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How Are Gender Issues Explored In Both Shakespeare's The Taming Of The Shrew And The Zeffirelli Film Adaptation Of The Play, In Order To Meet The Needs Of Very Different Audiences?

1370 words - 5 pages

Gender issues are explored in both Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew and the Zeffirelli film adaptation of the play through cultural context, characterisation, symbolism and the specific portrayal of Katherina and Petruchio's relationship, and are adjusted to meet the needs of very different audiences.Firstly, the cultural context of each text is vital to their portrayal of gender issues in the play. Both versions of the play were pitched as comedies. Shakespeare wrote the play, his first comedy, in the late 16th Century, and the attitudes and morals towards gender represented in the play are very much a reflection of the time period. So although "a feminist argument is not explicit" (Sexism & the Battle of the Sexes in The Taming of the Shrew, Linda Bamber) in the play, it is a product of a society where arranged marriages were the norm, women were traded and bartered like a comedy ("'Twas a commodity lay fretting by you; 'Twill bring you gain, or perish on the seas." Tranio, Act 2, Scene 1), women had no right to vote and did not work. Indeed, Kate and Petruchio's relationship is typically Elizabethan: Kate is Petruchio's property, as he points out in the Act 3, Scene 2:"I will be master of what is mine own.She is my goods, my chattels, she is my house.My household stuff, my field, my barn,My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything."Petruchio's words leave no doubt as to his belief in the patriarchal marriage system that existed during Shakespeare's time.In contrast, Zeffirelli's film adaptation was released in the late 1960s, at the same time as women's liberation movement was sweeping the countries of the First World. It features Elizabeth Taylor as Kate and Richard Burton as Petruchio, an interesting casting choice, given the time period and the couple's very public, troubled, off-screen relationship. As a film adaptation in the context of the 1960s, many alterations were made with consideration for the public and the film format: the Induction, the introductory framework that sets up the play within a play, is omitted, allowing the director to focus more on the gender issues rather than the themes of concealed identity; the secondary love story between Lucentio and Bianca is somewhat compressed, minimising contrast between the warring female characteristics of Kate and her sister; and the longer speeches are pared down. To compensate, he provides more physical action, making the comedy more readily approachable to modern cinema audiences. Interestingly, Kate's dialogue is cut by about a third, allowing her to be vocally overwhelmed by Petruchio.Secondly, characterisation is used to explore the gender issues, particularly through Kate, who undergoes the most change, but also through Petruchio, Baptista and Bianca.In both texts, Kate, who is a rather stereotypical character, illustrates the idea that with badness comes ugliness, shrewishness and meanness. When Kate is first introduced to the viewer, she is dressed raggedly and her...

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