UNIVERSITY OF TARTU DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE THE CONTEMPORARY SHREW: AN ANALYSIS OF TWO MODERNISED FILM APPROPRIATIONS OF SHAKESPEARE’S THE TAMING OF THE SHREW BA thesis LIIS KAASIK SUPERVISOR: LECT. RAILI POLDSAAR TARTU 2008 ABSTRACT The aim of the thesis is to analyse how the contemporary context and genre conventions have affected the representation of different characters and the plot in two modernized film versions of The Taming of the Shrew, ShakespeaRe-Told Taming of the Shrew (2005), directed by David Richards, and 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), directed by Gil Junger.
The thesis is divided into four sections: Introduction, Historical and Theoretical Background, Analysis of the Modernised Film Appropriations of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and the Conclusion. The Introduction states the aim of the thesis, explains the importance of Shakespeare’s work in contemporary world and introduces the films discussed in the thesis.
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The second section of the thesis, Historical and Theoretical Background, firstly defines the terms adaptation and appropriation, discusses the different methods of adaptation and appropriation literature, theatre and film, with special attention to the advantages film has over the other means of reinterpretation. The section also gives an overview of Kenneth Rothwell’s classification of Shakespeare, in particular recontextualisation. Finally it gives examples of different film versions of The Taming of The Shrew.
The Analysis of the Modernised Film Appropriations of Shakespeare’s The Taming of The Shrew gives a short overview of the films analysed discusses the influences the chosen genre has on the mode of reinterpretation. Then the representation of the main characters – Katherina, Petruchio, Bianca, Baptista, Hortensio, Gremio, Lucentio or their counterparts – will be discussed along with the relations inside the Minola family, the relations between Bianca and her suitors and the relationship of Katherina and Petruchio. The Conclusion summarises all the sections of the thesis and discusses the main differences between the films analysed.
TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. Abstract…………………………………………………………………………………… 2 2. Introduction………………………………………………………………………………4 3. Historical and Theoretical Background………………………………………….. ………7 4. Analysis of the Modernised Film Appropriations of Shakespeare’s The Taming of The Shrew…………………………………………………………………………………. ……16 5. Conculsion………………………………………………………………………………32 6. References………………………………………………………………………………34 7. Resumee…………………………………………………………………………… ……35 INTRODUCTION Besides the tales which are told and then forgotten, there are some which are retold by each new generation throughout history.
These stories survive because they touch the themes which are everlasting and remain topical regardless of the time which has passed since the creation of the original story. Still, although human nature remains the same, people, life and culture change and so do the stories – each retelling reinterprets the tale in order to retain the significance of the story for the people of that particular time. The retelling of stories means that they are adapted and altered so that they would fit the current culture. However reinterpretations work as reinterpretations only when the audience is familiar with the theme and the plot.
That is the reason why well known stories – myths and legends, but also classical literary pieces – are chosen for reinterpretations as they are recongniseable for the majority. Shakespeare is one of the writers whose stories are retold and reinterpreted constantly because, as Jackson Russell (2007: 321) has said, “Shakespeare is the space where the past meets our uncertain future. ” In other words the themes Shakespeare wrote about hundreds of years ago – love, vengeance, ambitions, justice – have not lost their significance.
The issues he dealt with in his plays are still present in the modern world and so his works matter to the contemporary audience. Another reason for Shakespeare’s popularity is that his works are very varied and therefore it is not surprising that there are many people who want to create their own versions of the stories told be him. Reinterpretations themselves may occur in many forms, but in the contemporary world one of the most important ways of retelling is film, as it is a method with very distinct creative recources and reaches a very broad audience.
The popularity of Shakespeare adaptations can be seen in the fact that his works have been used as a source for film productions from the era of silent films to today. This thesis is going to focus on the screen adaptations of Shakespeare’s work, in particular two reinterpretations of The Taming of the Shrew. The choice of the play is based on the fact that of all plays written by Shakespeare, some are filmed more often than others. Besides the four famous tragedies (Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear and Othello) there is a comedy that has also been reinterpreted more often than others – The Taming of the Shrew.
There are almost 20 film versions based on the play. One reason for it is certainly that the story is about the everlasting power-struggle between men and women, which, although gender roles have changed a lot, is still topical. The genre of comedy makes it possible to deal with the topic with humour and therefore more openly than other genres would allow it (Henderson 2003: 120). The films analysed here are ShakespeaRe-Told: The Taming of the Shrew (2005) directed by David Richards and 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) directed by Gil Junger.
Both of them have brought Shakespeare’s play into the modern world and created reinterpretations which make the story relevant to contemporary audiences. At the same time the two films are very different from each other as, although they take place in contemporary world, they depict two very different worlds using different genres– the British political circles in the form of a farce and an American high-school in the form of a teen-comedy.
This means that the directors have made very different choices in their reinterpretations and therefore the story and the characters have been altered in different ways. The aim of the thesis is to analyse how using the contemporary context has affected the representation of different characters in the two modernised film versions of The Taming of the Shrew. For that purpose the concepts of adaptation and appropriation in general will be discussed with focus on appropriations and recontextualisations of Shakespeare.
The thesis also covers gender roles during the 16th century and in the contemporary world to explain why The Taming of the Shrew needs to be adapted to retain its relevance to today’s viewers. The main part of the thesis is going to analyse the two films, ShakespeaRe-Told: The Taming of the Shrew (2005) and 10 Things I Hate About You (1999). The discussion concentrates on the representation of the main characters and the relations between them in the context of the chosen mode of recontextualisaton. HISTORICAL AND THEORETICAL BACKGROUND Reinterpretations can be divided into adaptations and appropriations.
Julie Sanders (2006: 19) states that adaptations are often “specific process[es] involving the transition from one genre to another” and “reinterpretations of established texts”. The difference between adaptation and appropriation is that adaptations stay closer to the original and are recognisable as adaptations of certain works, while appropriations tend to move “away from the informing source into a wholly new cultural product and domain” (Sanders 2006: 26) making more alterations than adaptations and sometimes even creating a new story.
For example the musical My Fair Lady based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion is an adaptation as the musical stays quite close to the original plot, while Graham Swift’s novel Last Orders is an appropriation of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying as there are many overlaps between the two novels, but the stories are different because they take place in different contexts and have a different focus (Sanders 2006: 32-33).
As the possibilities of adaptation and appropriation are very wide, it is not surprising that the world of Shakespeare adaptations and appropriations is extremely diverse as he wrote numerous plays on different themes, which in turn can be retold in various manners. One possibility is to create a play which uses the same plot as Shakespeare but gives a new angle to it. A good example of this is Tom Stoppard’s Rozencrantz and Guildernstern Are Dead, which is an interpretation of Hamlet from the perspective of two minor characters – Rozencrantz and Guildernstern.
Also there have been literary works which retell a play form a different angle, such as Jane Smiley’s novel A Thousand Acres which is based on King Lear but is told from the perspective of his eldest daughter and Margaret Atwood’s short story titled Gertrude Talks Back, which gives the reader the perspective of Hamlet’s mother, who in the play does not have much say (Sanders 2006: 49). Another widely used possibility of adapting and appropriating plays by Shakespeare is film, which is a mode of reinterpretation very different from literature and theatre.
Literature gives the reader more possibilities of interpretation and leaves more room for imagination than film or theatre, in which the impressions are determined by the directors choice of actors and settings. Theatre and film are more similar to each other as both involve actors performing a written script and can influence the viewer with music and lighting in addition to words. But there are also significant differences as film usually looks more like “real” life as the acting in film is more “natural” than in theatre where emotions have to reach the last rows.
On film the camera can get close to the actors and capture even the smallest facial expressions. Also, in theatre one sees the play from one position but film, by using skilful camera-work, allows the audience to see more angles. Film also enables the director to use various settings while in theatre the action takes place on the same stage throughout the play and although the decorations can be changed for different scenes, the possibilities are still not as wide as in film. Although all films based on the plays by Shakespeare are adapted or ppropriated in some way as all directors alter the play in some respects, there are many films which attempt to create a more “authentic” production. These films construct a setting which would look historical, either bearing in mind the content of the play or the time when Shakespeare wrote it, and keep the original text and language. Often these films look like theatrical productions, although it must be said that they still use the advantages film has when compared to theatre.
Hamlet (1948), directed by Laurence Olivier, is an example of such adaptations because in it the original text is used and the costumes and settings create the illusion of being historical, even if they do not represent medieval Denmark, which would be the true context of the play. There are also films which derive from Shakespeare, but abandon the original play in some ways. These productions move away from the text of Shakespeare by giving it a new context, new angles or new subplots while being based on some element, for example the general plot, of the original.
Kenneth Rothwell (1999:218-219) has divided these derivations into seven categories : recontextualisatons, mirror movies, music/dance films, revues, parasitical films, animations and documentaries or educational films. Recontextualisatons move the play to a new era and/or place and do not use the exact words of Shakespeare, but maintain the plot. There are many examples, such as Joe Macbeth (1955) directed by Ken Huges, which puts the story of Macbeth into Chicago gangland or Romanoff and Juliet (1961) directed by Peter Ustinoff which tells the timeless story of the star-crossed lovers in the context of the Cold War.
But there are also recontextualisatons which do not change the language, such as Hamlet (2000) directed by Michael Almeyrada, in which the plot of the play is taken to New York and into the year 2000 (Rothwell 1999: 219; 220-221). Mirror movies involve two plots: the one of a play by Shakespeare and the other about the life of the actors performing the play. Usually the life of the actors begins to reflect the plot of the play. One of the most popular play by Shakespeare used for this type of derivation is Othello, used for films such as Carnival (1921) directed by Harley Knoles and Men Are Not Gods 1936) directed by Walter Reisch, which both involve actors who are performing Othello with the events of the play developing parallels with their personal life. Other plays which have been turned into mirror movies include Hamlet in In the Bleak Midwinter/A Midwinter’s Tale (1995) directed by Kenneth Branagh which tells the story of actors who are staging Hamlet in an abandoned church, and Richard III in the Goodbye Girl (1977) directed by Herbert Ross, which is the story of an actor who plays Richard III in an off-off Broadway production (Rothwell 1999: 219; 222-225). Music and dance films turn the plays of Shakespeare into musicals.
Usually these films are based on theatrical productions and not directly on Shakespeare. A well known Shakespeare musical is West Side Story (1961) directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise, which retells the story of Romeo and Juliet in the context of New York gang wars. Other examples include The Boys from Syracuse (1940) directed by A. Edward Sutherland, which takes it plot from the Comedy of Errors and Kiss Me Kate (1953) directed by George Sydney, which is based on The Taming of the Shrew (Rothwell 1999: 219; 225-226). Revues use the concept of biography, documentary or even horror shows to perform some scenes from Shakespeare’s plays.
Films of this type include Prince of Players (1954) directed by Philip Dunne, where Richard Burton plays an actor who performs various scenes from different plays by Shakespeare, such as Hamlet and Richard III. Theatre of Blood (1973) directed by Douglas Hickox also falls into this category as the film tells the story about an actor who decides to kill the critics who had destroyed his career using methods of murder applied in Shakespeare’s plays such as Julius Caesar, Richard III and Titus Andronicus (Rothwell 1999: 219; 226-227). Parasitical films borrow some short verbal or visual quotations from Shakespeare’s plays.
One of the most often quoted plays of Shakespeare is Hamlet and the “To be or not to be” soliloquy in particular, which for example occurs in My Darling Clementine (1964) directed by John Ford and Morning Glory (1933) directed by Lowell Sherman. Even the cult TV-series Star Trek quotes Hamlet in the episode The Conscience of the King (1966). Other plays used in parasitical films include The Midsummer Night’s Dream, used in The Dead Poet’s Society (1989) directed by Peter Weir and Romeo and Juliet which is used in for example The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (Rothwell 1999: 219;227).
Animations, as the name suggests, put Shakespeare into the form of cartoons. The first animation based on Shakespeare was Othello by Anson Dryer in 1920. In 1959 Jiri Trnka made an animation of The Midsummer Night’s Dream and during 1992-1994 a set of 18 plays called Shakespeare: The Animated Tales, including Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar and As You Like It, was released. One of the most popular animated derivations of Shakespeare is certainly Lion King (1994) directed by Roger Alles and Rob Minkoff, which turns Hamlet into a power struggle inside a pride of lions in Africa (Rothwell 1999: 219; 227-228).
Documentaries and educational films are pedagogical productions, which may overlap with other categories. For example Shakespeare: The Animated Tales mentioned above was meant for introducing Shakespeare to schoolchildren. Other examples include Discovering Hamlet (1990) directed by Mark Olshaker which focuses on the development of a theatre production of Hamlet and the Playing Shakespeare series (1984) in which John Barton teaches the viewers, with the help of other actors, how to perform Shakespeare (Rothwell 1999: 219; 228).
Some films clearly belong to certain category, such as Joe Macbeth (1955) which is a pure recontextualisaton. However there are also some production which can be fitted into more than one category, such as Kiss Me Kate (1953) which is a musical and a mirror movie at the same time as the plot also involves the lives of the actors, or West Side Story (1961) which is again a music and dance film, but also a recontextualisation. Therefore it can be said that the classification offered by Rothwell is not absolute as it is not possible to fit all films into specific categories.
Still, this typology gives us the chance to make the versatile world of Shakespeare on film somewhat more organised. All types of derivations of Shakespeare have their own strengths. Recontextualisations bring the audience closer to the play when it is moved to a contemporary context or just give new angles to the events and characters. Mirror movies give the audience a chance to see some of the original play and at the same time create a new story around it. Music and dance films move the stories into a completely new genre.
Revues build a new plot around Shakespeare’s plays so that the audience recognizes some parts of the film. Parasitical films use some quotations from the plays and give the audience the pleasure of recognition. Animations make it easier for children to relate to and understand Shakespeare. Documentaries and educational films give information and have pedagogical importance. There can be many different appropriations, falling into various categories, which are based on one play. As mentioned in the introduction The Taming of the Shrew has been the basis for about 20 films.
The first film production of the play, directed by D. W Griffith,was released in 1908, According to this version of the play Petruchio tames Katherine by mirroring her behaviour and making her realise that she is too vicious with others, an interpretation also used in later productions. The first sound production from 1929, directed by Sam Taylor, carried a secondary message for the contemporary people as it starred the super-star couple Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks and their personal relationship offered a parallel to that between the main characters of the film.
The representation of Katherine in this film were strongly affected by the choice of the actor – as Pickford (1955: 311) herself notes: “Instead of being a forceful tiger-cat, I was a spitting little kitten”. This the demand of the director who wanted her to keep her soft image and not be too strong and intense (Henderson 2003: 120-134). The two films discussed above are adaptations, but there have also been appropriations which fall into the categories of derivations proposed by Rothwell.
For example the music and dance film Kiss Me Kate, which also can be classified as a mirror movie as the two main characters portray actors performing the roles of Katherine and Petruchio, both on the stage and in their own lives. There are also recontextualisations, such as the TV-series Moonlighting, in which the original play is only slightly reflected in the theme of the series which focuses on the continuous battle between the male and female lead. The Taming of the Shrew has also been animated as it was included in the Shakespeare: The Animated Tales series, intended for educating schoolchildren.
Already this fact is a sign of the importance of The Taming of the Shrew among the works of Shakespeare (Henderson 2003: 120-134; Rothwell 1999: 225-226). The two reinterpretations of The Taming of the Shrew analysed in the thesis are set in the contemporary world and can be classified as recontextualisatons. ShakespeaRe-Told: The Taming of the Shrew (2005) is put into the context of contemporary British political circles and takes the form of a farce while the 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) is Shakespeare in the form of a teen-comedy set in an American high-school.
Both films have created a new text so that the language of Shakespeare is lost, although the directors use the general plot which has been altered to some extent. The reason why The Taming of The Shrew cannot be modernised without alterations in the plot is that society has changed extensively since the time when the play was written, especially when it comes to gender relations. The central theme of the play is the battle of the sexes. The original play emphasises that the key to marital happiness is that men should be in control of women and that wives should obey their husbands unconditionally – the shrews have to be tamed.
The contemporary social norms are different as the role of women has changes and women have become more equal with men and this the final conclusion may seem anachronistic to contemporary audiences. Therefore the modernisation of the play has to include alterations in the outcome and the general attitude of the play to retain its relevance. During the 16th century, when Shakespeare wrote the play, women’s main “job” was to marry and bear children. A good wife had to be humble and obedient to her husband and obstinate women were frowned upon. Although the head of the country was a woman– Elizabeth I – women in general did not have a voice as hey were always legally represented by the head of the household, that is their father or their husband. This meant that the fathers were also in control of the choice of a husband for their daughters. Thus it can be concluded that The Taming of the Shrew represents the reality of the time when it shows Baptista’s worry about the marriageability of, the dowry negotiations and the praise of obedient wives. Although there must have been exceptions, unruly women like Katherina, the social norms of the time approved the male domination and Katherine of the end of the play is a representation of the ideal wife of the time (Palliser 1992: 70-79).
The role of women has changed to a great extent from the time of Shakespeare. Contemporary norms and laws state that men and women should be treated as equals and have the same rights, such as the right to vote and work. Modern women have careers outside the home and other concerns in addition to marriage and children. It is possible for a woman to be successful at, for example, politics or science, both of which were considered to be male fields in the past. Men are no longer obliged to take care of the women as the latter are considered to be self-sufficient.
However, there are still people who believe that women are inferior to men and/or the wife should only focus on home and the family while the husband works. This means that the discussion over gender-roles continues and is still a topical issue (Rowbotham 1997: 581-591). These cultural changes mean that if a production of The Taming of the Shrew would carry the original meaning, it would not fit the general norms of today’s society. Therefore the play has to be altered so that it would be in greater harmony with contemporary understandings of the role of women.
This suggests that the portrayal of the characters and the relationships between them has to be modernised. At the same time, the plot and the genre of the original play can still be used for making humorous statements about the roles of contemporary women and men. The following parts of the thesis are going to focus on the alterations made in the portrayal of the main characters and the relations between them in ShakespeaRe-Told: The Taming of the Shrew (2005) and 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) and discuss how the choices made by the screenwriters and directors have affected the message of he play. ANALYSIS OF THE MODERNISED FILM APPROPRIATIONS OF SHAKESPEARE’S THE TAMING OF THE SHREW The discussion below concentrates on the ways in which the characters created by Shakespeare have been represented in today’s context and what changes have been made in the plot and the relationships between the characters. The analysis begins with a short overview of the film, focussing on events relevant for the thesis, and a discussion of the general influences the genre of the film has had on the adapted plot.
Then the representation of the main characters – Katherina, Petruchio, Bianca, Baptista, Hortensio, Gremio, Lucentio or their counterparts – will be discussed along with the relations inside the Minola family, the relations between Bianca and her suitors and the relationship of Katherine and Petruchio. As the latter is central in the film and the play, it will be covered in greater detail than the other elements. ShakespeaRe-Told: The Taming of the Shrew(2005)
The film begins with introducing Katherine Minola, a bad-tempered single woman in her thirties making a career in the British parliament by running for the position of the leader of the opposition. She is advised to get married to benefit her campaign, but due to her temper there are no willing suitors. Meanwhile her younger sister – a famous super-model – Bianca rejects her manager Harry’s (Hortensio) proposal of marriage by stating that she will marry only when Katherine does.
When Harry’s friend, an eccentric and financially broke British aristocrat Petruchio, the 16th Earl of Charlbury, arrives in London, after having been deported from Australia, to find a rich wife. Harry instantly thinks of Katherine as it would also solve his problem. He introduces Katherine and Petruchio and the latter instantly proposes to her. When she finds out that Petruchio has a title she accepts.
The wedding is a disaster as Petruchio is late and shows up dressed as a woman, after which Katherine is so venomous towards Petruchio that he decides to tame his wife during the honeymoon in Italy, by depriving her of food, sleep, clean clothes and sex until she “will be nice to him”. He succeeds and they find a balance in their relationship. Back in the UK Katherine becomes the leader of the opposition. The wedding of Bianca and Lucentio, a young Italian, is cancelled when Lucentio refuses to sign a prenuptial agreement, as his goal was to get rich through marriage.
The mother of Katherine and Bianca, Baptista Minola supports Bianca in this question, but the happily married Katherine states that a woman should respect and obey her husband, the same way a husband should respect his wife. The film finishes with Katherine telling Petruchio that she is pregnant with triplets and that Petruchio has to stay home with them as she will continue her career. This production moves the play into the world of British politics and turns it into a farce, which means that the situations and the actions of the characters are extremely exaggerated, even ridiculous.
Therefore it is possible to use the original plot, including its treatment of women, as the viewers recognize the farcical nature of the film and do not take it as a serious social commentary. Also all the characters in this production represent recognizable stereotypical figures whose personalities have not been fleshed out due to which the viewers perceive them not as real people, but more as parodies of stereotypes. Still the makers of the film have made some significant changes in the portrayal of the characters and in the plot, which reflect contemporary world and practices.
The first time the audience sees Katherine Minola she is yelling at her secretary and throwing things at him because he had given her insufficient information. She is presented as a true shrew – ridiculously violent, bad-tempered, rude and with no self control. The reason why the audience accepts making a successful woman into a laughing stock is the choice of the context – Katherine is a politician and people generally mock political figures.
Also all her negative characteristics are reinforced in a way which clearly indicates that the film is a farce and therefore Katherine is not supposed to be a realistic portrait – no politician could get away such behaviour. However while in the play Katherine was violent and rude but had no power over others as her fate was still controlled by her father and later by her husband, in the film she seemingly has much influence as she is politician, although in a way she is controlled by her voters and her party which is why she has to get married. Shakespeare’s Petruchio was boisterous and daring but still a realistic person, but the Petruchio of ShakespeaRe-Told: The Taming of the Shrew is similarly to Katherine, turned into a farcical figure. His character is based on the stereotype of eccentric and broke British aristocrats. This is emphasised by making him a cross-dresser but also letting him quote Shakespeare and exhibit excessive self-confidence.
He is described by his best friend Harry as “just an unstable, unbalanced exhibitionist who needs someone to think the world of him. ” This portrayal of Petruchio makes it possible to include the taming process itself in an almost unchanged manner, because his eccentricity explains his methods. As in the original play Bianca is very different from her older sister, but while Shakespeare’s Bianca was a sweet-tempered and passive girl, the Bianca of this production is a woman who knows exactly what she wants and how to get it.
The two sisters are similar in that they both have successful careers, but while Katherine strives to break through in a male-dominated sphere, Bianca’s career is very feminine. She is represented as a typical rich and successful super-model who is adored by the public and used to getting whatever she wants, including men as in the film she is the one who pursues Lucentio not vice versa. When compared to the play, Bianca has been given much more power to control her own life, reflecting the changed position of women in today’s world.
At the beginning of the film Lucentio, the young Italian fortune-hunter, remains very mysterious as he is seen seldom and does not say much, but in the end his true nature is revealed when it comes out that he is marrying Bianca to become wealthy so that he would not have to worry about his education or career. Therefore he is probably the character who has been altered the most, because in the play Lucentio was the embodiment of pure romantic love, whereas in the film his intentions are purely rational. As he wishes to live off Bianca’s riches, it implies that he would become financially dependent on his wife – a “kept man”.
This is a significant alteration as traditionally this behaviour is more associated with women and at Shakespeare’s time it was the husband who made money and the wife depended on him. Harry, the counterpart of Bianca’s suitor Hortensio, is a well-known type, the stereotypical middle-aged manager who has dedicated his life to his client, who does not value his efforts. He also represents the typical sensitive man who does not have luck with women as he complains to Petruchio “I can see their inner beauty, but they never see mine. This development clearly is an sign of modernisation as in the film Harry is a soft and emotional man, therefore his portrayal is somewhat feminine. In the 16th century these qualities would have not been generally acceptable in a man as then gender-roles were more clear-cut and men were expected to be masculine. Another character who has been altered to a great extent is Baptista Minola, the father of Katherine and Bianca, who in this film has been turned into their mother – a rich widow whose main interest is spending money. She does not have control over her daughters and is more of an observer.
This speaks of how the role of parents has changed since the 16th century, as then it was common that the parents made the important decisions for their children, especially daughters, but adult daughters are shown as being responsible for their own lives in today’s context. Another significant alteration involves ,Baptista being made into a woman. In the play the mother of Bianca and Katherine existed but was not spoken of, indicating the typically powerless role of women in that time while in the film the audience knows that there must have been a father, but he is never mentioned and it is the mother who takes centre stage.
Similarly to Shakespeare’s Baptista, she is closer with Bianca than with Katherine. The difference lies in the type of relationship Bianca and Baptista have as in the play it was the relationship between a loving father and the daughter he is trying to protect and care for, but in the film Bianca and Baptista are more like friends who go to beauty parlours together and chat about men. Baptista is distant from Katherine because Katherine’s political career and aspirations are not interesting to her and she does not pprove of Katherine having neglected the world of feminine activities that Baptista and Bianca share. For example in the scene where the family meets for lunch it is obvious that Katherine feels left out of the “female community”. She does not understand the world of her mother and sister and they do not understand her as they tactlessly joke about her potential marriage. Also, as the life of Bapista and Bianca revolves around glamour and reputation they are ashamed of Katherine’s bad-tempered behaviour and lack of fashion sense which increases the gap between them.
The relations between the two sisters in the play are complicated because Katherine is envious of Bianca’s popularity and her relationship with Baptista. This tension has been kept in the film. The difference lies in the way how this conflict is represented. In the play Katherine expressed her resentment directly by constantly fighting with Binca and even by inflicting physical violence. The modern context makes the use of violence impossible as a successful politician beating her super-model sister would be too improbable even for a farce.
Therefore Katherine expresses her feelings by attacking either Bianca’s fans or friends, for example during the scene in the restaurant she goes into a fit of rage because some people want Bianca’s autograph and at Bianca’s farewell party she smashes a guitar over the head of a friend of Bianca’s because she thinks he was making fun of her. However the relationship changes by the end of the film, because after her marriage Katherine starts to feel superior to her sister and no longer is jealous of her life.
At the beginning of the film Katherine to envies Bianca as there is no-one who would like to be “shackled to a gorgon like you [Katherine]”, as Bianca puts it, but Bianca is surrounded by male-admirers. Bianca’s relations with men are controlled by herself and not by Baptista or the men, which is a remarkable alteration as in the play the suitors had to pay as much attention to negotiations with the father as to wooing Bianca. In the film this aspect of Bianca’s relationships with men is completely omitted as the mother does not participate in any decision-making.
Another difference in Bianca’s relations with men is that in the play Bianca is a passive character whose fate is controlled by her father and the will of her suitors as she lets herself to be wooed but does not take any action. In the film she is the active side as she introduces herself to Lucentio, asks him to teach her Italian and finally seduces him. The only independent action taken by Lucentio is using the opportunity to marry a rich woman.
This change shows the influence of the modern context where it is common for women to play active roles in relationships. In the film, as in the play, the reason why Petruchio is interested in Katherine is money, but in this case it is Katherine herself who is wealthy and not her father, another example of the influence of the changed social context as in Shakespeare’s times it was generally impossible for women to own property and wealth belonged either to the father, the husband or other male relatives.
Also, in the film Petruchio is not the only one to benefit from the marriage. Katherine agrees to marry him because of his title as a marriage to an aristocrat is beneficial to her party leadership campaign, but the only advantage of marriage to Shakespeare’s Katherine was that she would not end up as a spinster. The relationship between Katherine and Petruchio in the film centres on the process of taming and this has not been altered much when compared to the play and includes the same key events – the wedding, the honeymoon and Katherine’s final speech.
The wedding is as strange in the film as it was the play – Petruchio arrives late, drunk and wearing women’s clothes, but manages to persuade Katherine that not going through with the wedding would be even worse for her reputation than marrying him. The difference is that in the film the public humiliation implied by the episode has a bigger effect on Katherine as she is a public figure and the wedding was intended to benefit her career.
Petruchio’s intention here was to show her that she has to keep her private life separate from work as everything she does should not only revolve around her political career, but in the play he just wanted to show that a husband can do anything and the wife has no right to object. During the honeymoon in Italy Petruchio deprives Katherine of food, clean clothes, sleep and sex. Shakespeare’s Petruccio used the same methods, but the difference is in the reasoning behind the actions.
In the play Petruccio argued that the food, the bed and the clothes were not good enough for his beautiful wife and by that he robbed Katherine of the reason to object but in the film Petruchio does not hide behind any reasoning but simply states that he will not end this torment unless Katherine changes her attitude. This change is probably not caused by the context but by the farcical nature of the production.
The taming results in changes in Katherine’s principles and behaviour which are reflected in her speech, which she delivers while arguing with her sister and mother about whether prenuptial agreements are reasonable and necessary or not. As she says: I think that your husband is your lord and your life and your keeper. He is the boss. Day in and day out he emits his body to painful labour and all we do is sit at home in front of the telly all day eating chocolates. I know I do when I’m not running the country. I have been like you – argumentative, obnoxious, bad tempered.
And what good did it do me? Eh? I think you should do whatever he tells you to to, whenever he tells you to do it. I mean, good lord, how could we ever be equal to them – big, noisy and opinionated. And we are little and noisy and opinionated. /… / I think you should be prepared to place your hands below your husbands feet in token of your duty to him. /… / I would if he’d ask me to, but he won’t ask me to, because he feels exactly the same way about me and he wouldn’t expect anything from me what I wouldn’t expect from him.
The speech clearly shows how the taming has changed Katherine – she has learned that she has to keep her career and her family-life apart and that although she is running the country and has political power she should not enforce her will over her husband. Still, unlike the Katherine in the play, in the speech she does not say that a woman should be completely subordinate to her husband but, in accordance with modern views, she states that women and men should be equal – they should expect the same things from the other what they are willing to do themselves.
This is an important change in the speech, because the original only emphasised that the husband is the lord and called for a total submission from the wife. The original play concluded with Katherine and Petruchio going to bed, but the film shows us subsequent events and how their marriage worked out – Katherine gives birth to triplets, but does not give up her career and eventually becomes the Prime Minister, which can be concluded from the photograph of Katherine and Petruchio standing in front of 10 Downing Street. Petruchio stays at home and takes care of the children, but does not lose any of his eccentricity or childishness.
This ending, is also a marker of the modernisation of the play – although Katherine learns to accept the need to surrender some of her independence to her husband, in the end it is the husband whose role is changed more dramatically as he has to assume the domestic role while Katherine continues her public career. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) The film begins with introducing Katarina Stratford (Katherina Minola), a teen rebel who objects to all norms of high-school popularity and is perceived by others as a “heinous bitch”.
Then a new student, Cameron (Lucentio), enters Padua High School and on his first day falls in love with Bianca Stratford, Katarina’s sister. In order to get her attention he becomes her French tutor as Bianca and Katarina are not allowed to date boys. During the first tutoring session Bianca tells him that their father, Walter Stratford (Baptista Minola), has changed the rules and Bianca can date when Katarina does. Therefore Cameron, with the help of a friend, devises a plan.
They trick a rich model Joey Donner, (Hortensio/Gremio) who is also interested in Bianca, into paying off the strangest boy in the whole school – Patrick Verona (Petruchio) – so that he would date Katherine. Patrick’s first attempts to ask Kat on a date fail, but finally he succeeds in winning her attention. This is followed by a series of conflicts between the couple. Meanwhile Bianca at first uses her freedom to date Joey Donner, but as she gets to known him better, loses her interest and begins to date Cameron. As the prom is the centre of American teen -life, all major plot-lines culminate during the events surrounding it.
Firstly, as Katarina has decided not to go, and therefore Bianca cannot go either, they have a fight which results in a heart-to-heart conversation during which Kat explains the motives of her behaviour. Secondly, at the prom, as Kat finally decides to go, Patrick reveals his true past to her and she also finds out that Patrick had dated her for money. Thirdly, the negative character of the film – Joey – is attacked by Bianca and becomes the object of humiliation. The prom is followed by Katarina’s final speech which is in the form of her reading a poem in the English class, where she confesses her true feelings for Patrick.
The film ends with the two sisters finally getting along, the father admitting that he cannot control her daughters and Katarina forgiving Patrick. 10 Things I Hate About You is a teen-comedy set in an American high-school, and therefore it uses the typical concepts and solutions of the genre while interlacing them with elements from Shakespeare’s play. This has resulted in some significant changes in the plot as, firstly, marriage has been substituted with dating, secondly, the taming-process is much milder and, thirdly, the prom, as a traditional centre of teen -life, is included as a culmination of events, as customary in teen-comedies.
Also the characters of the play are portrayed as typical teen-flick characters – Cameron is the nice and a bit nerdy boy, Bianca the beautiful and selfish girl striving towards popularity, Walter the overprotective father, Katarina the intelligent rebel, Patrick the mysterious bad -boy and Joey the popular, egoistic and self-indulgent character whom the audience hates. As mentioned above, Katarina is a typical feminist teen-rebel who objects to everything that has to do with popularity and norms.
She expresses her views by ripping off prom posters, listening to indie-rock girl-bands, speaking her mind whenever she can and sometimes even by pure violence. For example on one occasion she causes serious injuries to a schoolmate who offended her. She is also intelligent and witty, having excellent verbal skills, as did Shakespeare’s Katherine. Consequently, most of the students at Padua High are afraid of her, but still the film’s Katarina is a milder and more likeable character than Katherine in the play.
In the film people do not laugh at her, but at her jokes. The audience does not perceive her as a mad shrew, but rather she is admired for her independence, intelligence, courage and sharp language. She is portrayed in a way that the viewers can relate to her as a real person, which is very different from the way how for example the Katherine of the ShakespeaRe-Told: The Taming of the Shrew is presented.
Petruchio, the gentleman from Verona who is looking for a rich wife is transformed into Patrick Verona, an Australian boy with a mysterious past, feared my most people at the school due to the his strange behaviour, such as playing with fire, and the rumours which revolve around him, for example that he has been in prison and once ate a live duck. At the same time he is not foolish or unintelligent as he is a verbal equal to Katarina and his reason for behaving strangely is to experiment with people and their reactions.
However, in the course of the film he decides to lose his image of a bad -boy and changes his behaviour, therefore it can be said that in a way, in this film he is also the shrew who is tamed. This shows the contemporariness of the film as in Shakespeare’s time the presentation of a woman taming a man would have been unthinkable. Bianca Stratford is represented as the typical beautiful and superficial girl who strives for popularity and is therefore the opposite of her sister, similarly to Shakespeare’s Bianca.
The contrast between the sisters is also emphasised by their speech and conversation topics. When we first see Bianca, she is having a discussion with her best friend on the difference between “like” and “love”, arguing that there is a distinction because “I like my Sketchers, but I love my Prada backpack”, while Katherine talks about Silvia Plath and the “oppressive patriarchal values that dictate our education”. The play does not create such an intellectual contrast between the sisters, probably because the intellectuality of women was not emphasised in the society at the time when it was written.
This portrayal of Bianca is interesting, because it makes her a somewhat negative character, but as she is influenced by her sister and Cameron, her nature changes and she loses her egoism. Therefore it can be said that she is another shrew who is tamed. Lucentio’s equivalent, Cameron, is the cute but a bit nerdy boy often seen in teen-flicks probably because many of the target viewers can relate to such characters. Similarly to the play he is portrayed as the opposite of Patrick – in the play Lucentio is a romantic lover and Petruchio a rational-minded gold-digger and in the film Patrick is the bad -boy and Cameron is the typical sweet guy.
The difference is that in the film they work together – Cameron is the one who helps Patrick to win Katarina’s heart and Patrick encourages Cameron not to give up on Bianca while in the play there is no direct connection between the actions of the two characters. This change is caused by other alterations made in the plot as in order to make it possible for Patrick to employ the “taming methods” he uses, it is necessary for him to have an ally who would get him information about Katarina.
Another reason for the co-operation is that the film has also omitted the communication between the suitors and Baptista. In the film Cameron’s plan to woo Bianca does not include pretending to be a teacher while his servant is pretending to be him to negotiate with the father, so without him being involved in the taming of Katarina and devising the plan to get the father to let Bianca date, his role would be too empty and insignificant.
It is difficult to determine whether Joey Donner is the counterpart of Hortensio or Gremio as he is not the direct equivalent of either. While Hortensio and Gremio where rivals of Lucentio, they remained neutral, but Joey is presented as a purely negative character. In the film he is the common enemy as he is the cause of Katarina’s behaviour, the rival of Cameron, the cause of the fight between Patrick and Katarina at the prom and has interest in Bianca only to prove that “no-one is out of reach” for him.
This development is not connected with the modernisation of the play, but with the recontextualisaton and the genre as he is the popular, rich, selfish and excessively confident character, who is typically seen in teen-comedies as the foe of the protagonist. In this film Baptista Minola is transformed into Walter Stratford – a typical middle-aged single father who tries to protect his daughters and believes that he knows everything about the world of teenagers and how out of control it is.
He is a gynaecologist who on daily basis has to deal with teenage girls having children and this has made him paranoid as he believes that all parties lead to orgies and that any contact with boys is dangerous. When compared to Baptista, it is clear that his intentions are very different. Baptista’s goal in allowing Bianca to be married only after Katherine is to insure that someone would marry both of his daughters and Katherine would not become a spinster, but Walter’s aim is to make sure that neither of them date to avoid unwanted pregnancy and too early marriage.
This reflects the contemporary ways of life as today the issue of teen pregnancies worries many parents and most of them prefer that their children stay away from the opposite sex for as long as possible as early marriage is seen as seriously damaging a girl’s chances of getting an education and having a professional career, both of which are considered to be essential in having a satisfactory life. The relations inside the Stratford family generally reflect those of the Minola family, but the difference lies in the reasoning behind the behaviour of the family-members.
In the play the father has better relations with Bianca than with Katarina because as Bianca is the sweet-tempered sister, the father sees her as an ideal daughter, but he can not understand Katherine’s behaviour and thinks of her as a shrew who should be married off as soon as possible. In the film, the father explains the reasons why he seems to favour Bianca as “Fathers don’t like to admit it when their daughters are capable of running their own lives, it means we’ve become spectators.
Bianca still lets me play a few innings – you’ve had me on the bench for years. ” This explanation makes the film more realistic in today’s circumstances and is used because of the genre as teen-flicks have to appear recognisable to the audiences. This also explains the relationship between Bianca and Katarina In the film they constantly fight as they did in the play, but physical violence has been omitted, probably because it would make Katarina a more negative character than the film-makes have desired.
In the play the reason behind Katherine’s behaviour is her envy for Bianca because of the latter’s admirers and the attention she gets from their father. But in the film Katarina’s motive, on the one hand is her rejection of the norms of high-school popularity towards which Bianca strives and, on the other hand, she is trying to prevent her sister from making the mistakes she once made as she also was involved with Joey Donner who used her sexually. After the prom, when Bianca has realised that Katarina was right about Joey, they develop a friendly relationship of trust, which never happens in the play.
Cameron’s friend Michael describes Bianca as “a snotty little princess, wearing a strategically planned sundress to make guys like us realise that we can never touch her, and guys like Joey realise that they want to. ” It can be seen from the quotation that in this production Bianca is not the mild and modest girl as in the play, but a rather manipulative young woman who knows how to gain attention and uses it do increase her popularity. Therefore at first Joey seems to be a good choice for her, because he is the most popular boy of the school and a relationship with him would benefit Bianca’s status.
Unpopular Cameron interests her only because he can help Bianca to find a boyfriend for Katarina. As Bianca develops in the course of the film her attitude changes as she realises that Joey is just a self-centred narcissist and that Cameron truly cares about her. This reasoning behind her choice is different from the play, where the contrast between Hortensio and Lucento is that the latter is younger and more attractive to Bianca, but not that the former is unpleasant and abhorrent.
Also, while in the play the decision maker is the father, in the film he can decide whether Bianca can have a boyfriend but not who the boyfriend should be. This is a sign of contemporariness as in today’s western -culture the control of parents over who their children interact with is much weaker than it was in the time of Shakespeare when the children where completely under the control of the father. Patrick’s interest in Katarina is initially triggered by money, as in the play, but in this case the money comes from Joey and not from Baptista.
Also, Patrick is not looking for a rich girl to date, but just seizes the opportunity for some easy money and fun. The difference also lies in the fact that Patrick sees Katarina as something more than a source of money – at first he is intrigued by her because she is not afraid of him as most people are and then at the concert of Katarina’s favourite band, where he goes in order to make Katarina think that they have the same interests, he realizes that there could be more in Katarina than the “heinous bitch” everyone sees.
The process of taming is the most significant alteration in the plot of the play as the goals and methods used by Patrick are very different from Petruchio’s. Although he refers to the process as “taming the wild beast”, his intention is to make Katarina accept and trust him. Patrick tries to be interesting, pretends to have the same interests, quits smoking, is caring and understanding and accepts Katarina for who she is, instead of tormenting her in order to make her submit to his will or change her nature.
It can even be said that Katarina has a bigger effect on Patrick than he has on her as Katarina’s behaviour does not change much during the course of the film – she opens up to Patrick and learns to trust him, but is still the same rebellious teen girl as in the beginning of the film. Patrick on the other hand develops from the bad-boy into a sweet and caring boyfriend who is willing to lose his reputation for the girl he loves. This is seen, for example, in the scene where he performs a love song to Katarina at the school stadium and by that reveals that he is not as tough as he seems to be.
Also, during the prom he uncovers his past and loses the mystery surrounding it and by that his reputation within the school. The taming concludes with Katarina’s speech, as it does in the play. In the film it is presented in the form of a recitation of an English assignment, writing a new version of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 141 The content of the poem Katarina composed reveals that she has feelings for Patrick, but does not contain anything on the theme of gender-roles or the battle of the sexes because of the differences in the taming process discussed above.
The change in Katarina can be explained by looking at the context. The recitation takes place at school, which has been the centre of the whole film, and in front of Katarina’s classmates, including Patrick and in particular Joey, to whom Katarina has always wanted to seem strong and tough, but now she openly discusses her feelings and shows her weakness by crying and then running out of the classroom. This demonstrates that Patrick has made Katarina realise that she should not always try to present herself as being tough and hide her feelings from others, but this shift does not indicate that she is therwise tamed. Rather, in the film it is all other characters who change and are, in a way, tamed. However the development of the characters does not emphasise gender roles but rather just becoming more independent and caring for people around them. The same norm is applied to both male and female characters of the film, suggesting more egalitarian gender norms. CONCLUSION Reinterpretations of well-known stories work as reinterpretations only when the story is known to the audience.
Therefore Shakespeare’s plays, as some of the best known texts in world literature, are a good source for retelling as many people know the characters and the plot. Shakespeare writes about everlasting themes which have remained relevant to this day. His play The Taming of the Shrew deals with the theme of the battle of the sexes, which is as topical in contemporary society as it was in the 16th century. Still,as gender -roles have changed extensively since the time when the play was written, alterations have to be made both in the portrayal of the characters and in the plot.
Adaptation and appropriation are two ways which enable transformation of, for example, literature into film. While adaptations stay close to the original, appropriations introduce more extensive extensive alterations in the text and genre. Today, film has become the most prevalent medium for appropriations of classical text. As Shakespeare’s plays are well known and cover a wide variety of themes, his work is a popular basis for very different films. The present thesis focuses on one type of reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s work recontextualisation.
Recontextualisations give new angles to the familiar plots to make it easier for the contemporary audience to relate to the characters and the theme. The films analysed in the thesis – ShakespeaRe-Told: The Taming of the Shrew and 10 Things I Hate About You – both fall into the category of recontextualisations and more specifically can be classified as modernisations. Although both films take place in contemporary world, the two contexts are very different.
In ShakespeaRe-Told: The Taming of the Shrew the play is relocated into British political circles. Also, as it is a farce, the film-makers could make the character behave ridiculously and unrealistically, including Petruchio taming Katherine by tormenting her. 10 Things I Hate About You, on the other hand, is a teen-comedy and in order to be in accordance with the genre, the behaviour of the characters has to look realistic and so the taming process is made much softer.
Also the outcomes of the two films are very different: in ShakespeaRe-Told: The Taming of the Shrew the only character who undergoes notable development is Katherine, but in 10 Things I Hate About You, basically all the main characters change their behaviour in one way or the other. The analysis of these films showed that in order to modernise The Taming of the Shrew significant alterations have to be made in the portrayal of the characters. It was also demonstrated that the changes depend on the genre of the film as a farce makes it possible to use more of the original plot than the teen-comedy, which requires a more realistic approach.
The different approaches result in significant differences between the two films and their outcomes: ShakespeaRe-Told: The Taming of the Shrew finishes with a statement about the changed gender-roles when Petruchio stays at home with children while Katherine continues her career, but 10 Things I Hate About You does not focus so much on specific gender roles as on general development of the characters as human beings. All in all, it can be said that appropriating Shakespeare can be seen as a culturally enriching practice.
One hand, it revives the old classics in ways which are more understandable to the contemporary audience. On the other hand, all new appropriations, even the reinterpretations of the same play, are different from others and create new ways of understanding and appreciating the plays. REFERENCES Primary Sources Hood, R. C. (ed) 1975. The Macmillan Shakespeare: The Taming of The Shrew. London and Basingstoke: Macmillan Education Junger, Gil (Director). 1999. 10 Things I Hate About You [Motion picture].
United States: Touchstone Pictures Richards, David (Director). 2005. ShakespeaRe-Told: The Taming of The Shrew [Television programme]. United Kingdom: BBC Secondary Sources Henderson, Diane E. 2003. A Shrew For The Times Revisited. In Burt, Richard and Lynda E. Boose (eds). Shakespeare The Movie II. London and New York: Routledge Palliser, D. M. 1992. The Age of Elizabeth. England Under the Later Tudors 1547-1603. 2nd ed. London and New York: Longman Pickford, Mary. 1955. Sunshine and Shadow, An Autobiography.
New York: Doubleday & Co. Inc. Rothwell, Kenneth. 2001. A History of Shakespeare on Screen : A Century of Film and Television. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Rowbotham, Sheila. 1997. A Century of Women. The History of Women in Britain and The United States in the Twentieth Century. New York. Penguin Book Russell, Jackson (ed. ) 2007. The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare on Film. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Sanders, Julie. 2006. Adaptation and Appropriation. London and New York: Routledge