A reoccurring motif in The Taming of the Shrew is Disguise. Many characters disguise themselves to transcend class status for a short time as well as to help their own or a close friend’s situation. Mirrors is the motif I chose to be the expert on, however there is no usage or inference to mirrors at all in this play, I think disguise (because our outward appearance can be compared to a mirror of what may be inside) is a similar topic.
Lucentio, Hortensio, Tranio, Christopher Sly and the pendant all wear disguises for different, somewhat crazy reasons. Obviously, Christopher Sly is just plain crazy. Lucentio, Tranio and Hortensio are the three stooges, fighting for the love of one girl… and that poor pendant is just dragged along for the ride. “You will be schoolmaster and undertake the teaching of the maid: That’s your device.” (1.1) Tranio to Lucentio, because dressing like a school teacher is the perfect way to seduce a lady, obviously. “When I am alone, why, then I am Tranio; But in all places else your master Lucentio.” (1.1) until Vincentio sees him masquerading as his son of course.
The point of all the disguises, other than to further the plot, are there to show that clothing (or any type of disguise) does not necessarily define a person, their true nature will show through the disguise eventually. Tranio and the pendant are revealed when Vincentio asks for his son, as well as Lucentio. Hortensio, because his face was previously known could easily be recognized through his music teacher persona. And even Petruccio says “To me she’s married, not unto my clothes” (1.2) which to me means that no matter what you are wearing or how to show yourself to the world, you are still yourself on the inside. And I think that maybe even Kate was wearing a disguise, in the form of a shrew, she really just wanted to be loved, (and this may be reaching but) I think her craziness and her insults were all a ply for attention. Wearing a bag over your head is to disguise embarrassment, just how Kate’s outbursts disguise her want for love and attention. And although it is a horrendous movie, I think the Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton version of Taming of the Shrew showcases the duplicity of Kate’s personality. Maybe Taylor is just a good actress, but you really believe that she wants her husband but doesn’t want him or anyone else to know that she wants him, until the end when she is “tamed” anyway.
P.S. I have to be honest, I did not like this play. The horrendous display of Liz and Dick yelling at each other is actually just slightly better than this play. There. I said it!