Eng 181

Introduction to Literary Forms

Literature contains four major forms:



Fiction (Novel and Short Story)

Elements of Poetry


Readers of poetry often bring with them many related assumptions:

  • That a poem is to be read for its "message,"
  • That this message is "hidden" in the poem,
  • The message is to be found by treating the words as symbols which naturally do not mean what they say but stand for something else,
  • You have to decipher every single word to appreciate and enjoy the poem.

There are no easy ways to dispel these biases. Poetry is difficult because very often its language is indirect. But so is experience - those things we think, feel, and do. The lazy reader wants to be told things and usually avoids poetry because it demands commitment and energy. Moreover, much of what poetry has to offer is not in the form of hidden meanings. Many poets like to "play" with the sound of language or offer an emotional insight by describing what they see in highly descriptive language. In fact, there can many different ways to enjoy poetry; this reflects the many different styles and objectives of poets themselves


Read the poem (many students neglect this step). Identify the speaker and the situation. Feel free to read it more than once! Read the sentences literally. Use your prose reading skills to clarify what the poem is about. Read each line separately, noting unusual words and associations. Look up words you are unsure of and struggle with word associations that may not seem logical to you. Note any changes in the form of the poem that might signal a shift in point of view. Study the structure of the poem, including its rhyme and rhythm (if any). Re-read the poem slowly, thinking about what message and emotion the poem communicates to you.


An important method of analyzing a poem is to look at the stanza structure or style of a poem. Generally speaking, structure has to do with the overall organization of lines and/or the conventional patterns of sound. Again, many modern poems may not have any identifiable structure (i.e. they are free verse), so don't panic if you can't find it!

STANZAS: Stanzas are a series of lines grouped together and separated by an empty line from other stanzas. They are the equivalent of a paragraph in an essay. One way to identify a stanza is to count the number of lines. Thus:

  • couplet (2 lines)
  • tercet (3 lines)
  • quatrain (4 lines)
  • cinquain (5 lines)
  • sestet (6 lines) (sometimes it's called a sexain)
  • septet (7 lines)
  • octave (8 lines)

: A poem may or may not have a specific number of lines, rhyme scheme and/or metrical pattern, but it can still be labeled according to its form or style. Here are the three most common types of poems according to form:

1. Lyric Poetry: It is any poem with one speaker (not necessarily the poet) who expresses strong thoughts and feelings. Most poems, especially modern ones, are lyric poems.
2. Narrative Poem:
It is a poem that tells a story; its structure resembles the plot line of a story [i.e. the introduction of conflict and characters, rising action, climax and the denouement].
3. Descriptive Poem: It is a poem that describes the world that surrounds the speaker. It uses elaborate imagery and adjectives. While emotional, it is more "outward-focused" than lyric poetry, which is more personal and introspective.

Ode: It is usually a lyric poem of moderate length, with a serious subject, an elevated style, and an elaborate stanza pattern.

Elegy: It is a lyric poem that mourns the dead. [It's not to be confused with a eulogy.]It has no set metric or stanzaic pattern, but it usually begins by reminiscing about the dead person, then laments the reason for the death, and then resolves the grief by concluding that death leads to immortality. It often uses "apostrophe" (calling out to the dead person) as a literary technique. It can have a fairly formal style, and sound similar to an ode.
Sonnet: It is a lyric poem consisting of 14 lines and, in the English version, is usually written in iambic pentameter. There are two basic kinds of sonnets: the Italian (or Petrarchan) sonnet and the Shakespearean (or Elizabethan/English) sonnet. The Italian/Petrarchan sonnet is named after Petrarch, an Italian Renaissance poet. The Petrarchan sonnet consists of an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines). The Shakespearean sonnet consists of three quatrains (four lines each) and a concluding couplet (two lines). The Petrarchan sonnet tends to divide the thought into two parts (argument and conclusion); the Shakespearean, into four (the final couplet is the summary).
Ballad: It is a narrative poem that has a musical rhythm and can be sung. A ballad is usually organized into quatrains or cinquains, has a simple rhythm structure, and tells the tales of ordinary people.
Epic: It is a long narrative poem in elevated style recounting the deeds of a legendary or historical hero.

Qualities of an Epic Poem:

  • narrative poem of great scope; dealing with the founding of a nation or some other heroic theme requires a dignified theme requires an organic unity requires orderly progress of the action always has a heroic figure or figures involves supernatural forces
  • written in deliberately ceremonial style


Three other elements of poetry are rhyme scheme, meter (ie. regular rhythm) and word sounds (like alliteration). These are sometimes collectively called sound play because they take advantage of the performative, spoken nature of poetry.


Rhyme is the repetition of similar sounds. In poetry, the most common kind of rhyme is the end rhyme, which occurs at the end of two or more lines. It is usually identified with lower case letters, and a new letter is used to identify each new end sound. Take a look at the rhyme scheme for the following poem :

I saw a fairy in the wood,
He was dressed all in green.
He drew his sword while I just stood,
And realized I'd been seen.

The rhyme scheme of the poem is abab.

Internal rhyme occurs in the middle of a line, as in these lines from Coleridge, "In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud" or "Whiles all the night through fog-smoke white" ("The Ancient Mariner"). Remember that most modern poems do not have rhyme.

NOTE: Rhyme (above) and rhythm (below) are two totally different concepts!


Meter: the systematic regularity in rhythm; this systematic rhythm (or sound pattern) is usually identified by examining the type of "foot" and the number of feet.

1. Poetic Foot: The traditional line of metered poetry contains a number of rhythmical units, which are called feet. The feet in a line are distinguished as a recurring pattern of two or three syllables ("apple" has 2 syllables, "banana" has 3 syllables, etc.). The pattern, or foot, is designated according to the number of syllables contained, and the relationship in each foot between the strong and weak syllables. Thus:
__ = a stressed (or strong, or LOUD) syllable
U = an unstressed (or weak, or quiet) syllable

In other words, any line of poetry with a systematic rhythm has a certain number of feet, and each foot has two or three syllables with a constant beat pattern.

a. Iamb (Iambic) - weak syllable followed by strong syllable. [Note that the pattern is sometimes fairly hard to maintain, as in the third foot.]

b. Trochee (Trochaic): strong syllable followed by a weak syllable.

c. Anapest (Anapestic): two weak syllables followed by a strong syllable.

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed...

From "The Writer", by Richard Wilbur

d. Dactyl (Dactylic): a strong syllable followed by two weak syllables.DD
Here's another (silly) example of dactylic rhythm.
DDDA was an / archer, who / shot at a / frog
DDDB was a / butcher, and / had a great / dog
DDDC was a / captain, all / covered with / lace
DDDD was a / drunkard, and / had a red / face.

e. Spondee (Spondaic): two strong syllables (not common as lines, but appears as a foot). A spondee usually appears at the end of a line.

2. The Number of Feet: The second part of meter is the number of feet contained in a line.

one foot=monometer
two feet=diameter
three feet=trimeter
four feet=tetrameter
five feet=pentameter
six feet=hexameter (when hexameter is in iambic rhythm, it is called an alexandrine)

Poems with an identifiable meter are therefore identified by the type of feet (e.g. iambic) and the number of feet in a line (e.g. pentameter). The following line is iambic pentameter because it (1) has five feet [pentameter], and (2) each foot has two syllables with the stress on the second syllable [iambic].

That time | of year | thou mayst | in me | behold

Thus, you will hear meter identified as iambic pentameter, trochaic tetrameter, and so on.
3. Irregularity:
Many metered poems in English avoid perfectly regular rhythm because it is monotonous. Irregularities in rhythm add interest and emphasis to the lines. In this line:

The first foot substitutes a trochee for an iamb. Thus, the basic iambic pentameter is varied with the opening trochee.

4. Blank Verse: Any poetry that does have a set metrical pattern (usually iambic pentameter), but does not have rhyme, is blank verse. Shakespeare frequently used unrhymed iambic pentameter in his plays; his works are an early example of blank verse.
5. Free Verse:
Most modern poetry no longer follows strict rules of meter or rhyme, especially throughout an entire poem. Free verse, frankly, has no rules about meter or rhyme whatsoever! [In other words, blank verse has rhythm, but no rhyme, while free verse has neither rhythm nor rhyme.] So, you may find it difficult to find regular iambic pentameter in a modern poem, though you might find it in particular lines. Modern poets do like to throw in the occasional line or phrase of metered poetry, particularly if they’re trying to create a certain effect. Free verse can also apply to a lack of a formal verse structure.

How?How do I know if a poem has meter? How do I determine the meter?

To maintain a consistent meter, a poet has to choose words that fit. For example, if a poet wants to write iambic poetry, s/he has to choose words that have a naturally iambic rhythm. Words like betray and persuade will work in an iambic poem because they are naturally iambic. They sound silly any other way. However, candle and muscle will work best in a trochaic poem, because their natural emphasis is on the first syllable. (However, a poet can use trochaic words if s/he places a one syllable word in front of them. This often leads to poetic feet ending in the middle of words - after one syllable - rather than the end.) It's not surprising that most modern poetry is not metered, because it is very restrictive and demanding.

Determining meter is usually a process of elimination. Start reading everything in iambic by emphasizing every second syllable. 80 to 90% of metered poetry is iambic. If it sounds silly or strange, because many of the poem's words do not sound natural, then try trochaic, anapestic or dactylic rhythms. If none of these sounds natural, then you probably do not have metered poetry at all (ie. it's free verse).

If there are some lines that sound metered, but some that don't, the poem has an irregular rhythm.

Another type of sound play is the emphasis on individual sounds and words:

Alliteration: the repetition of initial sounds on the same line or stanza - Big bad Bob bounced bravely.
Assonance: the repetition of vowel sounds (anywhere in the middle or end of a line or stanza) - Tilting at windmills
Consonance: the repetition of consonant sounds (anywhere in the middle or end of a line or stanza) - And all the air a solemn stillness holds. (T. Gray)
Onomatopoeia: words that sound like that which they describe - Boom! Crash! Pow! Quack! Moo! Caress...
: the repetition of entire lines or phrases to emphasize key thematic ideas.
Parallel Structure: a form of repetition where the order of verbs and nouns is repeated; it may involve exact words, but it more importantly repeats sentence structure - "I came, I saw, I conquered".


I said earlier that poetry is not always about hidden or indirect meanings (sometimes called meaning play). Nevertheless, if often is a major part of poetry, so here some of the important things to remember:


1. Simile is the rhetorical term used to designate the most elementary form of resemblances: most similes are introduced by "like" or "as." These comparisons are usually between dissimilar situations or objects that have something in common, such as "My love is like a red, red rose."

2. A metaphor leaves out "like" or "as" and implies a direct comparison between objects or situations. "All flesh is grass."

3. Synecdoche is a form of metaphor, which in mentioning an important (and attached) part signifies the whole (e.g. "hands" for labor).

4. Metonymy is similar to synecdoche; it's a form of metaphor allowing an object closely associated (but unattached) with a object or situation to stand for the thing itself (e.g. the crown or throne for a king or the bench for the judicial system).

5. A symbol is like a simile or metaphor with the first term left out. "My love is like a red, red rose" is a simile. If, through persistent identification of the rose with the beloved woman, we may come to associate the rose with her and her particular virtues. At this point, the rose would become a symbol.

6. Allegory can be defined as a one to one correspondence between a series of abstract ideas and a series of images or pictures presented in the form of a story or a narrative. For example, George Orwell's Animal Farm is an extended allegory that represents the Russian Revolution through a fable of a farm and its rebellious animals.

7. Personification occurs when you treat abstractions or inanimate objects as human, that is, giving them human attributes, powers, or feelings (e.g., "nature wept" or "the wind whispered many truths to me").

8. Irony takes many forms. Most basically, irony is a figure of speech in which actual intent is expressed through words that carry the opposite meaning.

    • Paradox: usually a literal contradiction of terms or situations
    • Situational Irony: an unmailed letter
    • Dramatic Irony: audience has more information or greater perspective than the characters
    • Verbal Irony: saying one thing but meaning another
      • Overstatement (hyperbole)
      • Understatement (meiosis)
      • Sarcasm

Irony may be a positive or negative force. It is most valuable as a mode of perception that assists the poet to see around and behind opposed attitudes, and to see the often conflicting interpretations that come from our examination of life.

Apostrophe: addressing an inanimate or a person  who ca not hear the poet or reply to him.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? (Sonnet 18)

by William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer's lease hath all too short a date.

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimmed;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,

Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,

When in eternal lines to Time thou grow'st.

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

The speaker begins by asking whether he should or will compare "thee" to a summer day. He says that his beloved is more lovely and more even-tempered. He then runs off a list of reasons why summer isn’t all that great: winds shake the buds that emerged in Spring, summer ends too quickly, and the sun can get too hot or be obscured by clouds.
He goes on, saying that everything beautiful eventually fades by chance or by nature’s inevitable changes. Coming back to the beloved, though, he argues that his or her summer (or happy, beautiful years)won’t go away, nor will his or her beauty fade away. Moreover, death will never be able to take the beloved, since the beloved exists in eternal lines (meaning poetry). The speaker concludes that as long as humans exist and can see (so as to read), the poem he’s writing will live on, allowing the beloved to keep living as well.

Figures of Speech

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Apostrophe: the poet here is addressing someone who can not hear him or reply to him.

Thou art more lovely and more temperate

Metaphor: the poet here is comparing his lover to a day of the summer but saying that his lover is more beautiful and sweet than the day of the summer

The eye of heaven shines

Metaphor: the sun is compared to an eye. As if the sun is the eye of the sky.

Metonymy: the eye of heaven is a metonymy for the sun.

his gold complexion dimmed

Personification: the sun here is given a human quality which is gold complexion or human skin.

But thy eternal summer

Metaphor: the poet here compares his lover inside beauty to the beauty of summer.

Nor shall death brag thou

Metaphor: death here is compared to a person who would brag or be proud when he takes the poet's lover.

wand'rest in his shade

Personification: death here is given human feature which is shade, death is made like a man who has a shade when walking at noon.

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,

Metonymy for eternity.

and this gives life to thee

Metaphor: Shakespeare here gives power to his lines poetry that enable them to give life to his lover, as if his poem sustains the life of his lover.

The Eagle


He clasps the crag with crooked hands;

Close to the sun in lonely lands,

Ring'd with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;

He watches from his mountain walls,

And like a thunderbolt he falls.

Look! Up there, on that steep, rocky cliff. Is that…an eagle? It is! Honey, get out the binoculars! Wow – the cliff is sharp and jagged, but the eagle can hold on to it, no sweat. His claws look like the hands of an old, ragged man.
The cliff is so high it looks closer to the sun than to the earth. Perched in such a high place, the eagle is surrounded by blue sky in a circle around him.
The sea also resembles an old man: it has wrinkles. The eagle is so high up that the waves like small, crisscrossing lines moving slowly toward shore.
This eagle does what eagles spend most of their time doing: looking around. Eagles have great eyes, and the craggy mountain cliff provides the perfect vantage point for seeing everything below.
Did you see that? Where'd he go? The eagle dove off the cliff so fast that he looked like a bolt of lightning. Maybe he spied something tasty to eat below, or maybe he just wanted to stretch his wings. Either way, he's too quick for our eyes to follow.

Figures of Speech

He clasps the crag

Personification: the Eagle here is humanized or personalized by describing it by the human pronoun (He).

Close to the sun

Metonymy for how far the eagle is that he is near the sun.

Ring'd with the azure world

Metaphor: the sky here is compared to a ring going all around the eagle.

the azure world

Metonymy for the blue sky.

he stands

Personification: the Eagle here is humanized or personalized by describing it by the human pronoun (He).

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls

Metaphor: the sea here is compared to a crawling baby to indicate slow movement.

He watches from his mountain walls

Personification: the Eagle here is humanized or personalized by describing it by the human pronoun (He, his).

And like a thunderbolt he falls

Simile: the eagle here is described to be falling like a thunderbolt when catching his food.

Go and Catch a Falling Star

Go and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the devil's foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy's stinging,
And find
What wind
Serves to advance an honest mind.

If thou be'st born to strange sights,
Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand
days and nights,
Till age snow white hairs on thee,
Thou, when thou return'st, wilt tell me,
All strange wonders that befell thee,
And swear,
No where
Lives a woman true, and fair.

If thou find'st one, let me know,
Such a pilgrimage were sweet;
Yet do not, I would not go,
Though at next door we might meet;
Though she were true, when you met her,
And last, till you write your letter,
Yet she
Will be
False, ere I come, to two, or three.

John Donne

This is a poem by John Donne in which he argues that it is impossible to find a woman who is both attractive and faithful to the one man.

In the first stanza Donne states a number of impossible tasks. He compares finding an honest woman to these tasks. He cleverly states that to find a woman who is honest in love is as difficult as it is to catch ‘a falling star’. The impossible tasks also include conceiving a child with a mandrake plant, gaining full knowledge of the past, solving the mystery of the Devil’s cloven hoof and learning the knack of hearing mermaids singing. In a sarcastic comment Donne says that finding an honest woman is as difficult as living without the pain of envy. Envy is the greed and lust of other people who would secretly long for his woman. He adds sarcastically to the list of impossible tasks the task of finding the wind that brings prosperity to those who are of honest mind. He means that only dishonest people do well, that to have an honest mind is to fail.

In the second stanza the subject matter is an imaginary journey of ten thousand days. Donne imagines a seeker spending a lifetime, until he has grey hairs, looking for an honest woman. Donne believes that despite all the strange sights the traveler will see, he won’t come across an honest woman.

In the third stanza the thought changes to the more positive idea of finding an honest woman. If the traveler finds one, he is to report her immediately. Donne says such a journey, ‘pilgrimage’, would be ‘sweet’. But then Donne changes his mind and says he wouldn’t travel next door to meet her as by the time he arrives even that far she will have slept with two or three other men. He says a woman would only remain honest at most for as long as it takes to write the letter saying you have found her.

Figures of Speech

Go and catch a falling star

Apostrophe: the poet here is addressing someone, maybe the reader, who can't hear him or reply to him.

There are also apostrophes in the lines (Go and catch a falling star/Get with child a mandrake root/Tell me where all past years are/Or who cleft the devil's foot/Teach me to hear mermaids singing/And find/If thou be'st born to strange sights/Ride ten thousand days and nights/Thou, when thou return'st, wilt tell me/And swear/If thou find'st one, let me know)

Tell me where all past years are

Metaphor: past years or the past is compared to an object that could be hidden somewhere.

Or who cleft the devil's foot

Personification: the devil here is given human feature which is foot as if the devil takes the figure of a man with feet, arms and everything

Teach me to hear mermaids singing,

Metaphor: the mermaids which are imaginary creatures are given the ability of singing.

Or to keep off envy's stinging,

Metaphor: this line has two metaphors; the first one is that envy is compared to something that one can keep of or get away from. The second metaphor is that envy is compared to a scorpion that is stinging.

Things invisible to see,

Contradiction: there is a contradiction between (invisible) and (see).

Ride ten thousand days and nights,

Metaphor: nights and days or time here is compared to a horse that one can ride.

Till age snow white

Metonymy for being old and wise


What is DRAMA?

Drama comes from Greek words meaning "to do" or "to act." A play is a story acted out. It shows people going through some eventful period in their lives, seriously or humorously. The speech and action of a play recreate the flow of human life. A play comes fully to life only on the stage. On the stage it combines many arts those of the author, director, actor, designer, and others. Dramatic performance involves an intricate process of rehearsal based upon imagery inherent in the dramatic text. A playwright first invents a drama out of mental imagery. The dramatic text presents the drama as a range of verbal imagery. The language of drama can range between great extremes: on the one hand, an intensely theatrical and ritualistic manner; and on the other, an almost exact reproduction of real life. A dramatic monologue is a type of lyrical poem or narrative piece that has a person speaking to select listener and revealing his character in a dramatic situation.

Classification of Dramatic Plays

In a strict sense, plays are classified as being either tragedies or comedies. The broad difference between the two is in the ending. Comedies end happily. Tragedies end on an unhappy note. The tragedy acts as a purge. It arouses our pity for the stricken one and our terror that we ourselves may be struck down. As the play closes we are washed clean of these emotions and we feel better for the experience. A classical tragedy tells of a high and noble person who falls because of a "tragic flaw," a weakness in his own character. A domestic tragedy concerns the lives of ordinary people brought low by circumstances beyond their control. Domestic tragedy may be realistic seemingly true to life or naturalistic realistic and on the seamy side of life. A romantic comedy is a love story. The main characters are lovers; the secondary characters are comic. In the end the lovers are always united. Farce is comedy at its broadest. Much fun and horseplay enliven the action. The comedy of manners, or artificial comedy, is subtle, witty, and often mocking. Sentimental comedy mixes sentimental emotion with its humor. Melodrama has a plot filled with pathos and menacing threats by a villain, but it does include comic relief and has a happy ending. It depends upon physical action rather than upon character probing. Tragic or comic, the action of the play comes from conflict of characters how the stage people react to each other. These reactions make the play.

How to write a Play?

"Plays are not written, they are re-written" is a myth. Once you've written your dialogue, 80% of any help we might have given is eliminated. The major choices, about story and character, have been made and a commitment made. The earlier a play is brought to the table, the more help can be effectively applied. With this sort of pre-dialogue work our aim is: get it right the first time.

Structure - a play's story and the way of placing it onstage - is the key element in determining effective character and dialogue.

Characters are known not by what they say, but rather, by what they do. Dialogue is most effective as a reflection of intent, in communicating dramatic movement. Primary attention to structure, therefore, insures a proper perspective on developing a play's other elements.

Characters and Story

In a dramatic story or play, the dynamic characters draw in an audience because they promise to take a story's audience on a journey to experience a story's fulfillment. The key issue to understand is that it is because characters in stories act out to resolution issues of human need that they engage the attention of an audience. When introducing a story's characters, then, writers need to suggest in some way that their characters are "ripe." This means that a character has issues that arise from a story's dramatic purpose and the story's events compel them to resolve it. For example, if courage is the main issue in a story, the storyteller can set a character into an environment designed to compel them to act. That's how a story's dramatic purpose is made visible. It establishes both why characters act and why a story's audience should care. Viewers want to care, to believe in the possibility of what a story's characters can accomplish. In that way they experience that belief in themselves. That's why a storyteller often arranges a story's elements to deliberately beat down and place characters in great danger, so the story's readers can more powerfully experience their rising up unconquered. Just as we secretly imagine ourselves, standing in their shoes, doing as well. Once the storyteller understands the role their characters serve for an audience, they can better perceive why such characters should be introduced in a particular manner: In a way an audience can understand and identify with a particular character and their goals. In a way that the audience is led to care about the outcome of a character's goals and issues while also perceiving how they advance the story toward its resolution and fulfillment. That's why it's important a storyteller introduce characters in a way that allows an audience the time to take in who the characters are and what issues they have to resolve. Often limiting the number of characters introduced in a scene can do this simply. Many popular movies, for example, have only one or two main characters in a scene. Large group scenes are the exception, not the rule. The purpose of this is so the audience can clearly identify with an understand a character's issues. Second, the actions of a story's characters should advance a story toward its resolution and fulfillment along its story and plot lines in a discernible way. If characters serve no dramatic purpose in a scene -- if their actions don't serve to advance the story -- save their introduction for a later time. Characters in a story should be designed by the storyteller to have emotions that suggest how they will react to a story's events. As an example, a story about courage, characters might confront their feelings about lacking courage. That's the internal side of the equation. The storyteller then puts them into an environment that compels them to react. By how they react, they set out the story's dramatic purpose and give voice to their feelings and concerns as the action of the story exerts pressure on them. By resolving questions based on the inner conflicts of characters, a story has meaning to those in the audience with similar feelings and issues. Story events that have no real effect on a character's inner feelings -- a character's sense of mattering -- serve no purpose in a story. Worse, they can confuse an audience. They see characters with certain issues reacting to events that don't clearly elicit those responses. Or that elicit responses that seem out of sync with what they know about a character. Or a character's issues have been kept hidden in a way the audience has no way to feel engaged over how or why characters are responding to a story's events. The deeper issue here is that the storyteller have a sense of how the types of characters that populate a story arise from a story's dramatic purpose. That their emotions arise from setting out that purpose. That the events of the story clearly compel those characters to respond based on a sense of who they are. That all of these are blended together to recreate a story's journey along its story line from its introduction to its fulfillment. Well-told stories populated with dynamic, dramatic characters with larger than life passions and needs act out issues those in the audience might struggle with. Such characters battling with other determined characters to shape a story's course and outcome bring a story's dramatic purpose to life in a fulfilling way. Creating such characters is another art in the craft of storytelling.

How to make a story more dramatic?

To understand writing "in the dramatic moment," one should start with an understanding of the dramatic purpose of a story. A story, through its use of words, images and sounds creates for its audience the effect of a quality of movement toward resolution/fulfillment of a story's issues and events. To make a story's world feel/ring "true," every element in a story -- words, images, characters, events, ideas, environment -- must have a purpose that connects it with a story's overall dramatic purpose. Starting with an understanding of a story's overall dramatic purpose, writers can begin to see down into the interior of their stories, into the particular words and images that best bring them to life. To understand the individual words and images that compose a story and make it deeply felt, then, one can follow a series of steps. First, start with understanding the larger context of what a story's about. To understand a story's overall dramatic purpose, start with its premise. A premise identifies a story's core dramatic issue, its movement toward resolution, and what type of fulfillment that resolution sets up for the story's audience. A story is then populated with characters who feel the pull of a story's core dramatic issue, and the issues and events that arise from this issue being acted out. A story's events are those that best act out a story's dramatic movement from introduction to resolution/fulfillment. A story's physical terrain arises from what dramatizes a story's action. A story's emotional terrain arises from the emotions a story's events and issues elicit from its characters. To engage an audience, a story's events and the goals of its characters are set up as a story and scene questions suggesting a dramatic need for action/resolution. As characters act and react to a story's events and environment, the story's audience is led to internalize a story's movement to experience its resolution/fulfillment. To write deeply "in the dramatic moment," one must see a story not as a series of happenings enlivened for an audience by how they are described and recreated, but a series of events that each have an interconnected dramatic purpose that arises from a particular role in acting out a story dramatically. To understand how to write "in the dramatic moment," then, one must understand the dramatic purpose of each step/event/moment in a story, and write in a way that heightens the dramatic effect of that moment as it relates to all the "moments" in the story, and the overall sense of how that communicates a story's dramatic purpose. For example, writing about courage "in the moment" isn't trying to set up a step/event/happening to propel characters toward a story's resolution of courage. It's setting up for the audience an experience of courage in the moment of its happening through the outcome of a dramatic situation that is given meaning by its relationship to the story's dramatic purpose. To create this heightened dramatic effect, one must trim away all that has no dramatic purpose in the scene. In a novel, this means that one doesn't describe a situation to make it "real," i.e., a recreation of what a room "looks" like. One describes a room according to the dramatic purpose of a scene. Therefore, if very little information about an environment (a particular room) is important to the dramatic purpose of a scene, one doesn't expend too many words describing it. To understand which words to use to describe the scene, again start with an understanding of the dramatic purpose of the story itself, and the relationship of the scene to the story as a whole. Because the point is, again, not to make an environment, or character, or event "real" in life-like terms, but to make it dramatically "true" to the story's audience. For the screenwriter, an understanding of the scene would guide them to focus on the dialogue that heightens the drama of the moment. For the playwright, understanding the dramatic purpose of a scene is to have a tool to gauge what kind of dialogue these characters would have to bring this scene to life. The writer who starts with the question, what's the dramatic purpose of this scene? And how can it best be brought to life, can begin to write scenes from the inside out. That is, they can have characters speak directly to the dramatic issues at stake in a scene, in relationship to what's at stake in the story itself. Writers caught up in the notion that stories revolve around resolution or recreating "reality" write to make statements about a character's motives, why they respond as they do to a story's events, what they say about a story's events. Or, they describe events or places in a story as if it was the weight of description will make them ring "true" for an audience. But an environment can only be made to ring "true" to an audience to the degree that they are set up to experience its dramatic purpose. An environment without a dramatic purpose is simply dead weight, inert. Again, it's because it's not the purpose of a story to recreate life, but to recreate a dramatic experience for a story's audience.

What makes a Drama a Drama?

*A dramatist should start with characters. The characters must be full, rich, interesting, and different enough from each other so that in one way or another they conflict. From this conflict comes the story

*Put the characters into dramatic situations with strongly plotted conclusions

*The plot should be able to tell what happens and why

*The beginning, should tell the audience or reader what took place before the story leads into the present action. The middle carries the action forward, amid trouble and complications. In the end, the conflict is resolved, and the story comes to a satisfactory, but not necessarily a happy conclusion.

*It should be filled with characters whom real people admire and envy. The plots must be filled with action. It should penetrate both the heart and mind and shows man as he is, in all his misery and glory.

History of Drama

Ancient Drama

The origins of Western drama can be traced to the celebratory music of 6th-century BC Attica, the Greek region centered onAthens. Although accounts of this period are inadequate, it appears that the poet Thespis developed a new musical form in which he impersonated a single character and engaged a chorus of singer-dancers in dialogue. As the first composer and soloist in this new form, which came to be known as tragedy, Thespis can be considered both the first dramatist and the first actor. Of the hundreds of works produced by Greek tragic playwrights, only 32 plays by the three major innovators in this new art form survive. Aeschylus created the possibility of developing conflict between characters by introducing a second actor into the format. His seven surviving plays, three of which constitute the only extant trilogy are richly ambiguous inquiries into the paradoxical relationship between humans and the cosmos, in which people are made answerable for their acts, yet recognize that these acts are determined by the gods.

Medieval Drama

Medieval drama, when it emerged hundreds of years later, was a new creation rather than a rebirth, the drama of earlier times having had almost no influence on it. The reason for this creation came from a quarter that had traditionally opposed any form of theater: the Christian church. In the Easter service, and later in the Christmas service, bits of chanted dialogue, called tropes, were interpolated into the liturgy. Priests, impersonating biblical figures, acted out minuscule scenes from the holiday stories. Eventually, these playlets grew more elaborate and abandoned the inside of the church for the church steps and the adjacent marketplace. Secular elements crept in as the artisan guilds took responsibility for these performances; although the glorification of God and the redemption of humanity remained prime concerns, the celebration of local industry was not neglected.

Restoration And 18th-Century Drama

The theaters established in the wake of Charles II's return from exile inFranceand the Restoration of the monarchy inEngland(1660) were intended primarily to serve the needs of a socially, politically, and aesthetically homogeneous class. At first they relied on the pre-Civil War repertoire; before long, however, they felt called upon to bring these plays into line with their more "refined," French-influenced sensibilities. The themes, language, and dramaturgy of Shakespeare's plays were now considered out of date, so that during the next two centuries the works ofEngland's greatest dramatist were never produced intact. Owing much to Moliere, the English comedy of manners was typically a witty, brittle satire of current mores, especially of relations between the sexes. Among its leading examples were She Would if She Could (1668) and The Man of Mode (1676) by Sir George Etherege; The Country Wife (1675) by William Wycherley; The Way of the World (1700) by William Congreve; and The Recruiting Officer (1706) and The Beaux' Stratagem (1707) by George Farquhar.

The resurgence of Puritanism, especially after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, had a profound effect on 18th-century drama. Playwrights, retreating from the free-spirited licentiousness of the Restoration, turned towards ofter, sentimental comedy and moralizing domestic tragedy. The London Merchant (1731) by George Lillo consolidated this trend.A prose tragedy of the lower middle class, and thus an important step on the road to realism, it illustrated the moral that a woman of easy virtue can lead an industrious young man to the gates of hell.

Satire enjoyed a brief revival with Henry Fielding and with John Gay, whose The Beggar's Opera (1728) met with phenomenal success. Their wit, however, was too sharp for the government, which retaliated by imposing strict censorship laws in 1737. For the next 150 years, few substantial English authors bothered with the drama.

19th Century Drama and The Romantic Rebellion

In its purest form, Romanticism concentrated on the spiritual, which would allow humankind to transcend the limitations of the physical world and body and find an ideal truth. Subject matter was drawn from nature and "natural man" (such as the supposedly untouched Native American). Perhaps one of the best examples of Romantic drama is Faust (Part I, 1808; Part II, 1832) by the German playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Based on the classic legend of the man who sells his soul to the devil, this play of epic proportions depicts humankind's attempt to master all knowledge and power in its constant struggle with the universe. The Romantics focused on emotion rather than rationality, drew their examples from a study of the real world rather than the ideal, and glorified the idea of the artist as a mad genius unfettered by rules. Romanticism thus gave rise to a vast array of dramatic literature and production that was often undisciplined and that often substituted emotional manipulation for substantial ideas.

Romanticism first appeared inGermany, a country with little native theatre other than rustic farces before the 18th century. By the 1820s Romanticism dominated the theatre of most ofEurope. Many of the ideas and practices of Romanticism were evident in the late 18th-century Sturm und Drang movement ofGermanyled by Goethe and the dramatist Friedrich Schiller. These plays had no single style but were generally strongly emotional, and, in their experimentation with form, laid the groundwork for the rejection of Neo-Classicism. The plays of the French playwright René Charles Guilbert de Pixérécourt paved the way for French Romanticism, which had previously been known only in the acting of François Joseph Talma in the first decades of the 19th century. Victor Hugo's Hernani (1830) is considered the first French Romantic drama.

The Modern Drama

From the time of the Renaissance on, theatre seemed to be striving for total realism, or at least for the illusion of reality. As it reached that goal in the late 19th century, a multifaceted, antirealistic reaction erupted. Avant-garde Precursors of Modern Theatre Many movements generally lumped together as the avant-garde, attempted to suggest alternatives to the realistic drama and production. The various theoreticians felt that Naturalism presented only superficial and thus limited or surface reality-that a greater truth or reality could be found in the spiritual or the unconscious. Others felt that theatre had lost touch with its origins and had no meaning for modern society other than as a form of entertainment. Paralleling modern art movements, they turned to symbol, abstraction, and ritual in an attempt to revitalize the theatre. Although realism continues to be dominant in contemporary theatre, television and film now better serve its earlier functions.

The originator of many antirealist ideas was the German opera composer Richard Wagner. He believed that the job of the playwright/composer was to create myths. In so doing, Wagner felt, the creator of drama was portraying an ideal world in which the audience shared a communal experience, perhaps as the ancients had done. He sought to depict the "soul state", or inner being, of characters rather than their superficial, realistic aspects. Furthermore, Wagner was unhappy with the lack of unity among the individual arts that constituted the drama. He proposed the Gesamtkunstwerk, the "total art work", in which all dramatic elements are unified, preferably under the control of a single artistic creator.

Wagner was also responsible for reforming theatre architecture and dramatic presentation with his Festival Theatre atBayreuth,Germany, completed in 1876. The stage of this theatre was similar to other 19th-century stages even if better equipped, but in the auditorium Wagner removed the boxes and balconies and put in a fan-shaped seating area on a sloped floor, giving an equal view of the stage to all spectators. Just before a performance the auditorium lights dimmed to total darkness-then a radical innovation.

Symbolist Drama

The Symbolist movement inFrancein the 1880s first adopted Wagner's ideas. The Symbolists called for "detheatricalizing" the theatre, meaning stripping away all the technological and scenic encumbrances of the 19th century and replacing them with a spirituality that was to come from the text and the acting. The texts were laden with symbolic imagery not easily construed-rather they were suggestive. The general mood of the plays was slow and dream-like. The intention was to evoke an unconscious response rather than an intellectual one and to depict the nonrational aspects of characters and events. The Symbolist plays of Maurice Maeterlinck ofBelgiumand Paul Claudel ofFrance, popular in the 1890s and early 20th century, are seldom performed today. Strong Symbolist elements can be found, however, in the plays of Chekhov and the late works of Ibsen and Strindberg. Symbolist influences are also evident in the works of such later playwrights as the Americans Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams and the Englishman Harold Pinter, propounder of "theatre of silence". Also influenced by Wagner and the Symbolists were the Swiss scenic theorist Adolphe Appia and theEnglish designer Edward Henry Gordon Craig, whose turn-of-the-century innovations shaped much of 20th-century scenic and lighting design. They both reacted against the realistic painted settings of the day, proposing instead suggestive or abstract settings that would create, through light and scenic elements, more of a mood or feeling than an illusion of a real place. In 1896 a Symbolist theatre inParisproduced Alfred Jarry's Ubu roi, for its time a shocking, bizarre play. Modelled vaguely on Macbeth, the play depicts puppet-like characters in a world devoid of decency. The play is filled with scatological humor and language. It was perhaps most significant for its shock value and its destruction of virtually all-contemporaneous theatrical norms and taboos. Ubu roi freed the theatre for exploration in any direction the author wished to go. It also served as the model and inspiration for future avant-garde dramatic movements and the absurdist drama of the 1950s.

Expressionist Drama

The Expressionist movement was popular in the 1910s and 1920s, largely inGermany. It explored the more violent, grotesque aspects of the human psyche, creating a nightmare world onstage. Scenographically, distortion and exaggeration and a suggestive use of light and shadow typify Expressionism. Stock types replaced individualized characters or allegorical figures, much as in the morality plays, and plots often revolved around the salvation of humankind.

Other movements of the first half of the century, such as Futurism, Dada, and Surrealism, sought to bring new artistic and scientific ideas into theatre.

Ensemble Theatre

Perhaps the most significant development influenced by Artaud was the ensemble theatre movement of the 1960s. Exemplified by the Polish Laboratory Theatre of Jerzy Grotowski, Peter Brook's Theatre of Cruelty Workshop, Théâtre du Soleil, the French workers' cooperative formed by Ariane Mnouchkine, and the Open Theatre, led by Joseph Chaikin, ensemble theatres abandoned the written text in favor of productions created by an ensemble of actors. The productions, which generally evolved out of months of work, relied heavily on physical movement, nonspecific language and sound, and often-unusual arrangements of space .

Absurdist Theatre

The most popular and influential nonrealistic genre of the 20th century was absurdism. Absurdist dramatists saw, in the words of the Romanian-French playwright Eugène Ionesco, "man as lost in the world, all his actions become senseless, absurd, useless. Absurdist drama tends to eliminate much of the cause-and-effect relationship among incidents, reduce language to a game and minimize its communicative power, reduce characters to archetypes, make place nonspecific, and view the world as alienating and incomprehensible. Absurdism was at its peak in the 1950s, but continued to influence drama through the 1970s. The American playwright Edward Albee's early dramas were classified as absurd because of the seemingly illogical or irrational elements that defined his characters' world of actions. Pinter was also classed with the absurdists. His plays, such as The Homecoming (1964), seem dark, impenetrable, and absurd. Pinter explained, however, that they are realistic because they resemble the everyday world in which only fragments of unexplained activity and dialogue are seen and heard.

Contemporary Drama

Although pure Naturalism was never very popular after World War I, drama in a realist style continued to dominate the commercial theatre, especially in theUnited States. Even there, however, psychological realism seemed to be the goal, and nonrealistic scenic and dramatic devices were employed to achieve this end. The plays of Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, for instance, use memory scenes, dream sequences, purely symbolic characters, projections, and the like. Even O'Neill's later works-ostensibly realistic plays such as Long Day's Journey into Night (produced 1956)-incorporate poetic dialogue and a carefully orchestrated background of sounds to soften the hard-edged realism. Scenery was almost always suggestive rather than realistic. European drama was not much influenced by psychological realism but was more concerned with plays of ideas, as evidenced in the works of the Italian dramatist Luigi Pirandello, the French playwrights Jean Anouilh and Jean Giraudoux, and the Belgian playwright Michel de Ghelderode. InEnglandin the 1950s John Osborne's Look Back in Anger (1956) became a rallying point for the postwar "angry young men"; aVietnamtrilogy of the early 1970s, by the American playwright David Rabe, expressed the anger and frustration of many towards the war inVietnam. Under he influence of Brecht, many postwar German playwrights wrote documentary dramas that, based on historical incidents, explored the moral obligations of individuals to themselves and to society. An example is The Deputy (1963), by Rolf Hochhuth, which deals with Pope Pius XII's silence during World War II.

Many playwrights of the 1960s and 1970s-Sam Shepard in theUnited States, Peter Handke inAustria, Tom Stoppard in England-built plays around language: language as a game, language as sound, language as a barrier, language as a reflection of society. In their plays, dialogue frequently cannot be read simply as a rational exchange of information. Many playwrights also mirrored society's frustration with a seemingly uncontrollable, self-destructive world.

InEuropein the 1970s, new playwriting was largely overshadowed by theatricalist productions, which generally took classical plays and reinterpreted them, often in bold new scenographic spectacles, expressing ideas more through action and the use of space than through language.

In the late 1970s a return to Naturalism in drama paralleled the art movement known as Photorealism. Typified by such plays as American Buffalo (1976) by David Mamet, little action occurs, the focus is on mundane characters and events, and language is fragmentary-much like everyday conversation. The settings are indistinguishable from reality. The intense focus on seemingly meaningless fragments of reality creates an absurdist, nightmarish quality: similar traits can be found in writers such as Stephen Poliakoff. A gritty social realism combined with very dark humour has also been popular; it can be seen in the very different work of Alan Ayckbourn, Mike Leigh, Michael Frayn, Alan Bleasdale, and Dennis Potter.

In all lands where the drama flourishes, the only constant factor today is what has always been constant: change. The most significant writers are still those who seek to redefine the basic premises of the art of drama.

Elements of Drama


Most simply a character is one of the persons who appears in the play, one of the dramatis personae (literally, the persons of the play). In another sense of the term, the treatment of the character is the basic part of the playwright's work. Conventions of the period and the author's personal vision will affect the treatment of character.

Most plays contain major characters and minor characters. The delineation and development of major characters is essential to the play; the conflict between Hamlet and Claudius depends upon the character of each. A minor character like Marcellus serves a specific function, to inform Hamlet of the appearance of his father's ghost. Once, that is done, he can depart in peace, for we need not know what sort of person he is or what happens to him. The distinction between major and minor characters is one of degree, as the character of Horatio might illustrate.

The distinction between heroes (or heroines) and villains, between good guys and bad guys, between virtue and vice is useful in dealing with certain types of plays, but in many modern plays (and some not so modern) it is difficult to make. Is Gregers Werle in The Wild Duck, for example, a hero or a villain?

Another common term in drama is protagonist. Etymologically, it means the first contestant. In the Greek drama, where the term arose, all the parts were played by one, two, or three actors (the more actors, the later the play), and the best actor, who got the principal part(s), was the protagonist. The second best actor was called the euteragonist. Ideally, the term "protagonist" should be used only for the principal character. Several other characters can be defined by their relation to the protagonist. The antagonist is his principal rival in the conflict set forth in the play. A foil is a character who defines certain characteristics in the protagonist by exhibiting opposite traits or the same traits in a greater or lesser degree. A confidant(e) provides a ready ear to which the protagonist can address certain remarks which should be heard by the audience but not by the other characters. In Hamlet, for example, Hamlet is the protagonist, Claudius the antagonist, Laertes and Fortinbras foils (observe the way in which each goes about avenging the death or loss of property of his father), and Horatio the confidant.

Certain writers-- for example, Moliere and Pirandello--use a character type called the raisonneur, whose comments express the voice of reason and also, presumably, of the author. Philinte and the Father are examples of the raisonneur.

Another type of character is the stereotype or stock character, a character who reappears in various forms in many plays. Comedy is particularly a fruitful source of such figures, including the miles gloriosus or boastful soldier (a man who claims great valor but proves to be a coward when tested), the irascible old man (the source of elements in the character of Polonius), the witty servant, the coquette, the prude, the fop, and others. A stock character from another genre is the revenger of Renaissance tragedy. The role of Hamlet demonstrates how such a stereotype is modified by an author to create a great role, combining the stock elements with individual ones.

Sometimes group of actors work together over a long period in relatively stable companies. In such a situation, individual members of the group develop expertise in roles of a certain type, such as leading man and leading lady (those who play the principal parts), juveniles or ingénues of both sexes (those who specialize as young people), character actors (those who perform mature or eccentric types), and heavies or villains.

The commedia dell'arte, a popular form of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, employed actors who had standard lines of business and improvised the particular action in terms of their established characters and a sketchy outline of a plot. Frequently, Pantalone, an older man, generally a physician, was married to a young woman named Columbine. Her lover, Harlequin, was not only younger and more handsome than her husband but also more vigorous sexually. Pantalone's servants, Brighella, Truffaldino, and others, were employed in frustrating or assisting either the lovers in their meetings or the husband in discovering them.

A group of actors who function as a unit, called a chorus, was a characteristic feature of the Greek tragedy. The members of the chorus shared a common identity, such as Asian Bacchantes or old men ofThebes. The choragos (leader of the chorus) sometimes spoke and acted separately. In some of the plays, the chorus participated directly in the action; in others they were restricted in observing the action and commenting on it. The chorus also separated the individual sins by singing and dancing choral odes, though just what the singing and dancing were like is uncertain. The odes were in strict metrical patterns; sometimes they were direct comments on the action and characters, and at other times they were more general statements and judgments. A chorus in Greek fashion is not common in later plays, although there are instances such as T.S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral, in which the Women of Canterbury serve as a chorus.

On occasion a single actor may perform the function of a chorus, as do the aptly named Chorus in Shakespeare's Henry V and the Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder's Our Town. Alfieri in the View from the Bridge functions both as a chorus and a minor character in the action of the play.


The interest generated by the plot varies for different kinds of plays. (See fiction elements on plot for more information regarding plot.) The plot is usually structured with acts and scenes.

Open conflict plays: rely on the suspense of a struggle in which the hero, through perhaps fight against all odds, is not doomed. Dramatic thesis: foreshadowing, in the form of ominous hints or symbolic incidents, conditions the audience to expect certain logical developments. Coincidence: sudden reversal of fortune plays depict climatic ironies or misunderstandings. Dramatic irony: the fulfillment of a plan, action, or expectation in a surprising way, often opposite of what was intended.


The plot has been called the body of a play and the theme has been called its soul. Most plays have a conflict of some kind between individuals, between man and society, man and some superior force or man and himself. The events that this conflict provokes make up the plot. One of the first items of interest is the playwright quote s treatment of the plot and what them he would draw from it. The same plots have been and will be used many times; it is the treatment that supplies each effort with originality or artistic worth. Shakespeare is said to have borrowed all but one of his stories, but he presented them so much better than any of the previous authors that he is not seriously criticized for the borrowing. Th e treatment of theme is equally varied.

The same theme or story may be given a very serious or a very light touch. It may be a severe indictment or a tongue-in- cheek attack. It could point up a great lesson or show the same situation as a handicap to progress. The personality, background an d social or artistic temperament of the playwright are responsible for the treatment that he gives to his story or theme. We must, therefore, both understand and evaluate these factors.

To endure, a play should have a theme. It is sometimes suggested in the title as in Loyalties, Justice, or Strife, You can't Take It With You, or The Physician in Spite of Himself. At other times it is found in the play itself, as in Craig's Wife when the aunt says to Mrs. Craig, "People who live to themselves are often left to themselves." Sometimes theme is less obvious, necessitating closer study.

If a play has a theme, we should be able to state it in general terms and in a single sentence, even at the risk of oversimplification. The theme of Hamlet is usually stated as the failure of a youth of poetic temperament to cope with circumstances that demand action. The theme of Macbeth is that too much ambition leads to destruction; a Streetcar Named Desire, that he who strives hardes t to find happiness oftentimes finds the least; and of Green pastures, that even God must change with the universe.

Of course the theme, no matter how fully stated, is not the equivalent of the play. The play is a complex experience, and one must remain open to its manifold suggestions.

As indicated above, the statement of the play in specific terms is the plot presented. Plot and theme should go hand in hand. If the theme is one of nobility, or dignity, the plot must concern events and characters that measure up to that theme. As we a nalyze many plays, we find that some posses an excellent theme, but are supported by an inconsequential plot. One famous play of this nature, Abie's Irish Rose, held the stage for many years. The theme said: Difference of r eligion need not hinder a happy marriage. The plot was so thin and both characters and situation so stereotyped, that justice was not done to the theme. This weakness was most obvious in the play's revival after twenty years.

Examples of the frequent fault of superior plot and little or no theme come to us in much of the work of our current playwrights. Known for their cleverness in phrasing and timing, and their original extremely witty conceptions, these plays are often ver y successful. More often than not, however, they are utterly lacking in a theme or truth that will withstand more than momentary analysis. They are delightful but ephemeral. An audience believes them only while watching in the theatre. Consequently, the author, although now among ou r most popular, will not endure as artists, nor are their plays likely to be revived a hundred years hence. They but emphasize more strongly the axiom that a good plot or conflict is needed for transitory success, but a great theme is more likely to assu re a play a long life.


Dialogue provides the substance of a play. Each word uttered by the character furthers the business of the play, contributes to its effect as a whole. Therefore, a sense of DECORUM must be established by the characters, ie., what is said is appropriate to the role and situation of a character. Also the exposition of the play often falls on the dialogue of the characters. Remember exposition establishes the relationships, tensions or conflicts from which later plot developments derive.

Any artificial picture of life must start from the detail of actuality. An audience must be able to recognize it; however changed; we want to check it against experience. Death for exampl e, is something we cannot know. In every man it is represented as an embodying some of our feelings about it. So Death is partly humanized, enough, anyway, for us to be able to explore what the dramatist thinks about it.

Conversely, the detail of actuality in realistic drama can be chosen and presented in such a way as to suggest that it stands for more on the stage than it would in life. The Cherry Orchard family, in the excitement of their departure, overlook s their old servant Firs. Placed with striking force at the end of the play, this trivial accident becomes an incisive and major comment on everything the family has done.

So it is dramatic speech. A snatch of phase caught in everyday conversation may mean little, Used by an actor on a stage, it can assume general and typical qualities. The context into which it is put can make it pull more than its conversation al weight, no matter how simple words. Consider Othello quote s bare repetition: 'Put out the light, end then put out the light.' In its context the repetition prefigures precisely the comparison Shakespeare is about to make between the lam Othello is holding and Desdemona's life and being. Its heavy rhythm suggests the strained tone and obsessed mood of the man, and an almost priestlike attitude behind the twin motions. We begin to see the murder of Desdemona in the larger general terms of a ritualistic sacrifice. Poetry is made of words, which can be in use in more prosaic ways; dramatic speech, with its basis in ordinary co nversation, is speech that has had a specific pressure put on it.

Why do words begin to assume general qualities, and why do they become dramatic? Here are two problems on either side of the same coin. The words in both cases depend upon the kind of attention we give them. The artist using them, whether aut hor or actors, force them upon us, and in a variety of ways try to fix the quality of our attention.

If dialogue carefully follows the way we speak in life, as it is likely to go i n a naturalistic play, the first step towards understanding how it departs from actuality can be awkward. It is helpful to cease to submit the pretence for the moment. An apparent reproduction of ordinary conversation will be, in good drama, a constructio n of word setup to do many jobs that are not immediately obvious. Professor Erick Bently has written of Ibsen's 'opaque, uninviting sentences' :

An ibsenite sentence often performs four or five function at once. It shed light on the character spo ken about, it furthers the plot; it functions ironically is conveying to the audience a meaning different from that conveyed to the characters.

It is true that conversation itself can sometimes be taken to do this thing. 'Whatever you think. I'm going to tell him what you said.' is a remark which in its context can shed light on the speaker, the person spoken to and the spoken about. For a fourth person listening, as spectator witnesses a play, there may also be an element of that mean something only to himself as observer. In the play the difference lies first in an insistence that the words go somewhere, move towards a predetermined end. It lies in a charge of meaning that will advance the action.

This is argued in a statement in Strindberg's manifesto for the naturalistic theatre. He says of his characters that he has 'permitted he minds to work irregularly as they do in reality, where, during conversation, the cogs of mind seem more or less haphazardly to engage those of another one, an where no topic is fully exhausted.' But he adds that. While the dialogue seems to stray a good deal in the opening scenes, lquote it acquires a material that later on is worked over, picked up again repeated, expounded, and built up the theme in a musical composition.'

It is a question of economy. The desultory and clumsy talk of real life, with its interruptions, overlapping, in decisions and repetitions, talk without direction, wastes our interestemdash unless, like the chatter given to Jane Austen quote s Miss Bates, it hides relevance in irrelevance. It follows the dialogue which the wit and vitality in Shaw's dialogue yet ignore the question of its relevance to the action.

When the actor examines the text to prepare his part, he looks for what makes the words different from conversation, that is he looks for the structural elements of the building, for links of characteristic thought in the character, and so on . He persists till he has shaped in his mind a firm and workable pattern of his part. Now the clues sought by the actor hidden beneath the surface of the dialogue are the playgoer's guides too. The actor and producer Stanislavsky have called these clues the 'subtext' of a play.

The subtext is a web of innumerable, varied inner patterns inside a play and a part, woven from 'magic ifs' , given circumstances, all sorts of figments of the imagination, inner movements, objects of attention, smaller and greater truths and a belief in them, adaptations, adjustmen ts and other similar elements. It is subtext that makes us say the words we do in a play.

And in another place he says that 'the whole text of the play will be accompanied by a sub textual stream of images, like a moving picture constantly thrown on the screen of our inner vision, to guide us as we speak and act on the stage.' Once we admit that the words must propose and substantiate the play quote s meaning, we shall find in them more and more of the author's wishes.

For dramat ic dialogue has other work to do before it provides a table of words to be spoken. In the absence of the author it must provide a set of unwritten working directives to the actor on how to speak its speeches. And before that, it has to teach him how to think and feel them: the particularly of a play requires this if is not to be animated by a series of cardboard stereotypes.

Dramatic dialogue works by a number of instinctively agreed codes. Some tell the producer how to arrange the figures on the stage. Others tell him what he should hear as the pattern of sound echoing and contradicting, changing tone, rising and falling. These are directives strongly compelling him to hear the key in which a scene should be played, and the tone and temp of the melody. Others oblige him to start particular rhythmic movements of emotion flowing between the stage and the audience. He is th en left to marry the colour and shape of the stage picture with the music he finds recorded in the text.

Good dialogue works like this and throws out a 'substextual stream of images'; Even if the limits within which these effects work are narrow, even if the effect lies in the barest or simplest of speeches, we may expect to hear the text humming the tune as it cannot in real life. Dialogue should be read and heard as a dramatic score.


The means the playwright employs are determined at least in part by dramatic convention. Greek: Playwrights of this era often worked with familiar story material, legend about gods and famous families that the audience was familiar with. Since the audience was familiar with certain aspects of these, the playwrights used allusion rather than explicit exposition. In representing action, they often relied on messengers to report off-stage action. For interpretation the Greeks relied on the CHORUS, a body of onlookers, usually citizens or elders, whose comments on the play reflected reactions common to the community. These plays were written in metered verse arranged in elaborate stanzas. This required intense attention from the audience. English Drama: Minor chara cters play an important role in providing information and guiding interpretation. The confidant, a friend or servant, listens to the complaints, plans and reminiscences of a major character. Minor characters casually comment among themselves on major characters and plot development. Extended SOLILOQUY enables a major character to reveal his thoughts in much greater detail than in natural dialogue. ASIDES, remarks made to the audience but not heard by those on the stage, are common. Realism: Toward the end of the nineteenth century, realistic depiction of everyday life entered the genre of drama, whereas the characters may be unconventional and their thoughts turbulent and fantasy-ridden. Contemporary: Experimentation seems to be the key word here. A NARRATOR replaces the messenger, the chorus and the confidant. FLASHBACKS often substitute for narration. Many contemporary playwrights have abandoned recognizable setting, chronological sequence and characterization through dialogue.


Genre is a term that describes works of literature according to their shared thematic or structural characteristics. The attempt to classify literature in this way was initiated by Aristotle in the Poetics, where he distinguishes tragedy, epic, and comedy and recognizes even more fundamental distinctions between drama, epic, and lyric poetry. Classical genre theory, established by Aristotle and reinforced by Horace, is regulative and prescriptive, attempting to maintain rigid boundaries that correspond to social differences. Thus, tragedy and epic are concerned exclusively with the affairs of the nobility, comedy with the middle or lower classes.

Modern literary criticism, on the other hand, does not regard genres as dogmatic categories, but rather as aesthetic conventions that guide, but are also led by, writers. The unstable nature of genres does not reduce their effectiveness as tools of critical inquiry, which attempts to discover universal attributes among individual works, and has, since classical times, evolved theories of the novel, ode, elegy, pastoral, satire, and many other kinds of writing.


It is the act or chance of hearing; a reception by a great person; the person to hear.

Playhouse, script, actors, mise en scene, audience are inseparable parts of the theatre. The concept of drama put forward in this book insists that the audience have an indispensable role to play. While Stanislavsky is right in saying that 'spectator come to the theatre to hear the subtext. They can read the text at home; he is speaking as a man of the nineteenth century. We do not go to the play merely to have the text interpreted and explained by the skills of the director and his actor. We do not go as in a learning situation, but to share in a partnership without which the players cannot work. In his Reflaxions sur l; art, valery believed that a creator is one who makes other create': in art both the artist and the spectator actively cooperate, and the value of the work is dependent on this reciprocity. If in the theatre there is no interaction between stage and audience, the play is dead, bad or non-existent: the audience, like the customer, is always right.

Every man, women, or child who has expressed an opinion concerning a dramatic performance has, in a sense, proclaim himself to be a critic. Whether his reaction has been good or bad, his opinion will have some effect on the thinking of those who have heard or read his comment, and what have been said will become a part of the production's history. The statement may have been inadvertent, biased, unfair, without thought or foundation, but once spoken or repeated, it cease to be just an opinion and is accepted as a fact. Who has not heard, accepted, repeated, and been affected by such generalization as: "They say its terrible!" or " They say its terrific!"

Another type of critic is the more powerful and frequently only slightly more qualified, individual who is-often for strange and irrelevant reasons-assigned to cover an opening for the school or community paper. He may be completely lacking in the knowledge required of even a beginner in dramatic criticisms, but, again, "Anyone can write up a play." Yet the power of the written words takes over, and what this novice write becomes the accepted authority for many. The hundreds of hour of work by the many persons involved in the production, their personal sacrifices, and their pride in their work-to say nothing of the financial outlay involved-far too often are condemned or praised for the wrong reasons or for logical reason at all. As a further injustice, what the critic has written, although it is just a single opinion, becomes the only record of the production and so catalogs the event of the future.

It is doubtful if any other business or art is so much a victim of inept, untrained, illogical, and undeserved criticism as is a dramatic performance. Whether the remarks have grown out of prejudice, meager knowledge of the theatre, lack of understanding or sensitivity, momentary admiration or dislike foe some individual participant, a poor dinner or disposition, an auditorium too hot or too cold, or any of a hundred incidents that could occurred during the production itself does not matter. Those whose effort are being discussed can console themselves only with the fact that criticism-good or bad-is much easier than creation or craftsmanship for the same reason that the work is harder than talk.

Having been a part of the theatre-professional, community, and educational-for more than four decades, we are well aware that criticism of the critics is frequently heard, and that this criticism includes those who write the drama section for the national magazine or the large daily newspaper report on the opening night. This is inevitable, for total agreement on any phase of the theatre is impossible. We live in a world with out laws of logic or mathematical formulas to guide us. There are no yardsticks that will give us all the same answer, but there are yardsticks that should be familiar to all of us. In this paper we propose to present and to discuss some of these criteria. If the amateur critics just referred to had been familiar with some basic dramatic principles and had used them honestly, there would be a greater feeling that justice had been done. Any intelligent theatre person knows that each member of the audience views what is before him with different eyes and so sees something different from his neighbor. How each member reacts will be determined by education, age, experience, nationality, maturity, background, temperament, heredity, environment, the rest of the audience, the weather, what he has done or eaten in the past few hours, or his plans for after the performance. This list of imponderable could go indefinitely. Furthermore, if agreement on any one aspect of a given performance is impossible, then agreement is even more hopeless if different performances of the same play, in the same theatre, and with the same cast, are under discussion; for a different audience makes for a different production.


The stage creates its effects in spite of, and in part because of, definite physical limitations. Setting and action tend to be suggestive rather than panoramic or colossal. Both setting and action may be little more than hints for the spectator to fill out.

Application of the genre of drama is William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew

The Taming of the Shrew

In A Nutshell

The Taming of the Shrew is the story of how Petruchio, the money-grubbing wife hunter, transforms the aggressive and bad-tempered Katherine Minola into an obedient, honey-tongued trophy wife. Written by William Shakespeare between 1590 and 1594, it's one of Shakespeare's earliest Comedies – it's also one of his most controversial works. For modern audiences (let's face it, we're a lot more sensitive to social injustices), the play's critical controversy is perhaps second to that of The Merchant of Venice (Merchant of Venice is a play that portrays and analyzes blatant anti-Semitic attitudes and has sparked heated debate over its complex depiction of Shylock, the demonized Jewish villain that is forced to convert to Christianity at the play's end.)

The Taming of the Shrew has been criticized for its representation of abusive behavior and misogynistic attitudes toward women, and the play has pretty much been dogged since it was first performed. There's much evidence that Shrew made even Shakespeare's contemporary audiences more than a little squeamish. The playwright John Fletcher was particularly keyed to potential objections to Petruchio's behavior – so much so that he wrote a play in response called The Woman's Prize or, The Tamer Tamed (c. 1616). Fletcher's play fast-forwards many years from the end of Shrew, when Petruchio is a widower and has remarried the shrewish Maria, who gives him a dose of his own medicine. Though Shrew continued to be staged and adapted, in the late 1890s,
Nobel Prize winner George Bernard Shaw wrote that "No man with any decency of feeling can sit [the final act] out in the company of a woman without being extremely ashamed" (source). On the other hand, the play has also been adored by many fans from the get-go.

There's no denying that Shrew portrays patriarchy at its worst – the question is, what is the play'sattitude toward such action and behavior? Does it condone
domestic abuse and celebrate painful and humiliating tactics to reform "shrewish" behavior? Or, does it satirize (mock and ridicule à la Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert) unfair social attitudes toward women? Or, is it merely a light-hearted farce that is not meant to be taken seriously at all? These are important questions that have sparked centuries of debate. Whether or not one thinks the play is vile, hilarious, or some combination of the two, asking tough questions and thinking hard about the problems posed by the text are good things.

For all its controversy, Shrew remains one of the most performed and adapted plays in Shakespeare's body of work. (The most popular adaptations include Cole Porter's 1948 Broadway musical Kiss Me Kate, the 1999 teen flick 10 Things I Hate About You, and the popular BBC production ShakespeaRe-Told: The Taming of the Shrew, 2005. One of the most famous film versions of the play is Franco Zeffirelli's 1967 production starring Elizabeth Taylor.) Given that the text is subject to so many interpretive possibilities, it's pretty common for one performance of the play to look completely different from the next. (This is why you shouldn't watch the movie as a mere replacement for reading the play. You should do both.) One director might play up the text's farcical elements – lots of silly, slapstick humor that undermines any seriousness in the play. Another director might emphasize the play's darker elements to highlight Petruchio's abusive behavior. Really, the staging possibilities are endless.

Of course, the play is also regarded as one of the great grandfathers of the "battle of the sexes" story line, a formula that has inspired countless movies (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The War of the Roses, etc., etc.) and television series (take your pick, but see especially a young Bruce Willis go toe-to-toe with Cybill Shepherd in the old-school Moonlighting ).

General Summary

How It All Goes Down

The play opens in front of a tavern in the English countryside, where Christopher Sly, a drunk beggar, goes toe-to-toe with the tavern hostess over Sly's disorderly conduct. Sly passes out on the ground and, when a local Lord happens along, he decides to teach Sly a lesson. Sly is carried to the Lord's nearby mansion, where he's dressed up like a nobleman and convinced that he is a "mighty Lord." Sly tries to hook up with the kid pretending to be his wife, but gets shot down. A group of traveling actors then perform a play in Sly's bedroom.

This inset or, play-within-the-play, is set inPadua,Italy, where Lucentio, a
rich guy fromVerona(along with his trusty servant Tranio), arrives to top off his education. Tranio and Lucentio end up eavesdropping on a little family drama that's happening nearby. Baptista Minola, his daughters Kate and Bianca, and Bianca's suitors bicker about marriage. Baptista lays down the law and says that Bianca's admirers should scram – Bianca's not getting married until Baptista can get Kate off his hands. The suitors whine that this is no fair because Kate is a total witch and nobody wants to marry her.

Lucentio, our little eavesdropper, falls in love with Bianca on the spot and hatches a plan to get with her. He dresses up like a tutor named Cambio so he can infiltrate Baptista's house,
Trojan horse style, and be near Bianca. The servant Tranio dresses up like Lucentio.

Petruchio, another rich bachelor from out of town, arrives at his pal Hortensio's house with his servant Grumio. Hortensio is in lust with Bianca and convinces Petruchio that he needs to marry Kate so Bianca will be available. Petruchio is all over this plan – Baptista has
lots of money so Kate will come with a big ol' dowry. Petruchio also sees himself as a "shrew tamer," so he's not worried about Kate's attitude. Hortensio disguises himself as Licio the music tutor, so he too can get close to Bianca.

The ridiculously old suitor, Gremio, has hired Cambio (really Lucentio in disguise) to tutor Bianca as a gift to Baptista. The fellas (Hortensio, Lucentio, Gremio, Tranio, and Petruchio) meet up and decide that they will finance Petruchio's quest to "wed and bed" Kate. That settled, they head over to Baptista's house, where the "tutors" successfully gain access to Bianca. On the way, they stop at a bar for a round of shots.

Baptista immediately agrees to Petruchio's plan to marry Kate, as she's a total pain. When Kate and Petruchio meet, all hell breaks loose as they fight it out in a kind of verbal Friday Night Smackdown. Katherine totally rejects Petruchio, but she's as quiet as a mouse when Petruchio tells her dad that she's interested him and wants to get hitched. She also says nothing when Petruchio lies that Kate couldn't keep her hands and lips off of him when they were alone. A wedding date is set.

That being settled, Baptista agrees to hand over Bianca to the highest bidder, Tranio (who is disguised as Lucentio). Meanwhile, Hortensio (as Licio) and Lucentio (as Cambio) "tutor" Bianca – they both declare their love but Bianca plays it cool and doesn't commit to either man.

On Sunday, everyone comes together for the wedding of Kate and Petruchio, who arrives late and is dressed in a wild, totally inappropriate outfit. Petruchio causes a big scene during the ceremony and then drags Kate off to his house before they can go to the reception for a slice of cake. Kate's family and friends shrug it off a little too quickly and party on without her. Kate is made miserable the second they hit the road and, when they arrive at Petruchio's house, she's starved, deprived of sleep, and psychologically manipulated by Petruchio, who has launched a campaign to "tame" Kate of her evil ways by acting like an even bigger shrew than Kate.

Back at Baptista's, Bianca and Lucentio get rid of Hortensio by making out in front of him. Hortensio decides Bianca is not such a nice girl, so he will marry the Widow instead. Tranio then finds a random old guy and tricks him into pretending to be Lucentio's father, who is needed to sign some contracts before Lucentio can marry Bianca.

Meanwhile, Petruchio continues to mess with Kate's head. They set off forPaduato attend Bianca's wedding and Petruchio makes her wear dirty old rags instead of the clothes the tailor made for her. On the way toPadua, Kate finally breaks down and agrees to go along with whatever Petruchio wants from her. When Petruchio wants to pretend the sun is the moon she says fine. When Petruchio pretends an old man on the road is a young virgin, she plays along with that, too.

The old man turns out to be Lucentio's real dad, Vincentio. So the crew heads over to Lucentio's house. Meanwhile, Lucentio and Bianca have run off to elope (at St. Luke's church), while Baptista signs documents with the fake Vincentio. The real Vincentio shows up on the scene and looks like a madman. Before he can be carted off to the clink or the asylum, Lucentio and Bianca show up and apologize for being the worst kids ever. All disguises are removed and true identities are revealed. Oh well, the fathers decide. Let's have some cake and celebrate the marriage of Lucentio and Bianca. Kate and Petruchio have been watching the whole thing go down. They make out on the street and then head in to join the party.

At the banquet, people sit around doing what they do best in this play (talking smack) and the guys make a bet to see whose wife is most obedient. Petruchio wins when Kate runs out and delivers a long speech about her obedience to her Petruchio. Kate fondles his feet and then they make out again before running off to bed.


The Taming of the Shrew Induction, Scene 1 Summary

  • The Induction begins in front of a bar in the English countryside, where the Hostess and the belligerent (and completely drunk) Christopher Sly argue about Sly trashing the tavern.
  • When Sly threatens to beat the Hostess, she replies that Sly belongs in the "stocks" (a wooden restraining device used to publicly punish and humiliate criminals).
  • Sly is indignant; he calls her a whore, claims he is the descendant of "Richard the Conqueror" (whoops – he's probably thinking of aWilliam the Conqueror), and refuses to pay for some broken beer mugs. He also misquotes lines from Thomas Kyd's famous play,The Spanish Tragedy (we're not sure which offense is worse).
  • When the Hostess runs off to fetch the law, Sly continues to talk trash to nobody in particular until he passes out cold.
  • Along come the Lord and his posse, looking to kick back a few cold beers after a long day of hunting. The Lord and the Huntsmen talk about how awesome their hunting dogs are when they notice Sly asleep on the ground.
  • The Lord, who basically owns the entire countryside, is totally disgusted. He calls Sly a "monstrous beast" and a "swine" and says he's going to play an elaborate prank to teach Sly a lesson.
  • The Lord gives his crew orders to take Sly to his fancy country estate, clean him up, and surround him with delicious food, great music, and obedient servants. The plan, he says, is to trick Sly into believing he is a nobleman instead of a drunken beggar.
  • While walking over to his place, the Lord continues to play director. He tells his crew to pretend Sly is a great lord whose recent illness has his wife super-upset. Everyone agrees that this is an awesome idea – if they play their roles right, Sly will have no choice but to believe he's the person they say he is.
  • Sly is carried up to a bedroom. Meanwhile, a bunch of actors just happen to show up at the estate. Being a big theater buff, the Lord offers to let them crash for the night in exchange for some entertainment. He tells them he'd like them to put on a play for a fellow "Lord" but there's one small thing: the actors can't laugh at this guy when he acts like a hillbilly who has never seen a play before.
  • This is no problem for the theater troupe – they are actors after all. Acting, however, is thirsty work, so they wander off to the pantry to get some drinks and to maybe grab a little snack before the private performance.
  • This is nice for the actors, but the Lord's work isn't quite done – since he still needs someone to pretend to be Sly's wife, he tells one of his lackeys to fetch his best boy servant, Bartholomew, and to dress up Bart like a trophy wife.
  • The Lord gives all sorts of pointers on how the role of an obedient nobleman's wife should be played – what she should wear, how she should speak and act, and what to do if Bart can't make himself cry on cue (use an onion, of course).
  • The Lord is psyched about his practical joke and can't wait to see what will happen when Sly sees Bart dressed like a woman. Not wanting his servants to screw things up, the Lord runs off to the bedroom to supervise.

The Taming of the Shrew Induction, Scene 2 Summary

  • In a plush bedroom in the Lord's house, Sly demands a pot of "small ale." (Historical tidbit: "small ale" is the Elizabethan equivalent of cheap, light beer.)
  • Sly is surrounded by servants who offer tasty snacks, expensive booze, and the coolest clothes, all of which Sly rejects on the grounds that he is Christopher Sly, the guy who eats discounted beef, drinks cheap beer, owns only one outfit, and often goes barefoot.
  • When the Lord insists that Sly act like a nobleman, Sly objects again and identifies himself as "Old Sly's son," the guy who can barely hold down a series of low-level trade jobs (peddler, card maker, bear keeper, tinker). If they don't believe him they can go ask "Marian Hacket, the fat ale wife," who will confirm that Sly isn't some rich guy.
  • Undaunted, the Lord and his servants apply even more pressure, insisting that this behavior is upsetting Sly's wife, his servants, and all his rich friends. They offer him more luxuries and tell him he can have anything he wants – music, mid-day naps, riding, hawking, hunting, pornography – all the things that the average Elizabethan nobleman adores. The final enticement is news that Sly has the hottest wife in town, and she really misses her man.
  • Sly wonders if he's dreaming and decides that no, he is awake and therefore he must be a nobleman. His first command as a "nobleman" is something like this: "Bring me my woman… and another pitcher of Coors light!"
  • Bartholomew enters the room dressed like a woman and says all the things an obedient and loving noblewoman would say – "I'm obedient to you," and "not sleeping with you for the past fifteen years has been a real bummer." Sly orders everybody out of the room and tells Bart to take off her clothes and hop in the sack.
  • Bart is in quite a fix, so he says Sly's doctor has put the kibosh on sex for at least 24 hours, because it might cause Sly to relapse. Sly responds with a lame pun on his erection and says he'll just have to wait a little longer.
  • A messenger enters the room and announces that some actors want to perform for Sly as a "welcome back from your coma" gift. The messenger says that, according to the doctor, a play is just the right kind of medicine for a guy recovering from a fifteen-year-long nap.
  • Sly tells his wife to slide her bootylicious self on over next to him so they can watch the play together.

The Taming of the Shrew Act 1, Scene 1 Summary

  • (This is where the inset play begins. We're still in Sly's bedroom at the Lord's house, which is apparently big enough for a livetheater performance. Sly and his "wife" watch the play from a lofted space above the stage.)
  • The inset play opens on a street inPadua, where Lucentio and his trusty servant Tranio have just arrived. While shooting the breeze, Lucentio reveals that his dad has sent him to the famouscollege town so Lucentio can round off his education. Tranio reminds Lucentio that studying philosophy is all good and well, but they need to have a little fun with the ladies, too. Lucentio agrees.
  • Just then, Lucentio and Tranio spot Baptista, and his gorgeous daughters (Bianca and Kate) talking with Bianca's suitors. Lucentio and Tranio pause so that they can eavesdrop.
  • Baptista tells Gremio and Hortensio to stop begging him for permission to marry Bianca, who isn't allowed to get hitched until Kate marries. But, if they like, they're welcome to court Kate and take her off Baptista's hands.
  • Gremio scoffs at this and says he would rather "cart" Kate than marry her.
  • (We interrupt this program for a history snack. "Carting" refers to the way "shrewish" women were legally punished in 16th-centuryEngland for being disobedient and mouthy. Convicted "scolds" were sometimes tied up and strapped to the back of a cart so they could be paraded around town and publicly shamed into keeping their mouths shut.)
  • Kate yells at her dad and says he's out of line – he's making her a laughing stock and treating her like a prostitute in front of these two chumps. When Hortensio interjects and tells Kate she'll never be married unless she learns to pipe down, Kate gives him a tongue-lashing. This involves Kate talking about herself in the third person and denying she's interested in marriage.
  • The ever-observant Tranio says Kate is crazy and way too mouthy. Lucentio is hot for Bianca because she is nice and quiet, which is just how he likes his women.
  • Meanwhile, Kate picks on Bianca. Bianca plays the good girl and tells her dad she'll spend all her time studying until he says it's time for her to get engaged.
  • Gremio and Hortensio complain that Baptista is keeping Bianca penned up like an animal, but Baptista holds his ground. Before he leaves he asks the suitors if they can recommend any teachers for his precious daughter, a hint that they should rustle up some good tutors if they want to make him happy.
  • Baptista says he's got to run and needs to talk with Bianca, but Kate is free to hang out with the guys if she likes. Kate gets huffy about being told what she can do and storms off.
  • The suitors agree together that they need to find someone to marry Kate so they can have free access to Bianca. So they take off to hatch a plan, leaving nosey Lucentio and Tranio to discuss what's just happened.
  • Lucentio is love struck and starts to say all kinds of cheesy things about how he burns for Bianca. He asks Tranio for some advice, so the servant tells him to quit his yammering and think of a plan already.
  • Tranio and Lucentio decide that Lucentio will disguise himself as a teacher so he can give Bianca some "private tutoring."
  • Since Lucentio is expected to be seen inPaduastudying and schmoozing all his dad's rich friends, they decide that Tranio will disguise himself as Lucentio.
  • They exchange clothes: now Lucentio is disguised as a teacher named Cambio and Tranio is disguised as Lucentio.
  • Along comes Biondello (another one of Lucentio's servants). Lucentio and Tranio tell Biondello that they're in disguise because Lucentio killed a man and needs to flee the city in case there are witnesses who can identify him. They explain that Tranio will pretend to be Lucentio in order to keep up appearances. Biondello buys their story and they exit the stage.
  • One of the Lord's servants (remember the Induction scenes at the beginning?) who has been watching the inset play with Sly and Bart, asks Sly why he has dozed off. Sly denies he fell asleep and says he likes the play.
  • (Note: Nobody knows why, but this is the last time we hear from Sly in The Taming of the Shrew. We can assume he remains on stage – perhaps he's fallen asleep again or there are lost lines and scenes that don't appear in Shakespeare's manuscripts. In a closely related play called The Taming of a Shrew, which was written and performed around the time of Shakespeare's play, Sly's character speaks throughout the performance, commenting on the play as it goes along. At the end of the performance, Sly runs off to tame his own wife. Some directors and editors like to include these scenes, especially the ending, even though there's no evidence Shakespeare wrote them. Other directors decide to cut Sly out of the Induction altogether.)

The Taming of the Shrew Act 1, Scene 2 Summary

  • Having just arrived inPaduafromVerona, Petruchio and his servant Grumio stand at Hortensio's front door. When Petruchio says "Here, sirrah Grumio; knock, I say," Grumio thinks he is being asked to slap his master. Not wanting to get beat down, Grumio refuses to do this. The pair go round and round and Grumio continues to misinterpret Petruchio's order for him to knock on the door.
  • Petruchio finally gets fed up and twists Grumio's ears until the old man falls to his knees. Just then, Hortensio opens the door and is surprised to see his old pal Petruchio beating up on an old servant.
  • Petruchio and Hortensio greet each other in Italian, which Grumio mistakes for Latin. Grumio whines to Hortensio that Petruchio is a big meanie and says he should quit his job because he was punished for refusing to pummel his master.
  • Petruchio explains that Grumio is an idiot because he asked the servant to knock on the door, not to knock him upside the head. Grumio continues to grumble and Petruchio says he's about to get knocked out if he doesn't zip it.
  • Hortensio tells Petruchio to chill out and asks his buddy what brings him toPadua.
  • We learn that Petruchio's dad recently died and left Petruchio a nice little inheritance. Wanting to fatten up his bank accountsome more, Petruchio has come toPaduato bag a rich wife.
  • Hortensio jokes that he knows the perfect woman – a super rich shrew named Katherine.
  • Petruchio says that sounds awesome because he's all about money – "wivin' and thrivin'" is his motto. His wife can be ugly, old, and/or shrewish – it really doesn't matter to him because money = happiness.
  • Hortensio says he was just joking around, but since Petruchio insists, he'll be a good pal and will help to hook him up with Kate. He warns Petruchio again and says that he personally wouldn't marry Kate for all the money in the world.
  • When Petruchio finds out that his dead dad knew Kate's dad, he decides he wants to hustle on over to Kate's house for a chat with her old man. Hortensio tags along so he can hit on Bianca.
  • Hortensio explains that he will dress up as a private tutor and he wants Petruchio to present him as a "gift" to Kate's dad. That way, Petruchio can get in good with Baptista and Hortensio can make sweet love to Bianca in secret.
  • At that moment, Gremio and Lucentio (disguised as Cambio) happen along. Gremio brags that he has hired Cambio as a gift for Baptista.
  • Gremio has no idea that Cambio is really Lucentio (who also wants Bianca) as he explains that Cambio should only teach Bianca from books of love poetry, which will be doused in perfume to get Bianca in the mood for some lovin'.
  • Lucentio (disguised as Cambio) tells Gremio that he will talk to Bianca on Gremio's behalf and will woo her even better than Gremio. Petruchio's servant Grumio comments under his breath that Gremio is a total chump (we would have to agree).
  • Gremio and Lucentio talk some trash until Lucentio says he has good news for both of them – his old pal Petruchio is in town and wants to marry Kate.
  • Gremio can't believe his ears and worries that Petruchio doesn't know what he's getting himself into. Petruchio tells them not to worry – he's the shrew-taming king. This sounds good to Gremio and Hortensio, who promise to reimburse Petruchio for any money he has to spend while he woos Kate, so long as he marries her.
  • Tranio (disguised as Lucentio) arrives on the scene and asks for directions to Baptista's house, which worries Petruchio and Gremio because they don't want any more competition.
  • The suitors bicker amongst themselves until they agree that, if Tranio wants in on the deal, he will have to pony up some cash to help cover Petruchio's expenses. Tranio agrees.
  • That settled, the guys decide they should hang out together over dinner and some cocktails.

The Taming of the Shrew Act 2, Scene 1 Summary

  • At Baptista's house, Kate has tied up Bianca, who begs her sister to let her go. Bianca says she'll do whatever Kate wants because she knows how to be obedient to her "elders." Translation: "You're an old maid."
  • When Kate demands that Bianca tell her about her favorite boyfriend, Bianca doesn't answer the question. Instead, she tells Kate that she can have all of her suitors, if that will make her happy. (Translation: "I have a lot of boyfriends and you don't.")
  • Kate slaps Bianca.
  • Baptista walks in and scolds Kate for being so mean to her little sis. Kate complains that Bianca refuses to dish about her boyfriends and she runs after Bianca to slap her around some more and pull out all her hair.
  • When Baptista steps in to protect Bianca, Kate complains that her dad loves Bianca more than her and she runs off crying.
  • Gremio, Lucentio (as Cambio the tutor), Petruchio, Hortensio (as Licio the tutor), Tranio (as Lucentio), and Biondello enter Baptista's house. (Whew. That's a mouthful.)
  • Petruchio the smart alec steps up and lays out his plan to Baptista. He wants to marry Kate, who he hears is a delightful young lady. He presents Licio the tutor (really Hortensio) as a gift to Baptista. Baptista accepts the bribe, welcomes Petruchio, and then warns him that his eldest daughter is a total pain, but he's welcome to woo her if that's what he really wants.
  • Gremio butts in and says he has a present for Baptista too – a schoolteacher named Cambio (really Lucentio in disguise).
  • Tranio (disguised as Lucentio) says he wants in on the action also and he too has a gift for Baptista – a lute (a guitar-like instrument) and a little bundle of books for Baptista's daughters.
  • Baptista thanks the guys for the great presents and lets the "tutors" into his house.
  • That being settled, Petruchio says he's a busy man and wants to get down to business with Baptista. "OK," says Baptista, "Kate comes with twenty crowns, plus she gets half my lands and money when I die."
  • Sounds good to Petruchio, who promises Baptista that, if he dies before Kate does, she gets a widow's share of his estate. (Basically, enough to live on. Their kids – assuming they have any – get the rest of the money.) Petruchio is ready to draw up the contract but Baptista says Kate needs to agree first.
  • Just then, Hortensio runs into the room crying about how Kate broke a lute over his head when he was only trying to teach her how to play.
  • Petruchio is really turned on by this and says Kate sounds hotter than ever – he can't wait to talk to her. Left alone, Petruchio tells us how he plans to deal with Kate – he'll contradict everything she says. If she says something snobby, he'll say she sings like a bird. If she refuses to speak to him, he'll say she speaks eloquently. (You get the idea.)
  • When our girl enters the room and Petruchio greets her as "Kate," she insists that her name is "Katherine." Petruchio retorts that her name is "plain Kate" or "bonny Kate" or "Kate the curst" and so on.
  • Kate and Petruchio go at it for a few rounds. Here's how it works: Kate insults Petruchio, then Petruchio contradicts her and twists her words, then she twists his words around, and then he twists her words around again until they become a dirty joke.
  • At one point, Kate smacks Petruchio after he makes a reference to his "tongue" in her "tail" (an oral sex joke). Petruchio threatens to beat her if she slaps him again.
  • They continue on this way until Petruchio decides they've had enough chit-chat. He informs Kate that Baptista has agreed to a marriage, the dowry has been set, and whether Kate likes it or not, he will have her as his wife. He's also going to whip her into shape because her whole shrew bit isn't going to fly when they're married.
  • Baptista enters to ask how things are going, and Kate yells at her dad for agreeing to let her marry a maniac.
  • Petruchio lies and tells everyone that Kate is as gentle as a pussycat, loves him, and has agreed to marry him. He says she was all over him when they were alone, but they think it's best if she pretends to hate him in public.
  • Kate says nothing in response to this. (Note: It's not completely clear why she's silent here and the moment could be staged in a couple of ways. Kate could be too shocked or mad to say anything. Or, Kate could be resigned to the fact that her dad has already made a deal with Petruchio so she doesn't bother saying anything else. Or, Petruchio could intimidate her into remaining quiet. Or, Kate could be secretly pleased that she's engaged. Different directors have staged the scene in all of these different ways. How do you interpret Kate's silence?)
  • Petruchio announces that he's off toVenice, but will be back inPaduato marry Kate on Sunday. Petruchio skips out of the room and Kate storms out separately.
  • Baptista turns his attention to the business of marrying off Bianca and compares himself to a merchant who is embarking on a precarious venture. Gremio and Tranio (as Lucentio) try to outbid each other and Tranio (as Lucentio) wins because he's the richest.
  • Baptista makes Tranio (as Lucentio) promise that his father will vouch for him and verify his cash flow.

The Taming of the Shrew Act 3, Scene 1 Summary

  • At Baptista's place, Hortensio (as Licio) and Lucentio (as Cambio) bicker over who gets to tutor Bianca first. Bianca interjects and tells the men that she, not them, decides when, what, and how she will learn. Licio will tune his instrument while Cambio finishes his Latin language lesson.
  • During the Latin lesson, Lucentio (as Cambio) reads from a Latin text and pretends to translate the words into English. He reveals (apparently, not for the first time) his true identity and his plan to win Bianca.
  • Instead of telling on Lucentio, Bianca plays coy and says she can't promise him anything because she doesn't yet trust him.
  • Hortensio (as Licio) takes over and begins his fake music lesson. He gives Bianca a love letter (disguised as a set of music instructions) while Lucentio (as Cambio) watches and worries that Bianca will like the music tutor instead of him.
  • A messenger arrives with news that Bianca has to help Kate prepare for the wedding, so she leaves.

The Taming of the Shrew Act 3, Scene 2 Summary

  • Fast forward to the wedding day. Baptista and Katherine are ticked off because Petruchio is very late. Both worry about looking like a couple of idiots if he blows them off. Kate runs from the room in tears and Baptista says something like, "She's just mad because she's a shrew."
  • Biondello enters and says that Petruchio is on his way over. He then describes Petruchio's little procession to Baptista's house: Petruchio is dressed in some crazy costume and looks like a bum. He's also riding in on a lame old horse that appears to be ready for the glue factory.
  • Petruchio enters looking exactly as Biondello described and pretends that he didn't just roll up to his wedding looking like a Technicolor hobo. Baptista is shocked and asks him to change clothes, but Petruchio blows him off and says Kate isn't getting married to his clothes.
  • Then Petruchio jokes with Baptista about how he's going to have sex with his daughter that night and says he's going to find Kate right now so he can get a little preview.
  • Meanwhile, Tranio and Lucentio scheme about how to seal the deal with Baptista. They need to find an old man to pretend to be Lucentio's dad so Baptista will sign the dowry contracts. (Remember, Baptista recently agreed to let "Lucentio" marry Bianca. They can't ask Lucentio's real dad for help because Tranio is parading around as Lucentio.)
  • Lucentio says he and Bianca just want to elope, but they can't because Hortensio is always watching. Apparently, Lucentio's "tutoring" lessons have paid off and Bianca is just as into him as he is into her.)
  • Gremio enters and says he's just come from the church, where he watched Kate and Petruchio's wedding. (This is another event that occurs off-stage, so we depend on Gremio's narration for the details.)
  • Gremio says that Petruchio acted like a jerk – he swore at and then back-handed the priest during the ceremony and then stuck his tongue down Kate's throat when the ceremony ended. The make-out session was just a tad noisy. Petruchio also pounded all the wine instead of sharing it with his guests.
  • The wedding party enters just then and Petruchio announces that he and Kate have to run, but the guests should go ahead and party at the wedding reception without them. Baptista and Kate beg Petruchio to stay, he refuses, and Kate says that's fine but she's not going anywhere.
  • Grumio tells us in an "aside" that Petruchio's taming plan is about to begin. (An "aside" is a way for a character to say something for or to the audience without the other characters hearing.)
  • Petruchio repeats that everyone should enjoy the party, or get lost – he really doesn't care either way. Kate is going home with him because she's his wife and therefore his property, along with his house, his barn, his horse, his ox, etc.
  • He warns the guests not to touch his bride, and pretends that he and Grumio are being attacked by thieves as he draws his sword and runs off with Kate.
  • The wedding guests laugh at this big production and joke that crazy old Kate has married someone just as crazy as she is.
  • Baptista shrugs his shoulders – Kate's no longer his problem – and tells Bianca and Tranio (as Lucentio) to sit at the bride and groom's. They'll just pretend all that unpleasantness didn't happen and will try to enjoy the celebration without them.

The Taming of the Shrew Act 4, Scene 1 Summary

  • Grumio enters Petruchio's country house, where Curtis and some other servants are prepping for the arrival of their master and his new wife. Grumio complains that he has been traveling fromPaduawith Petruchio and Kate and has been sent ahead to start a fire before they arrive.
  • Curtis begs for news and gossip about the newly married couple, but Grumio picks a fight with Curtis and slaps him around a bit.
  • Grumio says he's too mad at Curtis to describe what happened on the way home fromPadua, but Grumio ends up narrating the entire thing by telling Curtis what he is not going to tell him. He says something like this: "If I wasn't mad at you, I'd tell you how Kate's horse stumbled and threw her off before it landed on top of her in the mud. I'd also tell you how Petruchio pounded me for what happened and how Kate tried to pull him off me but ended up getting even muddier. I'd also tell you how Petruchio swore like a sailor, Kate prayed, and I cried. But, I'm too mad so I'm not going to tell you anything."
  • Curtis says that Petruchio is more of a "shrew" than Kate and Grumio says that Curtis ain't seen nothin' yet.
  • Petruchio walks in and acts all wild. One moment he's calling his servants bastards and lackeys while kicking them around and the next minute he's telling Kate to relax and make herself at home.
  • Petruchio claims that the servants burned dinner and flings some food and dishes around. Kate tries to talk him down (she doesn't yet know that he's messing with her head and, besides, the poor girl's hungry – she didn't even get a piece of wedding cake.) Petruchio announces that they're going to bed without dinner and trots her off to her room.
  • Peter says that Petruchio has put the kibosh on Kate's bad behavior by giving her a dose of her own medicine. Then Curtis tells us that Petruchio is in Kate's room lecturing her on self-control. Kate, of course, is dumbfounded, like someone who has just woken from a "dream."
  • Petruchio enters and delivers a long speech about how his plan to tame Kate has begun. He compares himself to a falcon tamer and compares Kate to a wild bird that must be broken. He'll starve her, deprive her of sleep (all while pretending to have her best interest in mind) until she breaks. This, he says, is the best way to tame a shrew.
  • Petruchio sort of puffs out his chest and challenges the audience to come up with a better way to get a shrewish woman in line.

The Taming of the Shrew Act 4, Scene 2 Summary

  • Back inPadua, outside of Baptista's house, Tranio (as Lucentio) and Hortensio (as Licio) spy on Bianca and Lucentio (as Cambio) as the pair flirt with each other.
  • Hortensio thinks Bianca is acting improper, so he takes off hisdisguise.
  • Tranio (as Lucentio) gets Hortensio to agree to give up his suit for Bianca and they both swear to each other that they will never marry her. Before he runs off, Hortensio says he's going to marry the rich Widow.
  • Tranio, Lucentio, and Bianca get together and laugh at how they got rid of Hortensio so Bianca and Lucentio can run off to Vegas and get married. Tranio says that Hortensio has gone to Petruchio's "taming school" to learn how to tame his future wife, the Widow.
  • Biondello rushes in and says that he found the perfect guy to play the role of Lucentio's dad.
  • The Pedant (meaning "teacher" in Italian, though it's not clear what his occupation is) arrives and says he's come fromMantua.
  • Tranio (as Lucentio) lies and says the Pedant is up a creek without a paddle because the Duke of Padua executes all citizens ofMantuaif they come within city limits. But, Tranio (as Lucentio) will help him out and let him pretend to be his father so he won't be harmed.
  • The grateful Pedant agrees to meet with Baptista and says he will negotiate Lucentio's wedding dowry as if he were Lucentio's real father.

The Taming of the Shrew Act 4, Scene 3 Summary

  • Back at Petruchio's country house, Kate begs Grumio to make her something to eat because she's starving, sleep deprived, and has been verbally abused by Petruchio.
  • Grumio taunts Kate with tasty treats like ox foot and tripe (animal entrails) but ends up offering only mustard. Kate beats him and calls him a jerk.
  • Petruchio and Hortensio show up with a plate full of meat but, when Petruchio sees that Kate is upset, he uses it as an excuse not to feed her. He orders the meat taken away until Kate apologizes for being ungrateful.
  • Hortensio sticks up for Kate and Petruchio whispers in his ear to eat all the meat so Kate can't get any. (Note: we assume Hortensio complies since he's there to learn how to tame an unruly wife.)
  • Petruchio announces that they'll get dressed up in custom-made outfits and travel toPaduafor Bianca's wedding.
  • The Haberdasher (a hat maker) and the Tailor enter and Petruchio yells at them and kicks them out after inspecting their so-called shoddy workmanship. Kate likes the clothes but Petruchio insists they wear old rags to the wedding. He whispers to Hortensio to run after the tailor and pay him for his work.
  • Petruchio delivers a long speech about how clothes aren't important and says things that amount to "It's what's on the inside that really counts – we should just go to the wedding and have a good time."
  • Petruchio then announces that it is 7am, so if they leave now they will arrive inPaduaby noon. Kate points out that it's almost 2pm and they won't get there until close to 6 pm. Petruchio insists that it is whatever time he says and, unless Kate agrees, they're not going anywhere.
  • Hortensio admires Petruchio and thinks that he's the ultimate shrew-taming champion.

The Taming of the Shrew Act 4, Scene 4 Summary

  • Back inPadua, Tranio (as Lucentio) and the Pedant (as Lucentio's father Vincentio) wait for Baptista outside his house.
  • The Pedant is introduced to Baptista as Vincentio and the two men seem pleased with one another and the kids' engagement. They all agree to go to Lucentio's place to settle their business and sign some contracts.
  • Baptista sends "Cambio" (really Lucentio) to fetch Bianca and tell her the good news about her upcoming marriage to Lucentio.
  • Instead of fetching Bianca and taking her to her dad, Lucentio has caught up with Biondello, who brings him up to speed on the arrangements for his elopement with Bianca.
  • While Baptista is kept busy signing fake contracts with Tranio (as Lucentio) and the Pedant (as Vincentio), Bianca and Lucentio will go to St. Luke's church, where a priest is waiting.
  • Biondello tells Lucentio to get to the church ASAP and to make sure he has some reliable witnesses to confirm the marriage. Lucentio runs off to find Bianca.

The Taming of the Shrew Act 4, Scene 5 Summary

  • On the road toPaduain the middle of the afternoon, Petruchio looks up at the sun and says the "moon" looks beautiful. Kate corrects him, but Petruchio says it's the moon or whatever else he says it is. Otherwise, nobody's going to the wedding, capice?
  • Hortensio whispers to Kate to play along with Petruchio, so Kate says "OK, fine, it's the moon." "No," says Petruchio, "it's the sun." "OK," says Kate, "it's the sun or the moon, whatever you want it to be."
  • They encounter an old man (the real Vincentio) on the road toPaduaand Petruchio pretends the guy is a young girl. Kate plays along this time and agrees with whatever Petruchio says.
  • When the party learns that Vincentio is looking for his son Lucentio, they agree to take him to Lucentio's house.
  • Hortensio comments that he's looking forward to his own marriage because he now knows how to deal with the Widow if she gets mouthy and tries to act up.

The Taming of the Shrew Act 5, Scene 1 Summary

  • Lucentio and Bianca run off to get married at St. Luke's church.
  • Meanwhile, Petruchio, Kate, and Vincentio arrive at Lucentio's house, where the Pedant is pretending to be Lucentio's father while he hangs out with Baptista.
  • The Pedant (as Vincentio) comes to the front door and faces the man he is impersonating. He insists that he is Lucentio's father and makes the real Vincentio look like a crazy imposter.
  • When Biondello and Tranio (still disguised as Lucentio) see Vincentio and realize the jig is up, they deny knowing Vincentio to avoid the beating that's surely coming their way.
  • Poor Vincentio thinks that Tranio has murdered his kid in order to assume Lucentio's identity, which makes him look even crazier.
  • The cops are called and Vincentio is about to be carted off to the slammer when the newly married Lucentio shows up with his wife, Bianca. Lucentio immediately kneels at his father's feet and asks for forgiveness.
  • Bianca thinks this is a pretty good idea and says what amounts to "sorry dad" while kneeling before Baptista, who has wandered out of the house to see what all the fuss is about.
  • Baptista demands to know what the heck is going on. Lucentio comes clean, admitting that he's not really Cambio – he's actually Lucentio and he has just married Baptista's daughter.
  • Apparently, Vincentio is a very forgiving and indulgent father because he comes to his son's defense and assures Baptista that they will make the marriage worth his while.
  • Now that the whole mess is straightened out, the group heads inside to the wedding reception. (How can there be a wedding reception planned when Bianca and Lucentio eloped in secret? Remember, Baptista had agreed to let Bianca marry someone named Lucentio – he just didn't know that he was dealing with Tranio disguised as Lucentio.)
  • Petruchio and Kate, who are normally the ones causing a spectacle, have been watching the whole scene unfold. Petruchio asks Kate for a little kiss. She hesitates but agrees to a little PDA anyway. They make out publicly and then follow the others inside for the wedding banquet.

The Taming of the Shrew Act 5, Scene 2 Summary

  • Lucentio welcomes his guests to the wedding banquet and everybody hangs out and shoots the breeze, which involves a lot of trash talk, of course.
  • Petruchio says Hortensio is afraid of his wife, the Widow, so the Widow chimes in and says Petruchio is crazy – he's the one who is afraid of his wife, Kate.
  • Kate confronts the Widow but doesn't shrew out and pull her hair or anything. Seeing his wife in a verbal smack-down with another woman gets Petruchio excited – he cheers on Kate like he's at a bear baiting. (History snack: Bear baiting is an Elizabethan blood sport where a bunch of people get together and watch a pack of dogs tear into a bear that has been chained up.)
  • When the women leave the room, the guys continue their little contest. Petruchio bets Hortensio and Lucentio twenty crowns that his wife is the most obedient.
  • The fellas say they'll take that bet and they send a servant to fetch their wives.
  • Lucentio and then Hortensio look like chumps when Bianca and then the Widow say they're too busy to stop what they're doing for their husbands.
  • When Petruchio sends for Kate, she comes a-runnin' and asks Petruchio how she can serve him. Petruchio orders Kate to fetch the other wives and, to everyone's surprise, she does.
  • Baptista is shocked. He says he doesn't recognize his own daughter, so he's going to give Petruchio another dowry since it seems like Petruchio has married a new and completely different woman.
  • Petruchio goes on showing off and tells Kate to take off her ugly hat. Kate throws her hat on the ground.
  • When Petruchio tells Kate to put the unruly wives in their proper places, Kate does that, too. She delivers the longest speech in play, which is all about how men are like kings and women are like their subjects – women should obey a man's every command. She also says husbands work hard to protect their wives, so women should be obedient. Bianca and the Widow, she says, are a disgrace to wives everywhere.
  • Then, Kate kneels down and fondles Petruchio's feet while saying something like "You're the king, baby."
  • Petruchio kisses Kate and says let's go to bed, baby. Then, he turns to the other men and brags that he's the man – he's landed a rich, obedient wife, and he just took an easy 40 crowns from a couple of suckas.
  • Kate and Petruchio run off to bed, presumably, to make love and then live happily ever after (maybe). The wedding guests stand around with their mouths hanging open.

The Short Story

Introduction to Short Story

A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas (in the 20th and 21st century sense) and novels

A classic definition of a short story is that one should be able to read it in one sitting, a point most notably made in Edgar Allan Poe's essay "The Philosophy of Composition" (1846). Interesting to note that the idea of "one sitting", may no longer mean the same time period, in modern, faster-paced times. Other definitions place the maximum word count of the short story at anywhere from 1,000 to 9,000 words. In contemporary usage, the term short story most often refers to a work of fiction no longer than 20,000 words and no shorter than 1,000. Stories of less than 1,000 words are sometimes referred to as "short short stories",[2] or "flash fiction."

In longer forms of fiction, stories tend to contain certain core elements of dramatic structure: exposition (the introduction of setting, situation and main characters); complication (the event that introduces the conflict); rising action, crisis (the decisive moment for the protagonist and his commitment to a course of action); climax (the point of highest interest in terms of the conflict and the point with the most action); resolution (the point when the conflict is resolved); and moral.

Because of their length, short stories may or may not follow this pattern. Some do not follow patterns at all. For example, modern short stories only occasionally have an exposition. More typical, though, is an abrupt beginning, with the story starting in the middle of the action (in medias res). As with longer stories, plots of short stories also have a climax, crisis, or turning point. However, the endings of many short stories are abrupt and open and may or may not have a moral or practical lesson. As with any art forms, the exact characteristics of a short story will vary by creator.

Elements of Short Story

Short stories usually contain these fundamental components: plot, setting,characters, theme, point of view as well as good writing.

A plot of a short story contains sub-components such as crisis, conflict, and resolution. A crisis "sets up" the story and enables all conflict to occur. Conflict portrays either a struggle between opposing forces or a problem to be solved. Conflicts may occur between people, nature, machines. The resolution or denouement is how the conflict is solved.

The setting is comprised of the time and the location of the short story.

The characters are the "actors" in the story. An author may choose to reveal the characters in chiefly two ways. Direct characterization involves the author explicitly telling the reader about the character, such as, "Helen is intelligent." Indirect characterization involves the author revealing the character though the character's actions and words, such as, "Helen refused to let the problem get the best of her, so she investigated ways to circumvent the obstacle." Most authors use a combination of both direct and indirect characterization.

The theme of a story is the central principle around which the story and character revolves. Longer short stories and novel will have multiple themes. However, most short stories develop one or perhaps two themes. Some have suggested that the theme may be described as the 'lesson to be learned;" however, it is best to describe it as the "main idea" or the guiding principle of the story.

The point-of-view describes the reference point of the story. How does the author choose to reveal the story? Through the eyes of the main character or through a bystander? There are usually three points of view - any short will utilize only one. A first person point of view reveals the thoughts of the main character and  involves the use of first person pronouns by the main character, such as, "I was afraid when I faced the dragon, but I wasn't sure of how Sue felt." The third person limited view reveals the thought of the main character but from an outsider's perspective, such as, "Bob was afraid when he faced the dragon, while Sue remained inscrutable." The third person omniscient view reveals the thoughts of any character the author chooses, such as, "Bob was afraid of the dragon as well as Sue, but she had the presence of mind not to show her fear."


by Kate Chopin

MAMZELLE AURLIE possessed a good strong figure, ruddy cheeks, hair that was changing from brown to gray, and a determined eye. She wore a man's hat about the farm, and an old blue army overcoat when it was cold, and sometimes top-boots.

Mamzelle Aurlie had never thought of marrying. She had never been in love. At the age of twenty she had received a proposal, which she had promptly declined, and at the age of fifty she had not yet lived to regret it.

So she was quite alone in the world, except for her dog Ponto, and the negroes who lived in her cabins and worked her crops, and the fowls, a few cows, a couple of mules, her gun (with which she shot chicken-hawks), and her religion.

One morning Mamzelle Aurlie stood upon her gallery, contemplating, with arms akimbo, a small band of very small children who, to all intents and purposes, might have fallen from the clouds, so unexpected and bewildering was their coming, and so unwelcome. They were the children of her nearest neighbor, Odile, who was not such a near neighbor, after all.

The young woman had appeared but five minutes before, accompanied by these four children. In her arms she carried little Lodie; she dragged Ti Nomme by an unwilling hand; while Marcline and Marclette followed with irresolute steps.

Her face was red and disfigured from tears and excitement. She had been summoned to a neighboring parish by the dangerous illness of her mother; her husband was away inTexas-- it seemed to her a million miles away; and Valsin was waiting with the mule-cart to drive her to the station.

"It's no question, Mamzelle Aurlie; you jus' got to keep those youngsters fo' me tell I come back. Dieu sait, I wouldn' botha you with 'em if it was any otha way to do! Make 'em mine you, Mamzelle Aurlie; don' spare 'em. Me, there, I'm half crazy between the chil'ren, an' Lon not home, an' maybe not even to fine po' maman alive encore!" -- a harrowing possibility which drove Odile to take a final hasty and convulsive leave of her disconsolate family.

She left them crowded into the narrow strip of shade on the porch of the long, low house; the white sunlight was beating in on the white old boards; some chickens were scratching in the grass at the foot of the steps, and one had boldly mounted, and was stepping heavily, solemnly, and aimlessly across the gallery. There was a pleasant odor of pinks in the air, and the sound of negroes' laughter was coming across the flowering cotton-field.

Mamzelle Aurlie stood contemplating the children. She looked with a critical eye upon Marcline, who had been left staggering beneath the weight of the chubby Lodie. She surveyed with the same calculating air Marclette mingling her silent tears with the audible grief and rebellion of Ti Nomme. During those few contemplative moments she was collecting herself, determining upon a line of action which should be identical with a line of duty. She began by feeding them.

If Mamzelle Aurlie's responsibilities might have begun and ended there, they could easily have been dismissed; for her larder was amply provided against an emergency of this nature. But little children are not little pigs: they require and demand attentions which were wholly unexpected by Mamzelle Aurlie, and which she was ill prepared to give.

She was, indeed, very inapt in her management of Odile's children during the first few days. How could she know that Marclette always wept when spoken to in a loud and commanding tone of voice? It was a peculiarity of Marclette's. She became acquainted with Ti Nomme's passion for flowers only when he had plucked all the choicest gardenias and pinks for the apparent purpose of critically studying their botanical construction.

"'T ain't enough to tell 'im, Mamzelle Aurlie," Marcline instructed her; "you got to tie 'im in a chair. It's w'at maman all time do w'en he's bad: she tie 'im in a chair." The chair in which Mamzelle Aurlie tied Ti Nomme was roomy and comfortable, and he seized the opportunity to take a nap in it, the afternoon being warm.

At night, when she ordered them one and all to bed as she would have shooed the chickens into the hen-house, they stayed uncomprehending before her. What about the little white nightgowns that had to be taken from the pillow-slip in which they were brought over, and shaken by some strong hand till they snapped like ox-whips? What about the tub of water which had to be brought and set in the middle of the floor, in which the little tired, dusty, sun-browned feet had every one to be washed sweet and clean? And it made Marcline and Marclette laugh merrily -- the idea that Mamzelle Aurlie should for a moment have believed that Ti Nomme could fall asleep without being told the story of Croque-mitaine or Loup-garou, or both; or that lodie could fall asleep at all without being rocked and sung to.

"I tell you, Aunt Ruby," Mamzelle Aurlie informed her cook in confidence; "me, I'd rather manage a dozen plantation' than fo' chil'ren. It's terrassent! Bont! don't talk to me about chil'ren!"

"T ain' ispected sich as you would know airy thing 'bout 'em, Mamzelle Aurlie. I see dat plainly yistiddy w'en I spy dat li'le chile playin' wid yo' baskit o' keys. You don' know dat makes chillun grow up hard-headed, to play wid keys? Des like it make 'em teeth hard to look in a lookin'-glass. Them's the things you got to know in the raisin' an' manigement o' chillun."

Mamzelle Aurlie certainly did not pretend or aspire to such subtle and far-reaching knowledge on the subject as Aunt Ruby possessed, who had "raised five an' buried six" in her day. She was glad enough to learn a few little mother-tricks to serve the moment's need.

Ti Nomme's sticky fingers compelled her to unearth white aprons that she had not worn for years, and she had to accustom herself to his moist kisses -- the expressions of an affectionate and exuberant nature. She got down her sewing-basket, which she seldom used, from the top shelf of the armoire, and placed it within the ready and easy reach which torn slips and buttonless waists demanded. It took her some days to become accustomed to the laughing, the crying, the chattering that echoed through the house and around it all day long. And it was not the first or the second night that she could sleep comfortably with little Lodie's hot, plump body pressed close against her, and the little one's warm breath beating her cheek like the fanning of a bird's wing.

But at the end of two weeks Mamzelle Aurlie had grown quite used to these things, and she no longer complained.

It was also at the end of two weeks that Mamzelle Aurlie, one evening, looking away toward the crib where the cattle were being fed, saw Valsin's blue cart turning the bend of the road. Odile sat beside the mulatto, upright and alert. As they drew near, the young woman's beaming face indicated that her home-coming was a happy one.

But this coming, unannounced and unexpected, threw Mamzelle Aurlie into a flutter that was almost agitation. The children had to be gathered. Where was Ti Nomme? Yonder in the shed, putting an edge on his knife at the grindstone. And Marcline and Marclette? Cutting and fashioning doll-rags in the corner of the gallery. As for Lodie, she was safe enough in Mamzelle Aurlie's arms; and she had screamed with delight at sight of the familiar blue cart which was bringing her mother back to her.

THE excitement was all over, and they were gone. How still it was when they were gone! Mamzelle Aurlie stood upon the gallery, looking and listening. She could no longer see the cart; the red sunset and the blue-gray twilight had together flung a purple mist across the fields and road that hid it from her view. She could no longer hear the wheezing and creaking of its wheels. But she could still faintly hear the shrill, glad voices of the children.

She turned into the house. There was much work awaiting her, for the children had left a sad disorder behind them; but she did not at once set about the task of righting it. Mamzelle Aurlie seated herself beside the table. She gave one slow glance through the room, into which the evening shadows were creeping and deepening around her solitary figure. She let her head fall down upon her bended arm, and began to cry. Oh, but she cried! Not softly, as women often do. She cried like a man, with sobs that seemed to tear her very soul. She did not notice Ponto licking her hand

الملفات المرفقة

  • pdf (guide-to-literary-terms.pdf - B)
  • pdf (what is literature, pic.pdf - B)
  • pdf (Novel.pdf - B)
  • pdf (tamingoftheshrew.pdf - B)
  • ppt (Drama Intro..ppt - B)


SECOND TERM OF 1439/1440

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الكتابة 2

Writing 2

Engl 214



اساليب التخاطب


Eng 412



الترجمة 2

Translation 2

Eng 411



الشعر الرومانسي

Romantic Poetry

Eng 332



الشعر الفيكتوري

Victorian Poetry

Eng 431



الشعر الحديث

Modern Poetry

Eng 432



النقد الأدبي 2

Criticism 2

Eng 461




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