The Deception of the Shrew

Deception of the Shrew

Comparing “The Taming of the Shrew” to “Man Up”

"The Taming of the Shrew" is a play about a man who tames Katherine, the most harsh, outspoken woman, into a mild, obedient wife. Man Up is a movie about a woman, Nancy, who pretends to be a man's, Jack, blind date.

In both the play, “The Taming of the Shrew, ” and the movie, “Man Up,” there is a common theme of changing oneself in a relationship. In “The Taming of the Shrew” both Katherine and Lucentio go through drastic changes for their relationships. Lucentio takes a more superficial approach to this, disguising himself as a school teacher to get closer to Bianca, whom he has fallen in love with. Katherine’s transformation is much more thorough than that of Lucentio’s. She trades in her fighting and rebellious spirit for that of someone much more docile and submissive, becoming who Petruchio, her husband, wanted her to be. In “Man Up” the main character, Nancy, emanates both of Katherine and Lucentio, disguising herself as someone she is not as well as undergoing a change within.

Unlike Lucentio, Nancy does not disguise herself as someone that is of a lower class. instead her disguise made her a better prospect, in her love interest, Jack’s, eyes, than she normally would be. This meant that when her true self was revealed it was a disappointment to her love interest. Though both characters disguise themselves in order to pursue their romantic interest, in Nancy’s dawning on what would be appealing characteristics in her disguise her reveal makes her seem pathetic and untrustworthy. Lucentio, on the other hand, disguises himself as someone that has less prospects than he does normally, which made his reveal a much more positive thing, as it was a good surprise that he had money and power and land, in the end he comes out seeming like a good guy. Nancy also resembles Katherine in that they both change themselves for their love interest. The difference between the two is that throughout the entirety of “Taming of the Shrew” people are fighting to make Katharine into who they want her to be and in the end they succeed. In the movie, “Man Up,” Nancy has to shed the mask she has put up to make other’s happy and learn to just become herself, instead of someone else. These texts show that in relationships people feel the need to change themselves for their partner, but human’s outlook on this “deception” has changed overtime, once not only acceptable, but appealing in a partner, now looked down upon as two faced and insufficient.

Act I Scene I (62-66)


“I'faith, sir, you shall never need to fear: I wis it is not halfway to her heart; But if it were, doubt not her care should be to comb your noddle with a three-legg'd stool and paint your face and use you like a fool.”

In this quote Katherine is speaking to Hortensio who had just told her that she would find no one unless she was kinder, and milder. She responds with a sharp remark, telling him that she would hit him in the head with a stool. This quote shows Katherine’s strong will in the beginning of the book and her attitude towards the idea of changing for a man.

This attitude that Katherine holds is the same that our main character in “Man Up,” Nancy, has towards people generally suggesting she change herself in order to find a relationship.

Train Scene

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I think it’s exactly what you need


Why is everyone always telling me what I need?


Perhaps if they’re always telling you, you should listen.


I think you need to shhh.

In this scene Nancy meets a woman on a train that tries to tell her that she should read a self-help book after overhearing Nancy’s phone conversation with her sister where she describes the terrible date that she had the other night. This scene shows how Nancy’s character in Man Up is like Katherine. She is abrasive and unpleasant to be around. People are constantly trying to butt into Nancy’s romantic life, telling her that she needs to be different than she is, much like Katherine in Taming of the Shrew. Nancy goes through the Katherine transformation early in the movie, deciding to change herself to please someone else, using Lucentio’s method of pretending to be someone that she is not. Throughout the rest of the movie the audience is watching her shed that disguise she had initially put on and how her love interest has to come to terms with who she really is, and how he, in fact, comes to fall in love with her true self instead of the front she had put on. This is a large contrast between the movie and the play where the entirety of the Taming of the Shrew revolved around changing Katherine’s character to be more desireable, Man Up focused on forcing other people to accept Nancy as she is, instead of having her change. This shows how, in our modern day, we believe that love comes only with honesty and the acceptance of a partner’s flaws, as opposed to attempting to erase all flaws that one may dislike about their relationship, that was more acceptable the 400 years ago that Taming of the Shrew was written.

Act 1, Scene 1 (210-215)


“I will some other be, some Florentine, some Neapolitan, or meaner man of Pisa. 'Tis hatch'd and shall be so: Tranio, at once uncase thee; take my colour'd hat and cloak: When Biondello comes, he waits on thee; but I will charm him first to keep his tongue.”

On seeing Bianca, Lucentio falls in love with her. After hearing of the conditions that Baptista has put his daughter under, making it so that Bianca could not be wed until her sister, Katherine, is married off, Lucentio makes a plan. He decides to disguise himself as a schoolmaster who would teach her in order to get close to her, because he was not allowed to court her.

This is the same approach that Nancy takes on meeting Jack. Because he already has a date, she is not supposed to “court him,” so instead she pretends to be his date in order to get to know him better.  

Station Scene

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Usually when in this situation, I would say something and then you’d say something back. And then we’d talk a little about what we’re gonna do and exchange ideas. You know, sort of, “Quid pro quo, Clarice.”

In the beginning of the movie we hear this same phrase when Nancy decides to stay in her hotel room instead of attend the wedding party because she is nervous about meeting the man that her friends have set her up with, and instead stays in her hotel room to watch her favorite movie, Silence of the Lambs.

Up until this point, when Nancy met Jack and was mistaken for Jessica she made a few feeble attempts at explaining that he had the wrong girl, but Jack kept talking over her and cutting her off without listening to her, which is somewhat similar to Katherine’s protests against her marriage to Petruchio. When Petruchio told Baptista of Katherine’s feelings towards him, Katherine did protest somewhat, but Petruchio would cut her off and override what she was saying with his explanation of how much affection she felt for him in private and how they were to be married.

After Jack references Nancy’s favorite movie though, Nancy stops protesting altogether and pretends to be Jessica. As soon as she found Jack worth pursuing, she was willing to lie to get him. This behavior makes her much like Lucentio, as he saw Bianca from afar for only a short time, fell in love with her, then decided to dawn a disguise in order to get closer to her. This is, essentially, the same thing that Nancy does with Jack.


As the book says, ”what are you waiting for?”


I am waiting… for you.

Act I, Scene I (232-241)


“Sirrah, come hither. ‘Tis no time to jest, and therefore frame your manners to the time. Your fellow, Tranio here, to save my life, puts my apparel and my count’nance on, and I for my escape have put on his; for in a quarrel since I came ashore I killed a man and fear I was descried. Wait you on him, I charge you, as becomes, while I make way from hence to save my life. You understand me?”

In the previous quote, Lucentio was talking to Tranio about his intent to “charm” Biondello, his other servant. In this quote we see Lucentio in action. He lies to Biondello, telling him that he must disguise himself because his life is in danger so that Biondello will keep his identity hidden. In order to keep his deception going, he needs to employ other people to help him, getting his servants in on the plan as well.

Nancy must also get other people to play along with her deception, but she is less cunning than Lucentio and, instead of lying, she has to make a deal with him so that he will keep her secret.

Bowling Alley

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Hey, Sean, I’m out bowling with a man, a man who might actually have some potential and not in just that he’s a really good bowler type way. Do you know--hey--so don’t ruin it for me. All right? Just be cool.


Okay, I will.




Uh-huh. If you give me a blow job


You what?


Take it or leave it.

Once Nancy begins lying to Jack, it gets more and more elaborate and she needs to employ other people to help her keep up appearances. When Jack and Nancy go bowling together, Nancy runs into an old classmate of hers, Sean. To stop him from revealing her identity she has to make a deal with him, promising in the end to give him a kiss. This relates to the way that Lucentio had to include other people into his plan so that he would not be revealed when under cover. Because Nancy is not as well thought out as Lucentio, this deal she makes with Sean ultimately leads to her untimely discovery in a bathroom stall where Jack walks in on them about to kiss. In both Nancy and Lucentio’s situations, they find that they have to do more and more to keep up their appearances, but in Nancy’s case, the more elaborate the lie gets, the deeper a hole she seems to be digging for herself. This is because people today have a more negative outlook on lying to win someone’s heart, because we value honesty more than what might have been thought of as a “romantic gesture” in “The Taming of the Shrew”.

Act 5, Scene I (124-128)


“Now fair befall thee, good Petruchio! The wager thou hast won, and I will add unto their losses twenty thousand crowns, another dowry to another daughter, for she is changed as she had never been.”

In this quote Baptista, Katherine’s father, is praising Petruchio for taming Katherine. He sees this change as positive, where as now, society views the docile submissive woman as a negative attribute and a change for the worst.  

Bowling Alley (Katherine)

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It would appear that I finally have you under a barrel, Nancy Paterson. Indeed you are clearly not the girl you used to be once. Cool and confidant. Now…stealing other women’s dates from under clocks.

When Sean finds out what Nancy is doing he notices how much Nancy has changed. Nancy used to be a girl who was confidant, who said what she wanted and didn’t care about what others thought, much like Katherine in the beginning of the play. Upon meeting her again, Sean sees that she has changed from that once “cool and confident” girl and into someone who feels the need to sacrifice who she really is to win the heart of men. Sean feels superior to her because this act is seen as weak and pathetic nowadays, where it was simply expected of a wife in the play.

These portrayals show us that being deceitful in a relationship today is more frowned upon than it once was. In the play, “Taming of the Shrew,” love for a spouse or a prospective spouse could be proven by the lengths one would go to for them. Something such as lying is romantic, something such as obeying your husband is desireable. Nowadays women fight to end these social expectations put upon the female gender. Because of today’s climate towards strict gender roles, the kind of change that Katherine underwent in “Taming of the Shrew” is now something that society would think outdated and distasteful. Nowadays, disguising oneself to win the heart of a romantic interest is not seen as sweet but deceitful, as showing one’s “true” self is more valued than it once was.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William, Barbara A. Mowat, and Paul Werstine. The Taming of the Shrew. New York:

Washington Square Press, 1992. Print.

Man Up. Dir. Ben Palmer. Perf. Lake Bell and Simon Pegg . N.p., n.d. Web.