“The Taming of the Shrew” Film Adaptations

Woo hoo, something to do with Shakespeare. This is a response I wrote comparing two film versions of the Shakespearean play, The Taming of the Shrew, to each other and to the original text. Personally, I don’t like Shakespeare at all, but they are always taught in English classes, so there’s not much I can do about it. As with all schoolwork articles on my site, I got a good mark for this response.

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The last scene of The Taming of the Shrew, Act V Scene ii, is one of the most significant scenes in the whole play because it reveals, among other things, whether or not Petruchio actually tamed his “shrew.” It’s interesting to see how different productions express the same scene of a well known play like this one. I looked at two adaptations of the play during class. One of them is the 1967 feature starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The other one was a part of a show called Moonlighting (1985), starring Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd. Even though both were based on the same play, each version had its own way of expressing itself and they were very different from each other.

The first interpretation is a well budgeted Hollywood film, and it had the celebrity actors and high production values to prove it. Costumes and set design were rich, with matching background music to create a right atmosphere for a banquet thrown by rich people in the old days. For the most part, this film followed the original play word by word. The male characters made their bets and each tried to call his wife but only Kate complies, but in the movie, she drags the other two women out rather than coming out, and then going back to force the other two to appear. She then starts her long speech and ends with the line “My hand is ready, may it do him ease.” (Act V, Scene ii, Line 180) Overall, I liked this interpretation better because the movie stayed true to the play, and along with believable acting and high production values, gave the film an authentic feel as production of a Shakespearean play.

The Moonlighting version of The Taming of the Shrew is more like a parody of the play than an actual production. Almost all of the dialogue has been changed, and so have the settings. Now Petruchio is the one saying part of what was supposed to be Kate’s speech. He begins with “Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,” (Act V, Scene ii, Line 147) and the dialogue actually turns into something like “I say it is the moon that shines so bright.” (Act IV, Scene v, Line 4) when Petruchio wanted to prove Kate’s obedience to the nearby people. Kate actually refuses and Petruchio goes into some long sentimental stuff and it appears that it was Kate who tamed Petruchio and not the other way around. I didn’t like this version as much as the other because of the less authentic feel do to the major plot and dialogue changes in an effort to modernize the play and especially those irrelevant jokes (e.g. iambic pentameter) that were inserted here and there for no apparent reason other than to get a cheap laugh.

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