The Role of Women in Taming of the Shrew and Ten Things I Hate About You

How and why have societal expectations concerning the role of women been appropriated.

Texts comment upon the society in which they are based. Some are intentionally didactic while others just comment upon the time merely by being set in it, revealing the conventions and paradigms that are prevalent. The issue of social expectations concerning the role of women is evident in Shakespeare’s play Taming of the Shrew and Gil Jungers’ Film Ten Things I hate about you. Their widely differing social and historical contexts clearly shape their treatment of this theme, reflecting the environments in which they were produced.

Taming of the Shrew was written and set in Elizabethan society, as a form of popular entertainment. This meant that the mass audience, for whom it was intended, could relate to closely to what they were watching and understand its reflection on themselves and their society. The appropriation of Ten Things I hate about you into a contemporary setting makes it relevant for today’s audience, (as does its presentation as a feature film), which preserves the integrity of the play perhaps even more so than a direct transposition would, because it has the same purpose and intent – to comment about the societal expectations and assumptions on the role of women, according to their own times.

Women are meant to serve men. That is their role, that is what is expected of them. This is the paradigm that is prevalent in Elizabethan society and clearly evident in Taming of the Shrew. At the end of the text, Katharina, the woman who had rebelled against society, is shown ‘accept’ what is expected of her.

Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee,


And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks and true obedience;
Too little payment for so great a debt.
Such duty as the subject owes the prince
Even such a woman oweth to her husband;

Her acceptance of her need and want to...