Discovering the Oppression of Patriarchy In The Taming Of The Shrew And 10 Things I Hate About You

William Shakespeare’s 16th century play ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ portrays an indisputable notion of the imbalance in power between men and women and how they are perceived in society, which remains constant in the 20th century film adaptation '10 Things I Hate About You’. The film, which was produced after the first and second wave of feminism, has adapted elements of the play in terms of characters, women’s roles and how they are tied to their father and the domineering power men hold in a much more modernised construction with an abundance of similarities and differences. 

Despite a broad gap in the time both pieces were produced, both revolve around a controlling father with two girls; one who is adored due to her good looks and overly feminist qualities, and another who is looked down upon for being “shrewish” due to not biding by the societal rules expected by women and instead being loud mouthed and independent. Kat in 10 things uses verbal insults and remarks as her way of expressing her dislike to the patriarchy, she describes the prom as an “antiquated mating ritual” and when Pat asks what he has had an ‘effect’ on [her] during banter she remarks “other than my upchuck reflex? Nothing”. This is a prominent contrast between Katherine in Taming of the Shrew who’s voice is suppressed and not powerful enough within their society, leaving her to resort to physical violence; striking people. While this shows a similarity between the two characters being rebellious of their surrounding societies expectations of women to be polite and well mannered, it also shows through the modern adaption of the film that over the centuries women have gained more ability to verbally speak their opinions rather than resorting to physical abuse; however still remain inferior to men. 

Bianca’s character remains somewhat consistent in both pieces, she plays the role of a well admired young girl who in the play cannot be married until her older sister Katherine is and in the film cannot date until her older sister Kat does. Both of course enforced by the father of the girls, who in Taming of the Shrew uses this rule as a way of both maintaining possession of his daughter Bianca, as it would take a minor miracle for Katherine to find a suitable husband due to her shrewish nature and also on the other hand this rule means that Baptista can rid of Katherine. In the film adaptation, Dr Strattford the father also holds the same values as the play in the sense that he is hesitant to give up possession of namely his youngest daughter Bianca however due to the modernised storyline this becomes fear of his daughter becoming impregnated, using the rule as a means of postponing this dilemma due to it being highly unlikely for Kat to date. 

Shakespeare’s play Taming of the Shrew and the modern adaptation 10 things I hate about you hold many similarities, however despite this a major contrast is the depth of a true loving relationship which is not explored so much in Shakespeare’s play as it is in the film adaptation. Petruchio and Katherines relationship does not display any true emotions, it is simply a story of Katherine being tamed into subsiding to the role of a woman and this is evident in Petruchio stating “Thus is plain terms, your father has consented that you shall be my wife” showing he is simply marrying Katherine because her father has given him money and not because there are any true emotions. By the end of the Taming of the Shrew Katherine has been ‘tamed’ to act in an accepted way as she claims “thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper..” Whereas in the film adaption Kat’s speech is altered into that of a poem whereby she lets down her tough girl barrier to explain she hates the way she does not hate Pat “not even a little bit, not even at all”. This holds major contrast as the Katherine in the play has simply subsided to pursue the role of an obedient women in an overpowering patriarchal society; one who is a servant to the needs of her husband and blindly follows his wishes. Whereas Kat from the film develops real feelings which still go against her former independent feminist persona but instead on the grounds of love and its powers. 

Both Taming of the Shrew and 10 things I hate about you illustrate how oppressive and overpowering the patriarchy is, and how even the most strong headed and ‘shrewish’ of women eventually subside to some degree. In 10 things I hate about you, Kat plays the role of a tough headed feminist who does not believe in submitting to a docile women’s role but rather seeks independence. A strong example of this is her rhetorical question to Pat “Why should I live up to other people’s expectations instead of my own?”. Despite this, she flashes her body to the teacher when trying to help Pat out of detention; showing she submits to the fact a females body is more powerful over their brain in the patriarchy. Kat also is easily forgivable to Pat when he uses the money from Joey’s bribery to buy her a guitar, making her materialism overpower her feminism stance as she is being too forgivable after being used as bait by Bianca’s admirers. Katherine in Taming of the Shrew subsides to the patriarchy to a much larger degree believing, towards the end of the play, that a wife’s duty to her husband, she says, mimics the duty that “the subject owes the prince,” because the husband endures great pain and labor for her benefit. Unlike Kat, Bianca submits to this docile role from the beginning of both the play and the film making herself seem more acceptable for society by playing into the wants of men and thriving off of it. Bianca’s name itself means “white” in Italy which is portrayed through her character is taming of the shrew, implying innocence and purity and in 10 things I hate about you she states “I happen to like being adored, thankyou” reinforcing this concept that a women who seeks acceptance from men is more admirable than those like Katherine who have sharp tongues. 

Ultimately, William Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ and the modernised 1999 film adaptation ’10 Things I Hate About You’ both hold a plethora of similarities and differences, which link to show the oppression of patriarchy in an older setting versus a modernised setting, and how it impacts women to different degrees. Both pieces follow the story of how even the most opinionated shrewish of women will submit to the patriarchy, and the adaptation takes this even further by showing how women have progressed in gaining more rights over the years and have more freedom in verbally expressing themselves but still remain inferior to men despite this. 

16 August 2021
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