Vincentio is the father of Lucentio, a key character in William Shakespeare’s wild comedy, ‘The Taming of the Shrew.’ Find out about this character and his surprise impersonator!
What’s in a Name?
It was Shakespeare himself who most famously posed the question ‘what’s in a name?’ through the character of Juliet.
Well, the answer seems to depend on the circumstances, even for Shakespeare.In The Taming of the Shrew the name Vincentio holds a great deal of importance. It comes up in scene after scene, well before the actual character arrives on stage.Although the play is a comedy, it offers valuable insights into the way power works in a world of status based upon wealth and family lineage. In fact, Vincentio’s name winds up carrying more weight and authority than the man himself does when the consequences of ongoing disguise and deception come to a head in the final act.
Before meeting him, we know that Vincentio is the father to the protagonist Lucentio, who is scheming to marry the woman of his dreams by dressing in disguise. When the actual Vincentio makes his appearance at the end of Act 4, he is immediately drawn into the confusion that drives the comedy of the play.Vincentio meets Petruchio, Kate, and Hortensio on the road to Padua, and before his name can establish him, Petruchio, who has been using a kind of contrary reality to moderate Kate’s willfulness and resistance, tests her by referring to Vincentio as a young woman. Kate immediately follows his lead, at which point Petruchio shifts it back to reality and asks her how she could mistake an elderly man in that way.
Again, Kate rolls with it, and addresses Vincentio accordingly.While obviously caught off guard, Vincentio treats the exchange as a bit of fun and introduces himself as Lucentio’s father, and as Vincentio. With that, Petruchio curtails his shenanigans, and shows Vincentio the respect his name commands. They continue on toward Padua together.What Vincentio doesn’t know is that his son is pretending to be a tutor while his servant Tranio pretends to be Lucentio and another servant pretends to be Tranio. Meanwhile, a pedant (traveling scholar for hire) pretends to be Vincentio. All this to help the real Lucentio become the husband to a girl of his fancy.
This plot feature, revolving around disguise and mistaken identity, is a frequent trope or device in Shakespeare, in other words, a recurring technique or formula used for effect, regardless of the unique story or characters involved.
Vincentio’s Near Arrest
When the group arrives at Lucentio’s home in Padua, the real Vincentio is in for a surprise. Being in the home associated with the name Lucentio, the pedant has the more convincing claim to the name Vincentio, and he plays up the part to the hilt. The other disguised servants, even though they recognize the real Vincentio, back the pedant in order to remain loyal to Lucentio and his scheme.
The Vincentio impostor calls for the authentic Vincentio to be arrested as an impostor, to the approval of most of the crowd assembled.However, just when we think that Vincentio will actually be hustled off to jail, Lucentio appears to name his actual father and restore order. Vincentio recovers his dignity and his senses quickly, showing the influence of the name when wielded by its valid owner. He steps in to promise Baptista that proper amends will be made for Lucentio’s bizarre approach to seeking Bianca’s hand in marriage, but he also swears a severe penalty for those who would have seen him arrested, particularly Tranio.
Fortunately for Tranio and the other servants, this is a comedy, and Vincentio’s anger seems to have blown over by the final scene, where he joins the post-wedding feast and seems content as the proud and happy father.
The character Vincentio, who is Lucentio’s father in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, is in some ways less important than the power and social significance carried by his name. In fact, despite being named in numerous scenes, Vincentio does not actually appear until the very end of Act 4. His character is immediately caught up in the comic trope (a standard technique) of disguise and deception.At first, Vincentio meets with Petruchio, who gets his wife to refer to him as a young woman. Then when they all get to Padua, Lucentio’s servants, including one who is dressed as Vincentio, all keep up the pretense even in the real Vincentio’s presence, and he is nearly arrested for impersonating himself!All is resolved when Lucentio arrives on the scene to clear up the various misunderstandings, and the actual Vincentio is able to use his name to smooth over the remaining difficulties and formalize his son’s engagement to Bianca.