Disability and the Characterization of Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew

Rachel E. Hile


Despite numerous studies of the origins and meanings of Katherine’s shrewishness in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, no scholar has analyzed the role of disability in Katherine’s feelings of alienation and her ultimate transformation.  In the wooing scene, we learn by indirection that Katherine has a limp through the references to the way she walks.  This article analyzes the references to Katherine’s limp in adaptations of the play during the 17th and 18th centuries, considering the significance of retaining these references even when stage productions of the plays have not included representation of a disabled Katherine.  The article then discusses the ways that visual representation of a disabled Katherine in performance might affect interpretations of the meaning of the play, including attention to a 2008 production of the play in which the actress playing Katherine performed the role with a limp.


Keywords: William Shakespeare, Taming of the Shrew, Katherine, mobility impairment, ugliness, marriage, disability.


William Shakespeare; Taming of the Shrew; Katherine; mobility impairment; ugliness; marriage; disability

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v29i4.996

Copyright (c) 2009 Rachel E. Hile

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ISSN: 2159-8371