When sitting down to read The Taming of the Shrew, I assumed it would follow the same five act structure as all the other plays thus far. Imagine my surprise when I opened up the play and instead there was an Induction before the first act. In fact, in the Dramatis Personae, there is a listing of characters that only appear in the Induction. I’ve never read a play with this interesting little structural add-on before. It appears to be a frame story that the story proper fits within. It’s a strange little setup, and I am interested to see where it goes from here.
The Induction starts with a drunk peasant in front of an alehouse arguing with the hostess of the establishment, refusing to pay for some drinking glasses he smashed. She goes off to call the constable and he passes out under a bush. A lord comes by, returning from a hunt and spies the guy sleeping it off and immediately comes up with a practical joke of dubious comical value (don’t even get me started on what Shakespeare thinks is funny). The lord gets his servants to set up a scenario in which the drunk guy wakes up in a beautiful room in the lord’s manor, surrounded by nice things, with all of the lord’s servants pretending the peasant is really the lord and he has just been living in a delusion of poverty for fifteen years. They even decided to dress up the lord’s page as a woman and have him tell the peasant he is his wife. Everybody has a good laugh (?) at this plan and they rush the drunk peasant off to get it all started. Some dramatic players happen by and the lord engages them to perform for the poor fool as part of the “joke”.
The rest of the scene is really just the plan being put into motion and our peasant readily accepting the idea that he has been insane for many years and now has come out of it to live a life of leisure. Now the players come in and begin to perform for him, and this is where the play actually begins.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve never seen a play with an Induction before, so I don’t exactly know its purpose, but so far it seems like it could be a good way to introduce the actual play. I don’t know. We’ll see how it gets used by the end of the play. Next time: Act One!