Parents: Dictators of Love
(Chennai Express, “Taming of the Shrew”)
Yeah, I say my title twice. 'Cause I'm awesome.
Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare was a masterpiece of its time, like most of Shakespeare's works, and the plot was heavily driven by a fathers involvement in his daughters’ marital status. This method of thought is closely tied to the modern Indian movie “Chennai Express”. In Taming of the Shrew, the character Baptista sets multiple challenges for potential suitors of his young and beautiful daughter, while in the movie “Chennai Express” the father, Durgeshwara, merely puts up a constant ever changing wall of intimidation so that only the suitor who is willing to keep up and succeed through the changing conditions will be allowed to marry the girl. Though the way that the fathers display their protection is different, both are trying to assure love for their daughters by dissuading suitors.
“That is, not to bestow my younger daughter before I have a husband for the elder.”
Act 1 Scene 1 Lines 50-51
Baptista is a loving father, who merely wants what’s best for his daughters. However his eldest daughter, Katherine, is slightly sadistic, and enjoys the pain of others. In the second scene she’s in, she’s annoyed that she’ll be forced to marry. To release her anger, Katherine ties her younger sister up, drags her around the house, and then slaps her in the face when she talks back. Naturally, all of the suitors were terrified that someone would have to marry her before anyone could court Bianca. Yet Baptista doesn’t seem to worry at all about his younger daughter losing any suitors because of the task he set before them. Baptista wouldn’t willingly try and harm his daughter’s prospects, he is instead trying to guarantee that only the ones who would actually attempt a risky task for his daughter would be able to get her.
In this scene Rahul meets the extended family of Meenalochni for the first time. In this scene the Rahul is introduced to Durgeshwara, or Durge, as her fiance. Durge carries with him a passive intimidation, which serves the purpose of keeping anyone beneath him away. For Rahul, this is meant to assure that he is worthy even of being near Durge or his daughter Meena. Baptista had a more active interaction with the suitors while Durge is displaying a passive intimidation. Partly this is due to Baptista having multiple ellegible suitors for his daughter, while Durge had few. However, it’s also heavily dependant on Baptista merely being a merchant, while Durge was in the role of a local king. Baptista was passively intimidating class wise, but Durge had the military power to ensure that if he disliked someone they would be imprisoned for as long as he wished. Both fathers had different ways of intimidating suitors that weren’t good enough.
“Tis deeds must win the prize, and he of both that can assure my daughter greatest dower shall have my Bianca’s love.”
Act 2 Scene 1 Lines 135-136
In this scene a conversation is being had with Katherine’s suitor. The conversation is strange, because in a society of arranged marriages love isn’t the a large deciding factor. However because Baptista cares about his daughter, he is willing to set a test for the suitor. While the test may seem simple, Baptista sets a test to judge the suitor, and doesn’t merely observe their interactions. In order to protect his daughter, Baptista takes an active role in protecting her.
Tangballi is a local leader who was arranged to marry Meena. Unbeknown to him, Durge had recently changed his mind and allowed her new suitor Rahul her hand in marriage. Tangballi arrived with the intention to marry Meena and was personally delivered information of this change directly by Durge. Durge did this as a test, to see how Tangaballi would react under such pressure. If he didn’t love Meena enough to try for her, he wouldn’t be worthy of her. Both Baptista and Durge are setting tests to see how suitors will act, but again Durge takes a more passive role, while Baptista takes a more active one.
“Ay,when the special thing is well obtained, that is, her love, for that is all in all.”
Act 2 Scene 1 Lines 135-136
This is from a conversation with a suitor of his younger daughter, Bianca. He’s trying to find out who’s able to help his daughter most, but also who is willing to give more to his daughter. He is saying that it is deeds that will win her, but in actuality it will go to the one who puts the biggest steak in the matter. Baptista wants his daughter to be supported by someone who is able to muster up the most resources for her.
Tangballi decided that the best way to prove his worthiness to Meena was to kill her suitor Rahul. Durge takes an active stance in this by preventing anyone from interfering with the fight. He even prevents his daughter from having a choice in it. He is purely interested in who is willing stake their life on the decision. Both Baptista and Duge have suitors battle, but they make the suitors fight on fields that the father is comfortable on. The merchant Baptista makes them fight over money, while the local lord Durge makes them fight to the death.
In both “Taming of the Shrew” and Chennai Express, though the focus was on the main characters, the plots were mostly shaped by the decisions of the parents. The actions of the characters are made to placate or impress the elders, and every move the elders make causes rippling consequences throughout the story. They both come from different stories, “Taming of the Shrew” being focused on the the trials faced by characters, and Chennai Express being focused on the interaction between the lovers, and the parent is more passive. Both Baptista and Durge try and protect their children by setting tests for them, tests that range from tests of love and reactions to pure merit, whether it’s in the form of a fight or of the amount of money available.
Shakespeare, William, Barbara A. Mowat, and Paul Werstine. The Taming of the Shrew. New York: Washington Square, 1992. Print.
Netflix. Perf. Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone. Netflix. N.p., 8 Aug. 2013. Web. 1 Dec. 2013