Spring 2008 Edition
Kat Stratford: Playing Her Role?
Argumentative 2010 2nd Place
Professor: Dr. Jessica Tvordi
Between the 1999 movie, 10 Things I Hate About You, and William Shakespeare’s play, The Taming of the Shrew, there are many conclusions one can draw concerning the different counterparts of the characters. The variations between Kat Stratford and Kate Minola influence how the audience interprets the play and its underlying themes. In the film, 10 Things I Hate About You, Kat Stratford plays an opinionated and angry outcast in her last year of high school who just wants to be her own person. Others see her as a shrew because of her strong voice and how she constantly strives to be different from the other students. Kate Minola in The Taming of the Shrew, however, is angry and bitter because of her family and the low role a woman must play in society. People see Kate as a shrew because women in Shakespeare’s time were not allowed to voice their opinions when any important decisions were made, even when they were right. When examining both versions of the same story, it becomes clear that Kat Stratford is a more developed character because of how she uses her stereotype as a shrew, her relationships with the other characters, and her deeply set motives.
The setting switch from old Padua to a modern American high school changes the characters’ personalities dramatically, and since it is a teen movie, stereotypes are applied to everyone. Kat Stratford is portrayed as the loner who doesn’t want to be a part of any clique. The first time she appears in the movie, she is seen glaring at a car full of girls and listening to Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation,” which implies that she doesn’t care about her popularity status at all. She also seems to think that girls who swoon because of a handsome and charming guy aren’t very intelligent. In that way, she shares a common bond with the original Kate Minola from Shakespeare’s play. When Kat finds Patrick waiting at her car after she buys a CD, Patrick believes that he can charm her by using cheap lines and winking at her. Her reply is less than amused by his attempt. “Am I that transparent? I want you, I need you. Oh, baby. Oh, baby” (10 Things I Hate About You). In the play, however, Kate’s personality changes dramatically from a shrew to a faithful and loving wife. Her ending speech does not seem to completely fit her old clever, bitter self, and the audience is left wondering why. In Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, Kate goes from “I see a woman may be made a fool / If she had not the spirit to resist” (3.2. 220-221) to “Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper” (5.2. 146) within a couple of days. Although it is possible, this abrupt change on the outlook of the role of a woman seems highly unlikely and very inhuman. In the 1999 movie, the audience is able to pick out certain moments to see why Kat acts the way that she does and how all that changes when Patrick comes into the picture, wanting to really know the girl behind the mask.
Because the relationships Kat has with the other characters in 10 Things I Hate About You are better established than those shared between Kate and the others in The Taming of the Shrew, most people are able to take in the important themes of Shakespeare’s play and appreciate the overall story more. The vague references as to why Kate is unhappy in The Taming of the Shrew don’t leave as strong of an impression, or are as capturing, as the struggles that Kat faces and overcomes in 10 Things I Hate About You. While Kate is starved and kept from sleep in the play by Petruchio in order to tame her wild ways, Patrick, in the movie, charms Kat and really likes her for who she is. Kat believes that she should disappoint everyone from the start so that she can live up to her own expectations without having to worry what people think. Patrick then surprises her by saying, “Then you screwed up…You never disappointed me” (10 Things I Hate About You). He also shows that he cares more about Kat than his “bad boy” reputation when he sings a love song to her over the loudspeakers during her soccer practice. Patrick brings out Kat’s good nature through kindness instead of being verbally abusive and physically controlling like Petruchio in the play.
Kat also has closer relationships in the movie with other characters such as her sister Bianca and her father. She loves her family, but at the same time she is frustrated by them, possibly because of their being so calm about their mother leaving. Because of Bianca’s choice to be one of the popular girls at school, Kat seems to think that she is selling out and not being herself. Kat implies this when she tells Bianca, “You don’t always have to be who they want you to be, you know” (10 Things I Hate About You). Also, she resents her father because of his assumptions about where she will go for college. Despite these feelings, she tries to protect Bianca from getting hurt by encouraging her not to date, and shows that she loves her father when he trusts her to go to college on the other side of the country. In The Taming of the Shrew, however, Kate’s father Baptista hands Kate over to Petruchio after just meeting him, conveying to the reader that Baptista doesn’t care much for his first daughter. “Well mayst thou woo, and happy be thy / Speed!” (2.1 136-137). When Kat’s mother left, Kat lost her virginity to Joey because she was going through a tough time and wanting an outlet for the way she was feeling. After that, she promised herself that she wouldn’t follow the crowd anymore or be the person everyone wanted her to be. She, in turn, doesn’t want Bianca to have such a terrible time figuring out who she is and tries to steer her away from many general high school experiences. Later, when Kat’s father tells Kat that he sent in a check for the college she wants to go to, she hugs him because she knows that he loves her enough to let her go out on her own. Because of these moments during the film, the audience is able to understand that she is human and does have human emotions and reactions.
Kat’s motives in the movie are to get through high school with little social contact and to go to an east coast college after she graduates, but she is completely grounded in her thoughts and actions. She tends to be involved and opinionated when completing her schoolwork, and all throughout the scenes in her English class, (with the exception of when the Shakespeare sonnet is assigned), she bluntly tells everyone what is wrong with the authors and assignments that they are given. “Romantic? Hemingway? He was an abusive alcoholic misogynist who squandered half his life hanging around Picasso trying to nail his leftovers” (10 Things I Hate About You). She states her opinions clearly, revealing conviction rather than childish stubbornness. During an argument with her father, she states exactly what she wants after she graduates high school. “I wanna go to an east coast school. I want you to trust me to make my own choices and I want you to stop trying to control my life just because you can’t control yours” (10 Things I Hate About You). When she says this, there is no question about what she wants, and the audience doesn’t have to assume anything, as when they are reading the play they have to second-guess Kate’s motives.
The movie clearly defines Kat’s role in the high school world and points out one of the main themes in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew: Society’s happiness depends on everyone playing their individual role. Kat realizes in the end that in order to be happy, she has to cooperate on some level with the people connected to her. By better establishing these relationships in the movie, this theme is able to cross from one generation to the next. The reason 10 Things I Hate About You is such a great adaptation of the play is because role playing applies to both Shakespeare’s time period and modern times, even though there are some differences. For example, women played the role of the obedient wife hundreds of years ago. Today, although most women are considered equal to men, they still have different roles that they must play in order to function in society, such as a full-time worker, a single mother, or even a daughter. This theme transcends time periods and even reaches the audiences who may be losing the connection between classic literature and its useful themes.
“All the world’s a stage, / And all the men and women merely players.”
Don’t worry, you didn’t miss a line while you were reading. This particular quote is from one of Shakespeare’s other plays, As You Like It. However, it perfectly sums up The Taming of the Shrew.
It can be argued that everyone plays a part in The Taming of the Shrew and that the actors are performing a play within a play. I say “it can be argued” because there are different approaches to analyzing some of the main characters.
In this post, I’ll show you a few of those approaches and explain how to write about four TheTaming of the Shrew characters: Katherine, Petruchio, Bianca, and Lucentio.
(If you need to write about themes, read 3 Taming of the Shrew Themes to Look for and Write About.)
Choose Which of The Taming of the Shrew Characters to Analyze
Picking the right character to write about is crucial. You’ll have more fun writing your essay if you’re particularly drawn to one character over the others. You’ll also be able to find better support.
But how do you choose a character?
First, you want to make sure the character is present enough in the text to warrant an essay. Sure, it’s possible to write about minor characters, but it’s not easy. You’ll have to dig deeper for evidence for your analysis. So it’s best to stick with a main character.
It’s also easier to write about a character you’re passionate about. Whether you identify with the character or absolutely hate the person, that passion goes a long way in writing your analysis.
But what if you don’t really care about any of the characters?
If you’re completely apathetic to the entire cast, go with the character you can write the most about from an evidence-based perspective.
When you look for the character with the most evidence to support your analysis, you’ll have much more to write about, which should make the process easier.
It’s that simple.
So who are the best characters to write about? Here are my four favorites.
Katherine Minola, or Kate, is one sharp cookie. She’s incredibly intelligent and is not afraid to speak her mind. Unfortunately, she’s angry and not very nice. And back in Shakespeare’s day, this tendency made her quite an outcast.
Kate is angry for a few reasons, one of which is her father clearly favors her younger sister, Bianca. This jealousy makes her prone to tantrums and fights with Bianca.
Kate tries to hide her pain with anger or bitterness. Because of her anger, no one seems to like her. But because no one seems to like her, she gets angry. It’s a vicious cycle.
At the point that Kate starts changing her ways, readers are divided about what’s actually going on. Some say she starts becoming more obedient. Others see her behavior shift as a ploy to act obediently, but really, it’s a way to get what she wants.
The pivotal moment is when Petruchio and Kate go on a trip to see Kate’s dad.
Petruchio starts saying things as if they’re the opposite of what they are—for example, telling Kate the sun is the moon and that an old man is a young virgin woman. And he expects Kate to agree with his nonsense!
Kate decides to go along with the opposite game. She finds out that, when she plays along with Petruchio, she gets what she wants—and avoids punishment.
By the end of the play, Kate seems to have gone through a total transformation. Seems to.
This is where scholars argue about Kate’s intentions. Either she has been brainwashed into giving up her surly ways and conforms to 16th century ideas about the doting wife, or she just does what Petruchio asks so that she can get what she wants.
Both points can be argued, but if you want to write about Kate, you have to back your case up with evidence from the text.
“Henri Martin, Dompteur, mit seinem Löwen Coburg” by Unknown, Commons.Wikimedia.org (PD-old-75)
Oh, Petruchio. He’s the kind of person who’s both likable and a total jerk. His humor and love of language make him seem like a good match for Kate, and we want to root for him until he starts treating her poorly.
Petruchio first rolls into town saying that he wants to marry for money, and even the shrewish Katherine is tolerable for the right price (dowry). He eventually courts and marries Kate, but abuses her by starving her and refusing to let her sleep—all because she doesn’t obey him.
Petruchio understands the whole time that society and its rules are all an act, and the people must be convincing actors if they are to do well. The first indication that he’s playing society’s act is his intention to marry for money.
While this might be true, he actually does enjoy Kate’s company and her wit, which he sees as pretty well-matched to his. But because Kate is not very good at “acting” like a proper lady, he decides to “tame” her.
Some say that by taming the so-called shrew of a woman, Petruchio is teaching Kate how to act like a lady in public, which leads her to find better social standing. Others argue that he’s truly trying to break her spirit by abusing and brainwashing her into doing what he wants.
Like with Kate, you can write about Petruchio both ways as long as you gather the evidence to back it up.
Bianca is Kate’s more popular little sister, and she’s also putting up an act, especially around her father. Her father thinks she’s an innocent angel and even wants to preserve her purity by saying that she can’t get married until after Kate does.
In order to court her, Lucentio and Hortensio act like tutors. Bianca hides their courtship from her father because it’s proof that she isn’t the perfect, pure daughter her father views her to be.
Bianca’s pleasantness also tricks her suitors into thinking she’ll be a good (obedient) wife. This is proven false at the end of the play when Lucentio calls for her and she refuses to come to him. As small an act of defiance as that is, it’s enough to prove that Bianca isn’t what she seems.
Out of all of the TheTaming of the Shrew characters on this list, Lucentio is the one who’s literally acting in the text. He disguises himself as a tutor in order to secretly court Bianca.
Beyond him playing the role of a tutor, Lucentio’s idea of love can also be seen as theatrical. He believes love is something you feel right away and that no amount of money can buy it.
But as it turns out, this ideal is impractical and doesn’t lead to a happy marriage (happy in a 16th century kind of way, that is). When Bianca refuses to come to him when called, it doesn’t just speak to her defiance, but also to the illusion of their entire relationship.
How to Analyze The Taming of the Shrew Characters
To write your The Taming of the Shrew analysis, follow these simple steps to build your case:
- Choose the character you want to write about,
- Once you’ve chosen your character, think about specific aspects and qualities you want to focus on.
- Start rereading the text, noting those aspects.
- Be sure to include specific quotes and page numbers for reference later. This will serve as your support.
- Organize your supporting evidence into groups, which will form the basis of your main arguments.
- Finally, organize your evidence into an outline, which will not only keep your thoughts in order but will also make the writing process quicker and easier.
If you’re writing about Bianca, for example, you might argue that her lying to her father and not coming to Lucentio when called are evidence that she has been acting like a lady the whole time when, really, she was the “shrewish” sister.
Once you’re finished organizing, it’s time to start writing. With your ideas and evidence all mapped out, the only thing you have to concentrate on is making your writing sound nice and flow together.
Just make sure you’re analyzing and not just summarizing.
More Resources to Tackle Your The Taming of the Shrew Character Analysis
If you’re at a loss for inspiration and want to see real examples of how others have written about these The Taming of the Shrew characters, browse through the following example essays:
Need some help with the actual writing part to keep your analysis on track? Try these posts:
And as always, if you need help taming your essay, the Kibin editors are happy to assist. They’ll make sure it adheres to the rules of style, grammar, punctuation, and flow.
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