Taming of the Shrew" and "Ten Things I Hate about You"
Although they are both comedies revolving around the same basic plot of a shrewish elder daughter wooed on a bet by a money or status hungry stranger from parts afar, Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" and "Ten Things I Hate about You" differ fundamentally in the level of importance they accord to sincerity in wooing and romance. Although it adopts a brittle, harsh, and satirical tone at times, "Ten Things I Hate about You" ultimately validates conventional assumptions about teenage romance, the wisdom of adults, and solid social values that keep teens in their place in a fundamentally adult world. Shakespeare is more ironic, crueler, more violent, and complex in his rendering of the battle of the sexes. He begins his tale with a frame where little seems at stake, but unlike the film, the play ends in a marriage where much more is at stake than the coming to terms of love, romance, and personal development in adolescent.
The initial irony present in Shakespeare can be seen through the use of the framing device scorned by "Ten Things I Hate about You." Although the playgoer Christopher Sly of "The Taming of the Shrew" does not reappear at the end of the comedy, the fact that the viewer is always watching a play of a play makes it clear to the audience that the occasional Punch-and-Judy show type violence is, 'in quotes' or ironic, rather than a simple validation of violence against women. "Am I a lord? And have I such a lady? Or do I dream? Or have I dream'd till now?" asks Sly, emphasizing the dreamed nature of "The Taming of the Shrew." (1.2) Up to the end, the play has a fantastical quality, rather than a play of real-life morality and consequence, until Katherine's final monologue.
In contrast, "Ten Things I Hate about You" employs no such a framing device. It begins with a sense of reality and seriousness, such as the greater weight given to Kat Stratford's feminist defiance, in contrast to Katherine's shrewish tongue and comic beating up of her sister and music teacher. Thus in "The Taming of the Shrew," the viewer is begins with a sense of watching a performance of a performance, a performance of stereotyped relations between the battling genders, while the teenage comedy at least attempts something 'real,' with feminist resonance.
The greater humanity and relative wisdom of the father figure in "Ten Things I Hate about You" also reflects not simply the teen comedy's attempt not to demonize adults, as is often the accusation in such films, but also a reflection of the desire to convey a greater humanity upon most of the authority figures involved, as opposed to Katherine's father in Shakespeare, Baptista, who is foolish, sputtering, and ineffectual in his attempts to exercise authority over his daughters. In contrast, as Walter Stratford says, " I'm down, I've got the 411, and you are not going out and getting jiggy with some boy, I don't care how dope his ride is. My mama didn't raise no foo'!" Walter can mimic and make fun of teens -- these are children, not engaging in grown-up decisions and behavior, like marriage. The teens, however mature they may sound, are merely dating and learning about life, not engaging in real, romantic life.
The authority figures are more invested with intelligence and power in the film, but the other minor figures are undercut in their intelligence, for the most part, and their wisdom. One of…