch them hither!" said Petruchio.
Away went Katharine without reply to perform her husband's
"Here is a wonder," said Lucentio, "if you talk of a wonder."
"And so it is," said Hortensio. "I marvel what it bodes."
"Marry, peace it bodes," said Petruchio, "and love, and quiet
 life, and right supremacy; and, to be short, everything that is
sweet and happy."
Katharine's father, overjoyed to see this reformation in his
daughter, said: "Now, fair befall thee, son Petruchio! You have
won the wager, and I will add another twenty thousand crowns to
her dowry, as if she were another daughter, for she is changed as
if she had never been."
"Nay," said Petruchio, "I will win the wager better yet, and show
more signs of her new-built virtue and obedience." Katharine now
entering with the two ladies, he continued: "See where she comes,
and brings your froward wives as prisoners to her womanly
persuasion. Katharine, that cap of yours does not become you; off
with that bauble, and throw it underfoot."
Katharine instantly took off her cap and threw it down.
"Lord!" said Hortensio's wife, "may I never have a cause to sigh
till I am brought to such a silly pass!"
And Bianca, she, too, said, "Fie! What foolish duty call you
On this Bianca's husband said to her, "I wish your duty were as
foolish, too! The wisdom of your duty, fair Bianca, has cost me a
hundred crowns since dinner-time."
"The more fool you," said Bianca, "for laying on my duty."
"Katharine," said Petruchio, "I charge you tell these headstrong
women what duty they owe their lords and husbands."
And to the wonder of all present, the reformed shrewish lady
spoke as eloquently in praise of the wifelike duty of obedience
as she had practised it implicitly in a ready submission to
Petruchio's will. And Katharine once more became famous in Padua,
not as heretofore as Katharine the Shrew, but as Katharine the
most obedient and duteous wife in Padua.
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