Giving their Sonny Side
Comparing The Taming of the Shrew and Big Daddy
In William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, there are certain attributes that the men must enact to court the women. The book follows around two suitors, Lucentio and Petruchio, who witness, utilize, and understand the expectations by which the two are expected to have at the time as they chase after a father’s daughters. The same can be said about the 1999 movie Big Daddy, which follows Sonny, a young man (played by Adam Sandler) who illegally adopts a child as his own. Sonny also has to deal with the expectations women have for him as a man. Both the suitors and Sonny have to show that they must make the first move towards the woman and also demonstrate that they can take care of the woman. However, since it is a different time period, the importance of romance varies. While the suitors do not need to be romantic to the women in order to woo them, Sonny has to share romantic moments with Layla for her to fall in love with him. Therefore, men have always known that they have certain standards and expectations they have had to meet in order to court women. However, these aspects, including romance, have evolved over time.
“Sir, list to me: I am my father’s heir and only son. If I may have your daughter to my wife, I’ll leave her houses three or four as good, within rich Pisa walls, as any one old Signior Gremio has in Padua, besides two thousand ducats by the year of fruitful land, all which shall be her jointure.” - Tranio as Lucentio.
Act 2, Scene 1, Lines 383-391.
In this scene, Tranio is disguised as Lucentio, acting as a potential suitor for a sweet, pretty young woman named Bianca while Lucentio pretends to be a school teacher. However, as shown in the quote before, he first has to prove his worth to her father and show that he can take care of Bianca. He makes the first move by coming to her house and showing interest in Bianca to Baptista, the father. In Big Daddy, Sonny also has to make the first move and prove that he can take care of Layla.
While in The Taming of the Shrew, Tranio (disguised as Lucentio) makes the first move and shows his worth in one scene and quote, the same cannot be said for Sonny in Big Daddy. In the first screenshot provided, Sonny is making his first move to Layla in the park. He uses his illegally adopted child to help find a way to talk to Layla. It is obvious she is into him, but does not want to make a commitment. Over time, they begin to spend more time together, as shown in the second screenshot. During these special times, Sonny works to demonstrate that he is responsible by showing that he can take care of Layla.
While both the book and movie show two similar ideas about the expectations that men know they must follow in order to successfully court a women, they also differ. In order to show that he could take care of Bianca, Tranio (disguised as Lucentio) had to go through Baptista first. He also had to prove that he can take care of Bianca in the future by showing off his wealth, as demonstrated in the quote above. Sonny also had to make the first move, but went straight to the woman, which shows the change in romance. Today, women have more agency and speak for themselves, unlike in Shrew, where the suitors went the father first.
In addition, just like in The Taming of the Shrew, wealth plays a large role in Sonny’s effort to court Layla. When they first meet, he is working in a toll booth once a week. His lack of ability to maintain a well paying job is a main reason why his former girlfriend, Vanessa, leaves him at the beginning of the movie. It is also cause of concern for Layla and her family. When they have their first kiss, Layla’s sister witnesses it and scolds Layla saying, “He’s dirty and he’s poor.” At the end, Sonny becomes a lawyer and marries Layla. Just like in The Taming of the Shrew, Sonny’s ability to show that he can find a reliable source of income finds him a wife.
“And therefore, if thou know one rich enough to be Petruchio’s wife (As wealth is burden of my wooing dance), be she as foul as was Florentius’ love, as old as Sibyl, and as curst and shrewd as Socrates’ Xanthippe, or a worse, she moves me not, or not removes at least affection’s edge in me, were she as rough as are the swelling Adriatic seas.” -Petruchio
Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 68-75
In Shrew, Petruchio is explaining to Hortensio, a friend, his ideas on courtship. At face value, the quote is showing how Petruchio views Katharine. He doesn’t care if she is nice or beautiful or if she is romantic-- all he cares about is money. However, this also shows the expectations that women have for men in Shrew does not include romance. Petruchio knows that he merely has to show an interest in Katharine and provide his wealth. Eventually, Petruchio goes on to court Katherine without showing much affection towards her. However, the opposite can be said about Sonny’s expectations as a man, seeking a wife.
In this scene, Sonny is enjoying a romantic scene with Layla. After going out to a fancy restaurant, Sonny and Layla have their first kiss under the stars of New York City, when he drops her off at her apartment. He understands that in order for him to woo Layla, he has to be romantic. This kiss and other instances, like while they’re sitting on the couch listening to music, shows his effort at romance.
However, in Shrew, the romance is not a necessity. As shown through Petruchio’s explanation about what women mean to him, and the fact that he was still able to court Katherine, shows its lack of importance. This is the opposite of what Sonny thinks he needs to do in order to court Layla. Therefore, he tries to have moments like the first kiss to show his romantic outreach and love for Layla. As times have since changed, Petruchio doesn’t need to do this to woo Katherine.
The play and the movie both show the expectations that men know they must meet in order to court women. However, some aspects have developed over time which helps us understand society’s attitudes towards courtship. As women have gained more and more rights over themselves, their relationships, and the world around them, the expectations have changed with them. In The Taming of the Shrew, the men had to first prove themselves to their desired women’s fathers, while today, they have to prove themselves straight to the women. Ultimately, these aspects have impacted the standard that men know they have to utilize, although many of the ideas still hold the same basis.