Prior to the first act, an induction frames the play as a "kind of history" played in front of a befuddled drunkard named Christopher Sly who is tricked into believing that he is a lord.
In the play performed for Sly, the "Shrew" is Katherina Minola, the eldest daughter of Baptista Minola, a Lord in Padua. Katherina's temper is notorious and it is thought no man would ever wish to marry her. On the other hand, two men – Hortensio and Gremio – are eager to marry her younger sister Bianca. However, Baptista has sworn not to allow his younger daughter to marry before Katherina is wed, much to the despair of her suitors, who agree that they will work together to marry off Katherina so that they will be free to compete for Bianca.