Induction, Scene 1
Christopher Sly drunkenly argues with the hostess of an ale house as she throws him out of her bar. She wants him to pay for the glasses he broke, but he refuses. He quickly passes out just outside the door.
A Lord comes by with his hunting party. He comments on the fine abilities of his different hunting dogs before noticing the drunken Sly. He decides it would be great fun to play a prank on the drunk. He tells his servants to take Sly home, dress him in fine clothing, and put him in the finest bedroom. Then, when he wakes up, all of the servants will treat him like a great Lord who has gone mad for the past several years.
Conveniently, a troupe of actors comes by at that time to play for and stay with the Lord for the night. He lets them in on the joke and asks them to act for this new “Lord”. They eagerly agree to participate.
Finally, he decides to have his page dressed like a woman to play the wife.
Induction, Scene 2
Sly wakes up and the servants immediately offer him something to eat, drink, and wear. He thinks they’re all being ridiculous and explains that he just a simple tinker. The real Lord tells him this is a great joke, but Sly insists that he knows who he is. They say that this must be the madness that makes his wife weep and all his relatives shun him.
They explain to him that he is a fine Lord. They ask if he wants to rest on his luxurious couches, walk about his grounds, listen to music, hunt, or have fine artwork painted for him. They remind of him of his fine horses and dogs and, of course, his beautiful wife. At this point, Sly begins to wonder if this is the dream or if his whole life has been a dream. They explain to him that he has been in some sort of trance for fifteen years, mumbling about people and places that don’t exist.
That’s when his wife enters to see how her husband is doing. He asks her name, but they apparently didn’t think of that so they say he should just call her Madame or Wife. He tells the servants to leave so he can have happy fun times with his wife. She says they can’t because it could cause him to go mad again (also she’s a boy). A messenger explains that some players are their to entertain the Lord. He agrees to see the comedy.
Act I, Scene 1
Lucentio, a young man from Pisa, has travelled to Padua to begin his studies. He is greatly looking forward to diving into his scholarly pursuits. His servant, Tranio, has apparently seen Love’s Labors Lost and warns his master against giving up on the fun things in life to focus on his studies. Lucentio agrees that he will keep experiencing life.
Hortensio and Gremio have come to woo the fair Bianca, but her father is having none of it. He refuses to see Bianca courted until his older daughter, Katherine, finds a husband. Unfortunately, Katherine is not an easy woman to get along with. They call her cursed and shrewd. Katherine apparently overhears them and comes out ready to fight. She explains that she is not so easily won that they could ever woo her.
Bianca is concerned that she may never get married. Her father assures her that he won’t love her any less. Katherine scoffs at his response. Bianca asks how Katherine can be so happy at Bianca’s sadness. She assures her father that books and music will be her only companions. Baptista again expresses his resolve that Katherine must be married first. He says the only men he will welcome into his home are tutors for his daughters.
After Baptista and his daughters leave, Hortensio explains to Gremio that all of their problems will be solved if they find a husband for Katherine. Gremio doubts this is possible, but Hortensio is optimistic because her dowry is good. Some man would put up with her for enough money. They agree to put their competition aside and work together to find Katherine a husband.
Lucentio expresses his love for Bianca. Tranio reminds him that Katherine has to get married first and she is just the worst. Lucentio can only focus on Bianca though and cooks up a plan to get close to her. He decides he will disguise himself as a tutor to get access to Bianca. The problem is that he can’t just disappear from Padua, people are expecting him. He decides that Tranio should act as Lucentio and even woo Bianca as Lucentio. (To be honest having Tranio also woo Bianca makes no sense, but whatever.) They get the house servant, Biandello, on board with the hoax.
The servants ask Sly if he is enjoying the play, but he was asleep and hopes it will be over soon.
Act I, Scene 2
Petruchio and his man Grumio arrive from Verona to visit a friend. Petruchio’s father recently passed away, making him the Lord of the family. He is traveling to experiencing the world and to find a wife. He tells Grumio to knock at the gate, but Grumio thinks he wants to be hit. Grumio refuses to hit his master and a quick argument occurs.
Hortensio comes outside to see what all the ruckus about and the misunderstanding is quickly cleared up. Hortensio welcomes his friend into his home. While they are talking, Petruchio brings up the fact that he is looking for a wife. Hortensio jokingly mentions that he should marry Katherine. Petruchio is intrigued when he hears she is wealthy. Hortensio explains that he would not wish Katherine on any man, but Petruchio insists. Hortensio explains the situation and Petruchio becomes determined to marry and tame Katherine. They head off to Baptista’s and Hortensio decides to disguise himself as a music teacher.
On their way, the run into Gremio and Lucentio, who is now disguised as Cambio. Gremio explains that he has hired the schoolmaster to read poems of love to Bianca and woo on his behalf. Hortensio thinks this idea is silly, but sets that aside for the moment to explain that he has found a husband for Katherine. Gremio doubts Petruchio is up to the challenge, but he remains determined. Even Grumio can’t doubt that Petruchio will be able to tame Katherine.
Tranio, as Lucentio, and Biondello enter the scene. Tranio asks where he might be able to find Baptista’s house. They ask why he wants to know. He explains that he is coming to woo one of Baptista’s daughters. Petruchio tells him to forget about Katherine and the other two just want him to go away. They don’t need any more competition. They all agree to woo Bianca after Petruchio marries Katherine.