Conquest is Not Just Romantic
Comparing “Mamma Mia!” to “The Taming of the Shrew”
In “The Taming of the Shrew”, many men are in love with Baptista’s daughters and will do about anything to get them as their wives. They are suitors in the romantic sense, but in “Mamma Mia!” Sophie has three possible dads and when they all find out they could be the father they become suitors in the paternal sense, trying to woo Sophie by telling her how they would treat their daughters if they had one and wanting to “win” the spot of father by walking her down the aisle at her wedding. Competition for a woman's attention and affection still exists hundreds of years later, but now in a more modern sense of something other than romantic.
“Say she rail; why, I'll tell her plain
She sings as sweetly as a nightingale.
Say that she frown; I'll say she looks as clear
As morning roses newly wash'd with dew.
Say she be mute and will not speak a word;
Then I'll commend her volubility,
and say she uttereth piercing eloquence.”
In this scene Petruchio is telling his friend his plan to woo Katherine and get her to fall in love with him so that she will marry him. He thinks that by telling Katherine how great she is he will win her affection and will be able to claim her as his. Even this long ago men had little schemes to “win” the women of the time.
Similarly in “Mamma Mia!” Sophie’s potential dads have their own ways of making them seem special like they would be the best dad by winning the prize of walking her down the aisle.
In this scene from “Mamma Mia!” Sophie talks to one of the potential dads, Harry. She asks him if he has any children of his own and he says no but he would have loved to have a daughter like Sophie and would have spoiled her rotten. As Harry stays on the island he starts to realize that Sophie might be his daughter and ultimately decides that by treating her like this she might believe he is the one. Like Petruchio, Harry wants to “woo” Sophie into thinking he is the best candidate and later tells her that he wants to walk her down the aisle. In this generation people go on quests for things other than romantic love, just like how Harry is on a quest for paternal love.
“Of all thy suitors, here I charge thee, tell
Whom thou lovest best: see thou dissemble not.”
(Act 2, Scene 2, 1)
In this scene Katherine is talking to Bianca about her suitors asking her who she loves the most. Bianca says no one because she is not technically allowed to be involved with boys until Katherine gets married. Bianca and Katherine both know that all the suitors are obsessed with her but if the time comes, she can only choose one. Katherine may be trying to help her but she is also showing how all of the men could be happy with Bianca even if they don't know her. They would all take her if they could.
At the end of “Mamma Mia!” all of the dads stand up and say how happy they would be to be Sophie’s dad even if all three of them have to share her, it would be a privilege.
In this scene in the movie the dads are behaving a bit like Bianca’s suitors in the sense that they would all be happy to have Sophie as their daughter. In the “Shrew”, they want Bianca as their wife but these men want Sophie as their daughter. They’ve all tried to woo her but in the end they are all happy to have Sophie as their daughter and are willing to share. Unlike the “Shrew”, the suitors can't really share a wife, so one of them must get her in the end.
Society has seen many changes over time but here society has just progressed and broadened. Rather than seeing romantic love as the only thing to try to get people try for more things like parental relationships, as seen in “Mamma Mia!”. In “Shrew” romantic love seems the only thing that is important to the men, now people have broader horizons and see that other things can be just as worthy.
Mamma Mia! Dir. Phyllia Lloyd. Perf. Amanda Seyfried. Universal Pictures, 2008. DVD.