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Charlotte M Spurrill

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The Taming of Shakespeare's Play
by Charlotte M Spurrill   

Last edited: Wednesday, February 27, 2002
Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2002

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Ten Things I Hate About You as a contemporary re-telling of The Taming of the Shrew

This gives away part of the ending. Don't read this if you don't want to know that Kat and Patrick are together at the end. *grin*

Some things cannot merely be linguistically translated and still be accepted by the intended audience. When the two cultural mindsets are quite different, it is often easier to culturally translate than it would be to spend time and energy explaining one culture to the other. Such is the case with Ten Things I Hate About You.

Today's youth culture would hardly accept and appreciate a story about a man who starves his wife so she will stop arguing with him, but they certainly accepted and appreciated this movie. Some might argue that Ten Things is no longer Shakespeare, but it does still capture the essence of what Shakespeare was saying four hundred years ago.

Kat (Julia Stiles), in Ten Things, learns many of the same lessons Kate learns in The Taming. Kat learns that it is not weak to love someone and that it is all right to let her guard down when she is with someone she loves-with her sister, with her father, with Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger).

Like Kate, she discovers how to survive without hiding behind a false front of cruelty; Patrick is correct when he tells her, "You know, you're not as mean as you think you are." Eventually, she shows immense courage and lets her guard down in front of her English class, crying openly as she reads her sonnet.

Patrick portrays the essence of Petruchio in a similar way. He, like his predecessor, goes against the social norms of his time and surroundings. He certainly is not the kind of "jock" who usually dates all the pretty girls. People-such as Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Michael (David Krumholtz), and Joey (Andrew Keegan)-are afraid of Patrick (most people are afraid of Kat too) just as people are afraid of Petruchio.

Patrick diverges (thankfully) from Petruchio's "taming" techniques. While Petruchio pretends to be kind, he is intentionally depriving Kate of food and sleep; conversely, Patrick is truly kind, gently persistent in his purpose to date Kat.

The most beautifully done example of cultural translation is Kate's final speech becoming Kat's sonnet-a sonnet which, in fact, has been culturally translated from one of Shakespeare's. The disturbing and uncomfortable references to women being weaker than men and to a wife's unconditional obedience of husbands are gone, while the central message, the public declaration of "I love you," remains clear and powerful.

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Reviewed by Aidan Spurrill
I actually liked "10 Things I Hate About You" more than I liked the play it was based on. Sure, I'm a fan of Shakespearean humour and I enjoy reading the language of his work, but I was left with far fewer reasons to hate Patrick than I'd compiled for Petruchio after watching two versions of the original story performed.
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