Having arrived in Padua, the seat of great learning, son of the great merchant Vincentio of Bentivolii Lucentio decides to dedicate himself to study. However, Lucentio’s servant Tranio to whom Lucentio has confided the decision, advises Lucentio to avoid taking up his studies too seriously lest his seriousness mar enjoyment without which there’s no profit in learning, or so Tranio argues. Lucentio agrees with Tranio’s argument when several Paduans enter the scene, compelling Lucentio and Tranio to observe the goings-on from afar.
Baptista, a rich gentleman of Padua and the father to Katherina and Bianca, assures two Paduans Gremio and Hortensio that their attempts to woo Bianca will be in vain, i.e. Bianca will be sequestered and barred from all suitors until the older daughter Katherina is married off first. To that end, Baptista asks Gremio and Hortensio, who have doubts that there is a man alive who would wed himself to Katherina and her scolding tongue, to recommend a suitable tutor for Bianca who is to confine herself to serious study while sequestered. Bianca readily acquiesces to her father’s wish, but Katherina is predictably wayward. First, Katherina objects to her father making a public spectacle of her, and secondly she refuses to stay and converse with Gremio and Hortensio as her father would have her do.
Left to their own devices, Gremio and Hortensio decide it’s in their best interests to put their heads together and find a husband for Katherina.
Meanwhile, Tranio marvels at his master’s claim that he has fallen in love with Bianca. When Lucentio avows that he has indeed fallen in love, Tranio encourages him to do all he can to win her love. Presently, Lucentio decides to pose himself as a tutor and thereby become Bianca’s tutor only to be reminded by Tranio that Lucentio’s obligations are many in Padua and that to leave them unattended would be unthinkable.
Subsequently, counting on the fact that they are recent arrivals to Padua and that no one recognizes them, Lucentio decides Tranio will pose as Lucentio and attend to Lucentio’s many obligations while Lucentio goes to woo Bianca. By and by, Tranio and Lucentio meet up with another of Lucentio’s servants Biondello who is perplexed to see his master in Tranio’s clothes and vice versa. Lucentio explains (lies) that having killed a man upon his arrival in Padua that he is hiding from the law. Though Biondello is reluctant to do so, Lucentio urges Biondello to treat Tranio as if Tranio were Lucentio.
Presently, an actor addresses Christopher Sly and asks if he is enjoying the play. Sly wonders if the play has ended only to be told it has just begun. Sly urges the actors to proceed with the rest of the play.
A gentleman from Verona Petruchio wrings the ears of his servant Grumio when the latter misunderstands and fails to knock at the gates of Hortensio who is Petruchio’s old friend. By and by, Hortensio answers the door, welcomes his old friend, and asks him what it could be that has brought him to Padua. Petruchio replies that his father Antonio has died, that he has inherited a fortune, but having nothing to apply his fortune to in Verona, that he has come to Padua to find himself a wife.
In passing, Hortensio mentions Katherina as a possible wife for Petruchio but promptly retracts the statement, arguing that he wouldn’t wish upon his worst enemy the misfortune of wedding Katherina and her scolding tongue. Nonetheless, Petruchio presses for details and when told that Katherina would be an ideal wife for anyone but for her temper and shrewish ways, Petruchio dismisses Hortensio’s warnings and demands that Hortensio take him to see Katherina immediately. Hortensio agrees to do so, provided that Petruchio recommends Hortensio, who will be disguised, to Katherina’s father as a suitable music tutor for Bianca. Hortensio explains that he is in love with Bianca who the father will keep sequestered and away from all suitors, until the day Katherine has been wooed and wed.
They are thus on their way to Baptista’s house when they run into Gremio who is accompanied by Lucentio, who is disguised as a tutor. When asked what he is up to, Gremio explains that he will recommend Lucentio as Bianca’s tutor and that Lucentio will woo Bianca on Gremio’s behalf. Putting their rivalry for Bianca’s love aside for the moment, Hortensio tells Gremio of their savior Petruchio who intends to woo and wed Katherina, the success of which will freely allow Gremio and Hortensio to woo Bianca to their hearts’ content. On account of Katherina’s scolding prowess, Gremio is skeptical, but Petruchio assures him that he will not be cowed by a woman’s scolding tongue as he has been witness to things far more fearful, such as the roar of lions, tempests at sea, and cannon shots in the field of battle.
Presently, Tranio, who is dressed sharply and is accompanied by Biondello, enters the scene and asks for the whereabouts of Baptista Minola. Alarmed that he might be on his way to woo Bianca, Gremio and Hortensio discourage him from visiting Baptista. Even Petruchio discourages Tranio, going so far as to stake his sole claim of Katherina. Tranio speaks so well, however, that he convinces them not to begrudge him his purpose whatever it may be. By and by, they all agree that Petruchio is their common savior and that they all should strive to do what they can to insure Petruchio’s success. They decide to go and drink to their solidarity.