It Takes Two: 1967's The Taming of the Shrew vs. 1999's 10 Things I Hate About You

The Taming of the Shrewis one title of the many William Shakespeare plays that have survived since his time that are continually adapted into film.

Of the play alone, there are plays, operas, musicals, television serials, and radio plays that exist in some form that are either performances that lift their dialogue directly from the source play, or are inspired by the themes of the play.

The oldest filmed sound adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew was Sam Taylor's 1929 adaptation starring Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford.

An examination of two filmed adaptations - Franco Zeferelli's 1967 version, as well as Gil Junger's 1999 thematic adaptation - follow.

The Play's The Thing: The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

Dramatis Personae

  • A Lord, seen only in the Induction.
  • Christopher Sly, a tinker, seen only in the Induction.
  • Hostess, Page, Players, Huntsmen, and Servants, seen only in the Induction.
  • Baptista, a rich gentleman of Padua.
  • Vincentio, an old gentleman of Pisa.
  • Lucentio, son to Vincentio, in love with Bianca.
  • Petruchio, a gentleman of Verona, a suitor to Katharina.
  • Gremio, suitor to Bianca.
  • Hortensio, suitor to Bianca.
  • Tranio, servant to Lucentio.
  • Biondello, servant to Lucentio.
  • Grumio, servant to Lucentio.
  • Curtis, servant to Petruchio
  • A Pedant, servant to Petruchio
  • Katharina, daughter to Baptista, the shrew.

The Taming of the Shrew is a play written by William Shakespeare, circa 1597.

It begins with a frame story, called the Induction, where a trick is played on the drunkard Christopher Sly by a nobleman. The nobleman arranges for his men to perform a play called The Taming of the Shrew to further convince Sly of their mean-spirited ruse.

The beautiful and gentle Bianca has no shortage of admirers. Three prominent ones are Lucentio, Gremio and Hortensio. Her father insists that she will not marry until her shrewish older sister, Katharina (Kate), is betrothed. Bianca's suitors persuade fortune-seeker Petruchio to court her. The three men mention Katharina's dowry, which causes Petruchio to take up the challenge. Petruchio marries Katharina by force, and carries Katharina off to his country house in Verona with his servant Grumio.

Petruchio's plan of attack "to tame the shrew" is to browbeat Katharina into submission. He succeeds in his campaign of terror by denying her food, sleep and new clothes, alternately singing her praises. They soon return to Padua to attend the wedding of Lucentio to Bianca.

At the raucous wedding banquet, the men wager on who has the most obedient wife. Each wife is called forth by command, but only Katharina appears. She promptly lectures everyone on the importance of wifely submission.

The Motion Picture They Were Made For: Franco Zeffirelli's The Taming of the Shrew

A motion picture for every man who ever gave the back of his hand to his beloved... and for every woman who deserved it. Which takes a lot of people!


  • Elizabeth Taylor as Katharina
  • Richard Burton as Petruchio
  • Cyril Cusack as Grumio
  • Michael Hordern as Baptista
  • Alfred Lynch as Tranio
  • Alan Webb as Gremio
  • Natasha Pyne as Bianca
  • Michael York as Lucentio
  • Victor Spinetti as Hortensio
  • Roy Holder as Biondello
  • Mark Dignam as Vincentio

Franco Zeffirelli's adaptation of William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew is a zesty version of the classic comedy, highlighted by performances by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor and Nino Rota's score. Instead of simply filming a play, Zeffirelli turned Shakespeare's text into a lively, cinematic movie, with sweeping sets and cinematography.

Set in Padua, Italy in the late 1500s, the story concerns the shy Bianca (Natasha Pyne) and the mean-spirited Katharina (Elizabeth Taylor), the two daughters of a rich merchant named Baptista (Michael Hordern). Though Bianca is being courted by a number of young men, Baptista announces that she may not marry until Katharina is wed. None of the men in town are willing to marry Katharina, so Bianca remains unwed, even as more suitors -- such as Lucentio (Michael York), a student who begins working as a tutor in the Hordern household just so he can be near Bianca -- line up to wed the maiden. No man approaches Katharina until Petruchio (Richard Burton) -- a wanderer who arrived in Padua just to find a rich wife -- genuinely falls in love with her. After an intense, occasionally furious, courtship, Katharina eventually agrees to marry him, and they move to Petruchio's shoddy house, which is located outside of the city.

Following the wedding, Lucentio reveals that he is not a student, but instead the son of one of the most respected men in town. Lucentio gets permission to marry Bianca and a mild-mannered Katharina shows up at the wedding, giving advice to her sister on how to be a good wife.

How Do I Loathe Thee? Let Me Count the Ways: Gil Junger's 10 Things I Hate About You

I hate the way you talk to me and the way you cut your hair. I hate the way you drive my car. I hate it when you stare. I hate your big dumb combat boots and the way you read my mind. I hate you much it makes me sick; it even makes me rhyme. I hate it, I hate the way you're always right. I hate it when you lie. I hate when you make me laugh, even worse when you make me cry. I hate it that you're not around, and the fact that you didn't call. But mostly I hate the way I don't hate you. Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.


  • Heath Ledger as Patrick Verona
  • Julia Stiles as Katarina "Kat" Stratford
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Cameron James
  • Larisa Oleynik as Bianca Stratford
  • David Krumholtz as Michael Eckman
  • Andrew Keegan as Joey Donner
  • Larry Miller as Dr. Walter Stratford,
  • Susan May Pratt as Mandella
  • Gabrielle Union as Chastity Church
  • Daryl Mitchell as Mr. Morgan
  • Allison Janney as Ms. Perky
  • David Leisure as Mr. Chapin
  • Greg Jackson as Scurvy
  • Kyle Cease as Bogey Lowenstein

As Shakespearean adaptations go, it's not quite as odd as moving The Tempest to another planet (as in Forbidden Planet) or Hamlet to a Canadian brewery (the secret subtext of Strange Brew), but it's still safe to say no one was expecting a version of The Taming of the Shrew set in an American high school.

But unlike the previously mentioned films, 10 Things I Hate About You at least gives the Bard screen credit for his contribution to the story.

In 10 Things I Hate About You, Bianca Stratford (Larisa Oleynik) is a tenth grader who has never gone on a date, as her father has a little rule where Bianca isn't allowed to go out with boys until her older sister gets a boyfriend. The problem is, while her older sister Kat (Julia Stiles) is attractive and intelligent, she's also a mean-spirited misanthrope who rubs nearly everyone the wrong way -- especially boys.

But Bianca and the guy she has her eye on, Joey Donner (Andrew Keegan), are eager to get their romance on the road, so Joey fixes Kat up with Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger), a new kid in town who may be just bitter and mysterious enough to suit her.

The Taming of the Shrew: Oldest Established Permanently Uncredited Adaptation in Literary Canon?

There are arguments in literary circles that The Taming of the Shrew is itself an adaptation of a previously performed theatrical work by an anonymous author. The extent of this so-called adaptation is examined here by Professor Edward Dowden in its entirety.

This comedy first appeared in the folio of 1623, but it is in some way closely connected with a play published in 1594, and bearing the almost identical title, The Taming of A Shrew. [Alexander] Pope was of the opinion that Shakespeare wrote both plays, but this is hardly plausible. The play in the folio is certainly an enlargement and alteration of the earlier play, and it only remains to ask, was Shakespeare the sole reviser and adapter, or did his task consist of adding and altering certain scenes, so as to render yet more amusing and successful an enlarged version of the play of 1594, already made by some unknown hand? The last seems upon the whole the opinion best supported by the internal evidence.

In The Taming of the Shrew, three parts may be distinguished:

  1. The humorous Induction, in which Sly, the drunken tinker, is the chief person.
  2. A comedy of character, the Shrew and her tamer, Petruchio, being the hero and heroine
  3. A comedy of intrigue - the story of Bianca and her rival lovers.

Now the old play of A Shrew contains, in a rude form, the scenes of the Induction and the chief scenes in which Petruchio and Katharina (named by the original writer Ferando and Kate) appear; but nothing in the old play corresponds with the intrigues of Bianca's disguised lovers. It is, however, in the scenes concerned with these intrigues that Shakespeare's hand is least apparent. It may be said that Shakespeare's genius goes in and out with the person of Katharina. We would therefore conjecturally assign the intrigue-comedy to the adapter of the old play, reserving for Shakespeare a title to those scenes - in the main enlarged from the play of A Shrew - in which Katharina, Petruchio, and Grumio are speakers.

Turning this statement into figures we find that Shakespeare's part in The Taming of the Shrew is comprised in the following portions:

  • Induction
  • Act II, Scene I, L 169-326
  • Act III, Scene II, L 1-125 and 151-241
  • Act IV, Scenes 1-3
  • Act V, Scene II, L 1-180

Such a division, it must be borne in mind is no more than a conjecture, but it seems to be suggested and fairly indicated by the styles of the several parts of the comedy. However this may be, it is clear that Shakespeare cared little for the other characters in comparison with Sly, Katharina, and Petruchio. The play is full of energy and bustling movement; and the characters of Katharina and Petruchio in particular, are firmly and finely drawn, the scenes in which they appear, though infinitely amusing, never quite passing into downright farce.

Widely separated dates for The Taming of the Shrew, from 1594 to 1606. The best portions are in the manner of Shakespeare's comedies of the second period, and attributing the Bianca intrigue-comedy to a writer intermediate between the author of the play of A Shrew and Shakespeare, there is also difficulty in supposing that the Shakespeare scenes were written about 1597. [John] Fletcher wrote a humorous continuation of Shakespeare's play, entitled The Woman's Prize, or the Tamer Tamed, in which Petruchio reappears.

One can easily make the case that if Shrew was in fact created by the unknown author, Shakespeare merely did what some adapters do today within the film industry. He took a story that he felt could be improved upon, kept it within the same theatrical medium as was the fashion of the time, and became known as the playwright of an entirely different work. It stands alone from the previous work, as noted by Professor Dowden.

Misogyny in The Taming of the Shrew and Its Film Adaptations

The apparent threads of misogyny that run through Shrew have been dealt with delicately with concern to modern audiences. In Act V in the play, Kate delivers one of the more famous monologues from Shrew. She scolds the women that are hanging on to her every word by saying “I am ashamed that women are so simple/To offer war where they should kneel for peace.” In my mind I can see Kate looking at the audience with a knowing look on her face, like she is merely saying these words because the husbands and wedding banquet party-goers are listening intently. She knows the assembled audience of mixed company want to hear her say these things.

For historical perspective, Brown reminds us that "Shakespeare wrote The Taming of the Shrew within the genre of shrew literature, popular in medieval and Renaissance times. Shrews appeared in almost every form of literature - written and oral - in these periods. And Shakespeare composes his play subtly enough that it can be read as written within the tradition, and he makes Katherine 'spirited' enough that she can be read as a shrew, who finds a wise and courageous man with the skills to mold her into a peaceful, loving wife."

As Hamlet reminds us, "the play's the thing." Shakespeare’s plays are not meant to be read. They are meant to be performed by actors and watched by an audience. Thus creative control over a theater production of Shrew will be controlled by the director. That director will project their own reservations about the original script and remix it any way they want, particularly with Kate's final monologue.

The 1967 Zeffirelli version is the only one of the two film adaptations presented here that somewhat retains the original dialogue. Thus, Kate's Act 5 monologue becomes a tongue lashing of seething anger. It was as though she merely hid her shrew tendencies beneath the mask she wore when she went to Petruchio's to become tamed, simply because we are viewing it on a moving picture screen.

Conversely, there is no such catharsis for Kat in 10 Things I Hate About You. If anything, the gender roles of the shrew and her tamer are switched with Patrick and Kat. Patrick throws himself at Kat's mercy (see below) to finally win her heart. Kat may have been a shrew, but Patrick is doing all the work to weaken her.


Alchin, Linda. "Summary of Taming of the Shrew and Characters." Globe Theatre. 20 June 2005. Web. 22 Nov 2011. ‹http://www.globe-theatre.org.uk›.

Brown, Carolyn E. "Katherine of The Taming of the Shrew: 'A Second Grissel'." Texas Studies in Literature and Language 37.3 (1995): 285-313. Print.

Deming, Mark. "10 Things I Hate About You." AllRovi. n.d. Web. 22 Nov 2011. ‹AllRovi›.

Dowden, Edward. Introduction. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. By W.G. Clark and W. Aldis Wright, eds. New York: Nelson Doubleday, 1974. 445. Print.

Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "The Taming of the Shrew." AllRovi. n.d. Web. 22 Nov 2011. ‹AllRovi›.