The Taming of the Shrew

The Paradox of Reality

One of William Shakespeare's earliest romantic comedies, The Taming of the Shrew, focuses on the courtship and marriage of two sisters, Katharina and Bianca. While the play provides a somewhat lighthearted commentary on matrimony and the supposed roles of husbands and wives, the lightheartedness of the work masks the underlying thematic development of the deception of reality. The Taming of the Shrew "adroitly manipulates the device of mistaken identity...inverting appearance and reality, dreaming and waking, and the master-servant relationship in order to create a transformed Saturnalian world" in which social order and class distinction are merely the result of one's surroundings (Bevington 108). Illusion is used throughout the work, from various character disguises to the physical framework of the play itself, and not only is the motif used to violate social order, but also to illustrate the danger of replacing reality with delusion. Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew employs illusion both to break down the hierarchy of social roles and to assert the pitfalls inherent in doing so, particularly in association with the characters Christopher Sly and Lucentio.

Shakespeare first displays the theme of...

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