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Comparison of Taming of the Shrew to Ten Things I Hate About You

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The Taming of the Shrew is an early work by the famous playwright William Shakespeare. This comedic play written in the sixteenth century explores the ideas of a women’s place in society, as well as the patriarchal hierarchy of the Elizabethan era that it was set in.

The narrative and general themes seen in this play have, been re-enacted and recreated in many forms since it’s inception. Ten Things I hate about you, a film directed by Gil Junger, is one such modern adaptation of the original Shakespeare play. This recreation is comparable in many ways but has been altered to fit in with the change in the era and social context.

Overall both the shrew and ten things I hate about you, follow a similar narrative. In the shrew the “fair and virtuous,” Bianca is lusted after by many suitors, because of her “silence…mild behaviour and sobriety.” However she is not to be wed until her sister, “the curst and shrewd” Katherina, is married first. It is seen as a difficult proposition as Katherina’s “scolding tongue” makes her an extremely undesirable bride. This is resolved however when one of Bianca’s suitors finds Petruchio, a man willing to marry her, because he is promised in doing so he will become “very rich.”  They marry despite Katherina’s protests, and Petruchio to “make her come and know her keeper’s call,” attempts to tame his new wife by depriving her of food and sleep. Petruchio ends up practically beating his wife into subservience, and Bianca who eloped with her suitor Lucentio becomes the most shrewish wife.

In the film, this basic plot line is followed with several changes made to bring it into the modern era. It starts with the sister’s father decreeing, Bianca is not allowed to date until her sister the  “mewling, rampalian wrench” Kat does likewise. Cameron seeking to go out with the beautiful and popular Bianca manipulates Joey, another prospective suitor, into paying Patrick to go out with Kat. Although Kat is resistant at first they end up falling for each other after numerous fights and romantic gestures. Bianca ends up falling for Cameron, after realizing Joey’s truly horrid nature, and punches him in the face at prom for all his misdeeds.

It is obvious the film version of the play has been romanticized and trivialised by this Hollywood recreation. This stems from its creators attempt to gratify their target audience, which is quite different from fifteenth century England that the play was targeting. There resultantly is a lot more clichés apparent, and the plot is more focussed on the formation of love rather then gender positioning in relationships.

One major example of this is the relationship between Kat and Patrick. In the shrew this relationship, shown through Katherina and Petruchio, is focused on the Petruchios methods of subduing his wife’s volatile nature. His “remedy is then to pluck,” Katherina’s “waspish” nature out of her, as it is unreasonable for Katherina to assume a dominant place in their relationship. In the film the relationship is more focussed on Patrick’s attempts to “woo” her, then to change Kats vehement personality. Patrick statement “I didn’t care about the money, I cared about you” directly contrasts Petruchios intent to marry Katherina because of her “wealth.” Petruchio only cares about gaining a subservient wife, going to extremes of starving her to achieve this, whereas Patrick tries to win her love by singing in front of everyone.

This example showcases the lessened notes of misogynistic behaviour in the society the film takes place in. It can furthermore be showed by the difference in reception of sexist acts in both texts. In the play Petruchios feelings on a women’s place in society is obvious, stating, “I will be master of what is mine own. She is my goods.” He views Katherina as a commodity that he can mould to his own ideals, by subjecting her to various atrocities. When he showcases his wife’s newfound subservience his is commended for the “wonder,” and given “twenty thousand crowns,” by Kats father. This marks Baptista happiness his daughter finally conforms to what men want, to be in control. The attitude of many characters towards women in the play is reflected through Joey. He constantly makes fun of Kat the "bitter self righteous hag" especially when she expresses her opinions. He also similarly objectifies Bianca, as a prize to be one similar to Petruchio with Katherina. Instead of being rewarded for this attitude, he ends up being laughed at and punched in the face. This change in reception shows the progression of the society the film takes place in.

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