Taming of the Shrew Meets Modern Filmmakers in Ten Things I Hate About You
Taming of the Shrew, written by William Shakespeare, delves into themes such as the power struggle between man and woman, male dominance, and the effect of social roles on one’s happiness. The play satirizes male dominance and force, and also the social norms that were present in old renaissance culture. There have been many different adaptations of this play since it was written, including the movie Ten Things I Hate About You which modernizes the chauvunistic drama. There are many apparent similarities between the play and the current adaptation of the Taming of the Shrew. For example, the essential plot of the story remains, including Kate’s “shrewdness” and the power struggle between men and women. Although the play and the movie are very similar in their basic structures, there are many differences between the two adaptations, including a far less violent relationship between Kat and Patrick, a different take on the “taming” of Kate, and a better interpretation of Pertruchio.
In the movie, the main characters are very similar to their counterparts in the play. They have similar names such as Katerina, Bianca, Cameron (Cambio), and Patrick (Pertruchio). These characters not only have similar names, but also behave similarly. Kat is every bit the outcasted Shrew that she is in the play. In 10 Things I Hate About You, Cameron pretends to know French in order to impress Bianca. In Taming of the Shrew, Lucentio disguises himself as Cambio and lies about the same knowledge. The movie and the play also both introduce the concept of love at first sight. In the play, Lucentio falls in love with Bianca as soon as he sees her, stating:
O Tranio/ till I found it to be true/ I never thought it possible or likely/ But, see, while idly I stood looking on/ I found the effect of love in idleness/ And now in plainess do confess to thee/ That art to me as secret and as dear/ As Anna to the Queen of Carthage was/ Tranio, I burn, I pine, I perish, Tranio/ If I achieve not this modest young girl. (I.i.19)
In the movie, the character Cameron feels the same way, exclaiming the same words that Lucentio does “I burn! I pine! I perish!” Because of this love, both characters lie to Bianca in order to spend time with her and court her. However, Ten Things I Hate About You and Taming of the Shrew both highlight what would be considered conventional romance with the action of Lucentio/Cameron falling in love with Bianca at first sight.
However, there are major differences between the film and the play. Taming of the Shrew satirizes man’s need to dominate women. In the drama, Pertruchio starves Kate and deprived her of sleep in order to “tame” her. The play focuses on male and female roles in society, referring to the modest and submissive female as the more desirable one, in contrast with the rebellious shrew. As Coppelia Kahn writes, the portrayal of Kate’s shrewdness and how it impacts the male characters around her “focuses our attention on masculine behavior and attitudes that stereotype women as either submissive and desirable or rebellious and shrewdish.” (44.) While Pertruchio claims to love Kate, their relationship is incredibly violent in the actual play. They physically fight in the wooing scene, and Pertruchio abuses her later in the play, claiming that his actions are done out of love:
She ate no meat today, nor none shall eat/ Last night she slept not, nor tonight she shall not/ As with the meat, some underserved fault/ I’ll find about the making of the bed/ And here I’ll fling the pillow, there the bolster/ This way the coverlet, another way the sheets/ Ay, and amid this hurly I intend/ That all is done in revenant care for her. (4.1.185-192)
In terms of film adaptation, Ten Things I Hate About You can only be described as an extremely loose interpretation of the Taming of the Shrew. Kat and Patrick are far less violent towards each other, and in light of the feminist movement going on at the time of the movie, Kat is portrayed as a blaring feminist. She speaks up in class about the patriarchial values that dictate our society, and exemplifies the Riot Grrrl movement, which focused on a “Love of rock music, do-it-yourself projects, political activism, and feminist zines, things that Kat is undoubtedly interested in.” (Kelly Herr) While the two characters may have their arguments, both clearly develop feelings towards each other, unlike Pertruchio and Kate. Though some may argue that the pair love each other, Pertruchio has a more deluded idea of love, claiming that abusing his wife in order to “tame” her is done out of care for her. Kate was also forced into marriage, and while Pertruchio is intellectually matched with her, she would not love a man that treats her in such a way.
Furthermore, the movie adds many differences to Pertruchio’s character. However, there are some parallels between Pertuchio’s treatment of Kate and Patrick’s behavior towards Kat. For example, just as Pertuchio claims Kate is ““pleasant, gamesome, [and] passing courteous” (2.1.242) when she acted in the opposite way so Patrick disembles, pretending to be interested in the bands and books that Kat enjoys. Nonetheless, Patrick’s character differentiates so much from Pertruchio’s that at the end of the movie he is the one who is tamed. For instance, while Patrick does accept money to date Kat, after their first date he seems reluctant to accept the payment, and is uneasy and anxious about the situation, and at the end of the film he uses that money to buy Kat an apology present. Similarly, according to Kelly Herr, “Although Patrick projects a “bad boy” image at the beginning of the film, with rumours circulating that he “lit a state trooper on fire” and “sold his own liver on the black market,” he quickly reveals his tender side to Kat, taking care of her at the house party when she is inebriated and refusing to take advantage of her in her compromised state. Patrick stops smoking for Kat and discloses to her that the rumours concerning his transgressive behaviour are false, as well as opening up to her over the course of the film and becoming emotionally vulnerable.” At the end of the film Kat does not make a speech about wifely obedience like Kate’s does. Instead, Patrick apologizes to her and seeks repentance for his duplicity. This apology is completely different from the unrepentant Pertruchio depicted in the final pages of Taming of the Shrew.
Kat/Kate’s transition from play to movie is also a complex one. In the film, Kat demonstrates shrewdness in several ways; one of which through her clothing. In the beginning of the film, she can be seen in dark colors, including her camouflage tank top which Joey refers to as her “Rambo look.” She also wears her hair pulled back unceremoniously, and a minimal amount of makeup, which indicates her nonconformity. Kat clearly does not want to appear attractive to the male sex, as indicated by her ensembles and the fact that she kicked a male in the groin. The movie first establishes her shrewdness by making her intolerant of male authority and patriarchal culture, as shown by her argument with her male professor. All of these qualities that she possesses makes her dubbed the “heinous bitch” by her schoolmates. However, Kat’s “taming” in Ten Things is extremely different than the process undergone by Kate. As Kelly Herr states “Rather than being forcibly and violently subjugated by a man, instead Kat experiences a general softening of her character. Kat’s “softening” throughout the movie is mainly achieved by disclosing to the audience Kat’s private experiences and motives; for example, while Kat’s desire not to conform appears at first to be “bitchiness,” later in the movie she tells Bianca that she succumbed to peer pressure and had sex with Joey at a young age, and that she never wanted to be put in a similar situation again. Similarly, the disclosure that she kicked a boy in the genitals, an act that frames her at the start of the movie as castrating and incorrigible, is explained later in the movie by the fact that he tried to “grope” her in the lunch line.” Instead of a shrew, Kat is depicted as someone who does not want to give in to conformity, as well as someone who does not wish to sacrifice her own personal integrity.
The movie Ten Things I Hate About You is an incredibly loose adaptation of the play Taming of the Shrew. While the play satirizes male dominance in relationships, it comes across as a sexist and chauvinist drama that highlighted culture in Shakespeare’s time. The movie instead takes themes from the play and shapes them in order to conform to modern culture and conventional teenage rom com style theater. These various themes include social division, which can be seen in the tropes of high school cliques in Ten Things I Hate About You. Like Taming of the Shrew, desirability is linked with social status, as seen by the fact that Bianca is more popular than Kat and therefore more sought after. The film also changes the “taming” narrative of the play, with considerable effects on Kat and Patrick. This change allowed for the movie to become a major success, and also made it far more appealing to the audience, which would have consisterd of pre teen and teenage girls.
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