“It is a ravening beast, feigning itself gentle and tame, but being touched it biteth deep, and poisoneth deadly. It beareth a cruel mind, desiring to hurt anything, neither is there any creature it loveth.”
So wrote Edward Topsell about the European common shrew in his History of Four-footed Beasts, 1607. The above etching was the illustration that accompanied the definition. By Shakespeare’s day, a person who was called a “shrew” was most often a woman (the term was applied to both sexes in the previous generation), and many of the characters in Shakespeare’s play think of Katherina in the terms described later by Topsell.