Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew and its modern appropriation Ten Things I Hate About You is a obvious illustration of how texts can express the issues and values present in the cultural and historical context of the time. The Taming of the Shrew is set in Renaissance Italy about four centuries before Ten Things I Hate About You placed in upper-middle class Seattle. The two texts share a common scheme and explore similar issues. However the responses given between each text vary as social values have changed over time. For example, romantic relationships are valued differently in a modern context as opposed to the Shakespearian time where the female was expected to submit herself to the man in a marital hierarchy and economic society. Nowadays, love is valued as the best foundation for a relationship where partners can be independent from one another. It is evident that these differing values in Elizabethan and modern society are reflected in the character's relationships within each text. Social pressures are a recurring issue throughout both texts where each character has a defined social position and is expected to behave accordingly. The social values explored in both texts are enforced by Elizabethan and modern society. While the film Ten Things I Hate About You is making a rebellious statement against the patriarchal values of society, it is unclear whether Shakespeare is mocking or idealizing Elizabethan values. Shakespeare's play expresses its social values through language forms and features such as diction, plot devices and imagery. Ten Things conveys modern society through the use of colloquial slang, and using film techniques such as visual imagery, soundtrack and symbolism.
In The Taming of the Shrew, the characters portray a comedic battle of the sexes where the tradition of marriage serves as the battleground. The men strive for marital harmony where the wife must conform to society's ideals of female obedience under male authority to achieve "peace...and love, and quiet life, an awful rule and right supremacy". This notion is best exemplified through Petruchio's 'taming' of Katherina. Kate does not conform to the social criteria of a 16th Century maiden and is thus scolded for her "shrewish" nature. She is described as a "fiend of hell" who is "intolerably curst". This imagery depicts her as a wild beast both unnatural and devilish. Petruchio is introduced as the only character brave enough to control her - "I am born to tame you... from a wild Kate to a Kate/ Conformable as other household Kate's".
Throughout the play, Kat's gradual defeat to Petruchio's authority is shown. She even defies rationality to comply with his demands accepting that "...sun it is not, when you say it is not, And the moon changes even as your mind... and so it shall be for Katherine." The imagery of the sun and moon reaffirms society's view of an ideal relationship where the wife is simply a reflection of her husband's light and status and thus has no identity of her own. A marital relationship is therefore unequal and in the last scene Katherina reaffirms this attitude through an extended speech promoting a woman's duty to her husband. She states "Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper...when such a woman is...not obedient to his honest will, / What is she but a foul contending rebe". Katherina addresses the idea of marriage as a battleground in the final scene when she states "I am ashamed that women are so simple / To offer war where they should kneel for peace"
The battle of the sexes continues into the 20th Century where the characters of Ten Things I Hate About You explore the social pressures of Padua High School. As the relationships within the film are adapted to suit a modern audience, the outcome of this war has changed with neither man nor women 'winning'. In modern times, a trusting and solid relationship is highly respected; however this is no longer through male supremacy and female obedience. This enlightened perspective on gender roles suggests that in order for Patrick and Kat's relationship to succeed, they must equally make compromises. For example, Patrick publicly sings 'Can't take my eyes off you' in order to win Kat's affection. Kat, in turn, saves Patrick from detention by exposing herself to the teacher. Ten Things I Hate About You uses visual imagery to reflect Kat and Patrick's mutual understanding when they both work together to peddle a boat side-by-side on equal terms. On the contrary, Joey's relationship with Bianca ends in humiliation as it never possessed genuine affection or compromise, emphasizing that a individually steers relationship will end dismally. Similarly, Kat's relationship with Patrick collapses temporarily when she realises he was paid to date her highlighting society's value for love relationships as opposed to financial gain or status, which was accepted in Elizabethan society.
In The Taming of the Shrew, relationships were, to some extent, fake. Marriages were negotiated between fathers and suitors; often resembling a business transaction where men could declare their dominance, improve their social status and make financial profits. Petruchio states he has come to "wive and thrive in Padua" and declares his desire to marry Kate for her extensive dowry. He negotiates with her father stating "my business asketh haste...what dowry shall I have with her to wife" This scene underlines the patriarchal values of Shakespearean times, where women were considered property of their fathers and then of their husbands.
In Ten Things I Hate About You, Dr. Stratford still strives to control Kat and Bianca's lives. However this display of overwhelming patriarchal control is no longer suitable and is ridiculed throughout the film. Dr. Stratford's opinions are made fun of through the use of comedic dialogue where he is unsuccessfully struggling to sound 'cool'.
Both texts explore the issue of identity and ask whether it consists of more than just a social reputation. In The Taming of the Shrew, Katherina is introduced through the descriptions of others allowing the audience to see Katherina from everybody elses perspective. As Kate does not conform to the social conventions of an Elizabethan woman, she is known as "Katherine the curst". Society does not allow Katherina to create her own identity as female independence was unacceptable in those times. Throughout the play characters struggle to escape their social boundaries and through the motif of disguise, characters are able to change their identities. For example, through a switching of clothes and persona when"Tranio changes into Lucentio". However all characters must resume their appropriate position. Although it was hilarious for characters to temporarily transform their social standing, social classes must have restored order. The wellbeing of society appears to depend on characters respecting their socially designated duties. Kate's final acceptance of her role as a devoted housewife is said to be "too little payment for such a great debt"
The emphasis of reputation continues in Ten Things I Hate About You where a high school environment is shamed for its social pressures and false identities. In the opening scene, the contrast between 'popular' music and Kat's overpowering 'angry girl music' clearly illustrates Kat's lack of interest to society. Her peers thus call her a "heinous bitch" judging Kat with sub-human descriptions such as "wild beast" or "mutant". At Bogey's party Kat momentarily crumbles under peer pressure and Joey remarks "How did you get her to act like a human?" The social stratification of Padua High School is shown through Michael's tour of the various social cliques. Each group displays certain characteristics which the individual must follow. As Cameron falls in love with Bianca, he automatically asks "What group is she in?" which demonstrates a modern concern of social class when pursuing a relationship. Similarly, Baptista asks for Petruchio's family name before commencing negotiations of marriage. Both texts support an equal opportunity of social status within a successful relationship.
The film suggests that a love eliminates the struggle between personal desires and societal expectations. In the final scene, Patrick buys a guitar for Kat using Joey's money. This symbolizes Patrick's greater personal value for love as opposed to society's value for money and social outlook. Furthermore, Patrick is encouraging Kat to pursue her dream in starting a band and unlike the play; he allows Kat to maintain her independent identity whilst being with him. This thus, is a value that has changed from the Elizabethan period to the 21st century.
Although exploring similar notions and values, the film 10 Things I Hate About You creates change in context, setting and structure ultimately adding a new dimension of freshness and liveliness. Framed upon Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, the film retains its own integrity, as the similarities and differences between the texts illustrate the reconstruction of Elizabethan values into a modern context. Shakespeare explores these values through a comedic just as director Gil Junger has used modern cinematic techniques in order to express his appropriation effectively. It is through the interaction between characters, in both play and film that the underlying values of relationships, gender roles and identity are reflected and challenged.