Stage Directions in Taming of the Shrew

Stage Directions help the reader set the tone for certain scenes. Taming of the Shrew, being a comedy, is rich with stage directions that aid readers in understanding what is going on in a scene. This comedy contains several instances of disguises and without stage directions the whole play would be utterly confusing. The first of a couple of instances of disguises occurs in 1.2.135 when Lucentio enters as a schoolmaster. Seeing this stage direction, the reader is now aware of what Lucentio is dressed as for this scene. Further along in 1.2.217, Tranio enters brave as Lucentio. This stage direction is interesting since it provides the way Tranio is supposed to imitate Lucentio. Lucentio is wealthy which means he usually commands a presence, and this detail is essential for Tranio to successfully impersonate his master. Additionally, in 2.1.38 several characters in disguise enter at the same time. Lucentio enters as the schoolmaster, Hortensio enters as a musician, and Tranio enters as Lucentio. This direction is necessary for the upcoming scene as all of their disguises are needed for the scene. Having so many different disguises could be confusing for the reader so thankfully this stage direction provides assistance in clearing up who is who. One of the more hilarious stage directions in this comedy is in 2.1.142 when it says “Enter Hortensio with his head broke”. This stage direction provides humor as this is an odd way to have a character enter while reading. Other funny stage directions occur with asides in this play. Asides are when a character speaks directly to the audience, and in this play they are primarily snarky comments of someone in the scene. Grumio is the main producer of these humorous asides such as in lines 158 and 176 of Act 1 Scene 2. The last example of a comedic stage direction is in 3.2.84. In this direction, Petruccio and Grumio enter fantastically dressed. According to a Shakespearean glossary, the word fantastically means bizarrely or grotesquely which is hilarious since Petriccuo has arrived for his own wedding. In Shakespeare’s time, dressing this way for a wedding was a sign of disrespect as though the culprit did not care enough to dress appropriately in honor of their betrothed. The stage directions in this comedy are generally necessary for the many disguises, but also to convey the humor of actions, words and costumes.


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