Brad's Reviews > The Taming of the Shrew

The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
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Sep 07, 2008

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bookshelves: shakespeare, drama, guiltiest-of-pleasures
Read from September 24 to 26, 2010 , read count: 3

Whatever we may think about the apparent misogyny in The Taming of the Shrew, popular culture -- for good or ill -- owes a great debt to Shakespeare's tale of Kate and Petruchio, and even a little bit to Christophero Sly (remember Eddie Murphy's Trading Places?).

From It Happened One Night, Philadelphia Story and Disney's Beauty and the Beast to Remington Steele, Fawlty Towers and X-Files (just to name a small few), The Taming of the Shrew has been the template for some of the most memorable film and television romances.

The shrewish Kate and sexist Petruchio reappear time and again. If there is a popular expression of "sexual tension," if the "will they? won't they?" questions are being asked, if one side is shrewish or foolish and the other side is controlling (acceptably or otherwise), you can bet that The Taming of the Shrew is lurking somewhere beneath the surface. And let's face it: audiences love these elements. They make for precisely the sort of abrasive romances we seem attracted to.

Take the most blatant mimicking of The Taming of the Shrew -- television's Moonlighting. It brought together snooty supermodel Maddy Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) and sarcastic private dick David Addison (Bruce Willis), threw the former in shoulder pads and the latter in cheap suits, and suddenly Kate and Petruchio were reborn as 80s sparring partners. The connection was so obvious, in fact, that the makers of Moonlighting decided to make it explicit, actually writing an episode called "Atomic Shakespeare," wherein Maddy and David became Kate and Petruchio. The point is, though, that we, the viewing public, loved it. Maddy and David were water cooler conversation before that term was common. Everyone knew who they were, even if they weren't watching the show, and we all knew that eventually they would tame each other (which, of course, killed the show).

I am rambling now, but what I am trying to say is that The Taming of the Shrew is one of the progenitors of funny relationship comedy. So if you have a chance to check it out on stage (because it is much better on stage than lying flat on the page), make sure you see it. You'll recognize so much that you love that you'll find yourself comfortably going along with the absurdity, the sexism, the endless kissing in spite of yourself. And you may even have a fun time.
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message 1: by Amber (new) - added it

Amber Tucker The "guiltiest of pleasures" shelf?!

Oh dear, I'm sorry I made you read this for a third time. Great review, though. I would never have connected Remington and Laura with Petruchio and Kate. How Shakespeare must be turning in his grave... hopefully just with laughter.

Brad Oh, I'm sure it is with laughter. He is such a hack.

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