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William Shakespeare, as a major literary figure, wrote many forms of literature; one of the more popular forms being plays. Many of his works have been transformed to appear in film adaptations, and many of these adaptations are modernized to fit the current generation of audience members. The play The Taming of the Shrew is one example of conversion to modernized film with its adaptation to 10 Things I Hate About You. Modern settings, modern language, and a few key plot differences make it much easier to portray Shakespeare’s Old English genius into an easily understood and relatable format.
However, much of the original meaning and depth to the story is toned down or even lost when classic literature, such as The Taming of the Shrew, is thrown into a contemporary setting.
One of the first things a reader of The Taming of the Shrew will notice while watching 10 Things I Hate About You are the similarities but also major differences between the settings as well as the characters themselves.
Instead of the city Padua, which is the setting in the play, the reader finds themselves in an upper-middle class city; specifically in the middle of Padua High School. Instead of long dresses with tight bodices, the reader sees jeans and tee shirts as costumes for the main characters. The Shrew is introduced as Katarina Stratford (as opposed to Katharina Minola), an emotionally unstable teenager who lashes out at everyone around her and refuses to partake in normal human interaction. She is an avid feminist and supremely stubborn.
The younger sister, Bianca Stratford (as opposed to Bianca Minola) is introduced as an upbeat, popular, and absent-minded teenage girl who seeks social-climbing status. Walter Stratford (Baptista Minola) is introduced as an upper-middle class OB/GYN and as an extremely overprotective father; believing his daughters will have sex at the first unsupervised chance they get. Cameron James (Lucentio) is introduced as a new guy to a new school, who takes an immediate liking to Bianca. Upon learning of Walter Stratford’s very strict rules of his daughters dating (where the oldest sister must date first), Cameron forms a plan to get someone to date Kat so that he can date Bianca. In the play, Petruccio (Patrick Verona) is paid to marry Katharina. Since a modern audience would find Katarina and Patrick far too young to marry, they simply date.
In 10 Things I Hate About You, Patrick devises several ways of being nice to Katarina (offering to take her on dates, showing up at her favorite band’s concert, etc.) to capture her heart and make her fall in love with him. In The Taming of the Shrew, Petruccio is extremely rude and disrespectful to Katharina; he deprives her of sleep, starves her, and scolds her very heavily for everything she does or says. Shakespeare very effectively shows the reader that a woman was the property of her husband and should act accordingly; hence Petruccio’s severe treatment of her. The modern audience would not find this type of berating and abuse to be appropriate, especially for teenage couples, so the more accepted “boy meets girl, they fall in love” scenario is applied in the film 10 Things I Hate About You. In The Taming of the Shrew, love is not a concern, nor is it ever really mentioned. Baptista Minola (Walter Stratford) is concerned only about two things: finding appropriate suitors for both of his daughters and making sure that Katharina acts accordingly slave-like to her soon-to-be husband.
A majority of the real story and depth behind a classic literary work can be lost when it is translated to film; and especially when the conditions are updated to be modernized so that a current audience can easily relate to the situations and characters. This more relatable format comes with key plot twists, modernized language, and modernized settings to make the reader or viewer feel much more comfortable with the story. The Taming of the Shrew is a classic literary work by William Shakespeare and has been formatted to a modern film plot structure in 10 Things I Hate About You. While there are many differences between the two, many similarities also exist, hence the still-powerful connection between the reader or viewer and the play or film.
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