The themes of William Shakespeare’s classic plays still ring true today, and audiences everywhere continue to enjoy them, both through the traditional play performances and through more contemporary interpretations. Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and the 1999 movie 10 Things I Hate About You, a modern day rendition, revolve around two sisters, one of whom detests the status-quo and does not involve herself romantically, the other of whom is widely sought after by a range of suitors. However, young Bianca is not permitted to have a romantic relationship until her shrewish sister, Kate, does first. Bianca’s admirers devise a solution to this problem: to pay a man with a strong spirit to become involved with Kate. The film effectively embodies Shakespeare’s original characters, while also examining softer sides of their personalities that are not expressed in the play. Additionally, the film highlights the discrepancies between a courtship in the late 1500s and dating in the 1990s.
The characters of Patrick Verona and Petruchio provide a contrast to Shakespeare’s ideas as well as a modern parallel. Both characters were compensated to make advances on a difficult, strong-willed woman. How they chose to treat the aforementioned woman, however, is where they vary. Petruchio’s intention is to shatter Kate’s fiery spirit in their marriage, while Patrick’s feelings are genuine and his intentions are pure. In the play, Petruchio goes to great lengths to squander Kate’s individuality and mold her into an obedient, mindless plaything. Petruchio speaks with Kate: “And better ’twere that both of us did fast, Since of ourselves, ourselves are choleric, Than feed it with such over-roasted flesh. Be patient, tomorrow ’t shall be mended, And, for this night, we’ll fast for company” (IV.i.109-113). Though he acts upon the pretense of overcooked food, Petruchio’s only intention is to deprive his new bride of sustenance so to weaken both mind and body to better bend her to his will. Contrastingly, Patrick goes to superfluous lengths to ensure Kat’s happiness. Patrick interrupts Kat’s soccer practice to serenade her over the loudspeaker whilst dancing across the bleachers in front of a large group of their peers. Here, Patrick’s only motive is to express his sincere apologies over an altercation the two had had the day before. His actions are not prompted by a wish to rob Kat of her sense of self, as are Petruchio’s in keeping Kate from food and sleep. Instead, Patrick wishes only to see joy in the eyes of the one he cares about.
In regards to their impassioned spirits, Kat and Kate are kindred souls, yet in the play, Kate is far more burdened with the weight of oppressive gender roles. In both interpretations, it is clear the female lead is regarded by others as a shrewish tyrant. The women are feared by their peers, especially those of the opposite sex, who are intimidated by their strong wills. Kate, who at the time should have already been married off to a wealthy man, was without any suitors. Upon being told of this, Kate responds, “I’ faith, sir, you shall never need to fear. I wis it is not halfway to her heart. But if it were, doubt not her care should be To comb your noddle with a three-legged stool And paint your face and use you like a fool” (I.i.61-65). Kate is entirely untroubled by her lack of marriage options. She wants nothing to do with men and wishes not to enter into a marriage. Kat is also uninterested in a romantic relationship with any of the immature boys she goes to school with. She thwarts all their advances in a humiliating manner, never responding to her male peers with anything but rude, cynical remarks. Both women are content to live as independent, strong women without male companionship
However, while Kat’s scorn is brushed off by others as her typical behavior, something to be expected of her, Kate’s is received as something far worse. At the bridal dinner, Lucentio remarks, “tis a wonder, by your leave, she will be tamed so” (V.ii.194). The men in Padua all view her as someone who must be “tamed”, as though she is some wild animal to be whipped into shape, and they consider it a feat when Petruchio finally managed to squash her vigor under his boot. While Kate and Kat had similar vehement tendencies, Kate must fight much harder to speak her mind.
Indeed, the circumstances under which the characters in the play and in the movie engage with each other are vastly different. In the play, the endgame for the suitors of both sisters is marriage. They discuss dowries, payment made by the bride’s family to the groom upon marrying, at length. Petruchio inquires of Baptista, Kate and Bianca’s father, “Then tell me, if I get your daughter’s love, What dowry shall I have with her to wife?” (II.i.112-113). Furthermore, by the end of the play, three couples have been married. In the film, though, the teenagers do not even begin to approach a commitment as binding as marriage. Patrick and Cameron, the movie counterpart for Lucentio, wish only to take the girls out on a date and to the prom. For his part, Joey Donner, an interpretation of Hortensio, had far more carnal and repulsive plans for himself and Bianca. Luckily, his plan fell apart quickly and Bianca expressed her feelings towards him with the use of her fists. If Bianca in the play had acted in any such way, she would face terrible consequences and likely be deemed not fit for marriage by the entire slew of her suitors, for what could any Renaissance-era man possibly want with a troublesome wife?
While the 1999 film 10 Things I Hate About You upholds the integrity of William Shakespeare’s characters in his play, The Taming of the Shrew, it is amended to elucidate the continuing importance of Shakespeare’s timeless themes and apply them to a new generation. The movie is an effective modernization of the original play, as it changes marriage to dating and slackens Petruchio’s relentless misogyny into the softer, more modern methods of Patrick, while Kate’s equivalent remains fierce as ever. The movie allows Shakespeare to seep into the minds and hearts of a much younger generation.