Stranger Than Shakespeare

Stranger Than Shakespeare

Comparing “The Taming of the Shrew” to “Stranger Than Fiction”

With today’s ideals in mind, most people would assume that love comes before marriage. The opposite is the case in The Taming of the Shrew.  The protagonist, Petruchio, gets married to Katherine in the beginning of the play without really knowing her. The marriage was for his own financial gains and also so two other suitors could have the ability to marry Katherine’s sister, Bianca. At the end of the play, after a score of mental games played by Petruchio to “tame” Katherine, she gives a long, emotional speech that displays her love for him and he goes on to tell of his love for her.

Stranger Than Fiction revolves around Harold Crick, an IRS agent who lives a monotonous, receptive and droll life. One day, everything changes. He begins to hear an author in his head narrating his life to extraordinary accuracy. He recognizes the voice to be that of a famous author he once saw on television. The author reveals that Harold is going to die and he has to find her and convince her to change the end of the story (and his life) before it’s too late. At the same time, Harold takes on the task of auditing a baker, Ana Pascal. Harold is uncomfortable with the narrations made by the author when he’s around Ms. Pascal. The author makes Harold realize that he’s subconsciously falling in love with her. Romantic love is approached differently by both men in both scenarios. This shows that romantic love is approached differently in today’s society.

In Act Two: Scene 1 of Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio says, “What, with my tongue in your tail? nay, come again, Good Kate; I am a gentleman.”

This is a quote from when Petruchio is first meeting Katherine. He is crude and inappropriate at first, intentionally. He is trying to be funny. This was Shakespeare’s version of comedy. Petruchio is aware that Katherine is known as the mean sister and takes a jab at her sense of humor or perhaps just tries to make her feel uncomfortable. Petruchio goes on to confirm that he was just kidding and he tries to show her that he is a respectable man. Harold Crick is in a similar situation. He runs into Ana Pascal on a bus and tries to interact with her in a non-auditing manner.

Harold: How are you?

Ana: I’m lousy, I’m being audited

Harold: Of course

Ana: By a real creep too

Harold: I- I think I owe you an apology. IRS agents, we’re given rigorous aptitude tests before we can work. Unfortunately for you we aren’t tested on tact or good manner so I apologize... I... Ooggled you.
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Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 7.13.44 PM

In this short exchange of dialogue, Harold attempts to show Ana that he’s a respectable man by apologizing for an incident that happened a few days prior in which he began to fantasize about her and blatantly stare at her breasts. Harold’s crude actions weren’t intentional, like Petruchio’s. Because this movie takes place about four hundred years after all of Shakespeare’s plays were written, courtship is approached very differently by the two men.

In Act One: Scene 1 of Taming of the Shrew, Hortensio says, “There's small choice in rotten apples.”

Hortensio and Gremio are the two suitors that are going after Bianca, Katherine’s younger sister. Hortensio and Gremio are friends and they have to work together to get past the only obstacle in their way: Bianca cannot get married until Katherine gets married. They have to narrow down the already small pool of men who would be willing to marry her for them, so they could achieve their goals. In the beginning of Stranger Than Fiction, Harold Crick goes to a therapist about the voice in his head. The therapist listens to him and then tells him she thinks he’s schizophrenic. He tells her that he isn’t schizophrenic and she tells him that if his condition were real, she’d refer him to a literary expert. Harold then goes to Professor Jules Hilbert, a Literature Theory professor. After Professor Hilbert agrees to help Harold, he explains the theory that all works of fiction can be narrowed down to two categories: Comedy and Tragedy. He explains it in simple terms to Harold, “Tragedy you die, Comedy you get hitched.” They go on to try to figure out which story Harold is living in.

Professor Hilbert: Most comic heroes fall in love with people who are introduced after the story has begun, usually people who hate the hero initially. Although I can’t imagine anyone hating you, Harold.

Harold: Professor Hilbert, I’m an IRS agent. Everyone hates me.

Professor Hilbert: Ah ah good, have you met anyone recently who might loathe the very core of you?

Harold: I just started auditing a woman who told me to get bent.

Professor Hilbert: Well that sounds like a comedy.

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Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 9.47.16 PM

Similarly to Hortensio and Gremio, Harold and Professor Hilbert are trying to narrow down a pool of possible people. In The Taming of the Shrew they’re looking for a man to marry Katherine. In Stranger Than Fiction they’re looking for the possible love interest that would determine whether Harold is living a Comedy or a Tragedy. He later goes to Ms. Pascal’s bakery with a small moleskine journal that he uses to record the instances that would make the story a one of the two defining genres. He spends the whole day going through Ana Pascal’s receipts while she spends the whole day making sure his day is awful. He chalks his story up to being a Tragedy. When he’s on his way out, Ana makes him cookies and they spend time talking. Harold upsets her by turning down a box for the rest of the cookies and feels terrible about it. Days later he can’t get the smell of cookies or the thought of Ms. Pascal out of his head. It starts to affect his work and they give him a paid vacation that he spends trying to court her.

By the end of the movie, Harold and Ana are in love. By the end of Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio and Katherine are in love. Both men achieve their end goal while pursuing it in vastly different ways. If Harold Crick had approached Ana Pascal in the same way that Petruchio did with Katherine, the movie would have been very different and they most likely would not have fallen in love. In Petruchio’s time, his tactics were commonplace. That goes to show how much society has changed in the last 400 years.