William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew
Over the past 400 or so years since Shakespeare wrote _The Taming of the Shrew_, many writers, painters, musicians and directors have adapted and reformed this play of control and subjugation into timeless pieces of art. In _10 Things I Hate About You_ and Kiss Me Kate from two very different times in the twentieth century, and paintings of Katherina and Bianca from the late nineteenth century, the creators of these adaptations have chosen to focus on the role of the two main female characters in the play. The ideas surrounding these women have changed through the years, from Katherina and Bianca simply being young women who deviated from the norm of Shakespeare’s time to women who embody feminist ideals and stereotypes of the more modern world.
From the beginning of the play, the differences between Katherina and Bianca are highlighted through their interactions via dialogue. Early in the second act, Bianca pleads with her sister to not “make a bondmaid and a slave of me” because, as deemed by society, Bianca is not supposed to marry before her older sister (2.1.2). Bianca asks Katherina to “unbind [her] hands” so that she can get rid of all the gawdy implements she is forced to wear as a polite woman of the time, because if she doesn’t want to follow one rule, she doesn’t see why she should follow any of them (2.1.4). This immediately sets up these two sisters by showing how one depends on the status of the other to be truly happy, or happy as deemed by the doctrines of society anyway.
Katherina rebuts this whining after their father enters, and ends the scene with her own speech in which she argues that
Nay, now I see
She is your treasure, she must have a husband;
I must dance barefoot on her wedding-day
And for your love to her lead apes in hell.
Talk not to me, I will go sit and weep
Till I can find occasion of revenge. (2.1. 31-36)
Katherina feels that if she does not marry before her sister, then she never will find true love, and thusly will never be happy. She dislikes the stigma that has been brought upon her by her unwillingness to settle down with any of the men who have been brought before her, and is angry with her sister even more for buying into what society has deemed as the right way to do things.
These instances of the two sisters together are few and far between, almost to juxtapose the two characters even moreso than their very being in the play does. The fact that they eventually switch roles is another interesting point; Shakespeare presents one as a shrew and the other as the seemingly perfect woman, but he abruptly switches these roles in the last act, after all the action has been performed of the men taming the original shrew. The presentations of these two female characters in a cast full of men is the most poignant part of this whole argument; Shakespeare plays on the societal conventions to the point where he is able to show how they can also...