The Taming of the Groundhog: Shakespearean and Modern Views of Relationships

The Taming of the Groundhog:

Shakespearean and Modern Views of Relationships

By:Jamie Polson


The Shakespeare play “The Taming of the Shrew” deals with male and societal expectations in relationships.  Petruchio (one of the main characters) hears about Katherine, that she does not want to get married, and that she is a strong independent woman and is kind of like a “shrew” hence the name of the play.  Petruchio is up for the challenge of making Katherine more lady like.  He talks to Katherine's dad (Baptista) and hears that there will be a pretty large dowry involved if he marries Katherine since Katherine is already kind of old and Baptista really wants Bianca, his youngest daughter, to get married.  Lucentio who is another main male lead character goes to Padua originally to study Philosophy, but sees Bianca and wants to pursue her and stop studying philosophy.  

A more modern view of male and societal expectations in relationships is in the movie “Groundhog Day”.  Groundhog Day is a movie about a meteorologist (Phil) who works for Channel Nine News in Pittsburgh and one day he goes to Punxsutawney Pennsylvania for Groundhog Day with two colleagues of his from Channel Nine: Larry (the cameraman) and Rita (the producer).  Phil and the gang plan on leaving Punxsutawney the same night, but a blizzard hits, and they have to go back.  They stay in a nice Bed and Breakfast.  The next morning, when Phil wakes up, for some unexplained reason it is still Groundhog Day, and he is the only one who seems to notice.  This phenomenon keeps on happening hundreds of times and Phil gets the day memorized down pat and ends up changing the outcome of the day over time, using it to pursue a relationship with Rita, who is initially not at all interested.  Both texts present male and societal expectations to be mainly about power, sex, and money even though they are in very different situations.

(pg 111 act 3 scene 1 line: 33-38)

Hic ibat, as I told you before, Simois, I am Lucentio, hic est, son unto Vincentio of Pisa, Sigeia tellus, disguised thus to get your love, Hic steterat, and that 'Lucentio' that comes a-wooing,  Priami, is my man Tranio, regia, bearing my port, celsa senis, that we might beguile the old pantaloon

In this scene in the Taming of the Shrew Lucentio is telling Bianca about who he actually is, trying to win Bianca over by using mind tricks to try to get her to love him even more.  He is mainly trying to increase his chances of having sex with Bianca.

In The above Groundhog Day scene, Phil and Rita are throwing snowballs at some kids and Phil says “I wish we could do this with our own kids”.  What he is really doing there is, like Lucentio, trying to use mind tricks to fool Rita into having sex with him by being something that he isn’t.  He said that he wished he could do that with his own kids, he said this but had no intention of ever having kids or even of a real relationship with Rita.  He was trying to play into Rita’s motherly instincts as a woman so that she could try to imagine him as a dad and the only way to throw snowballs with your own kids is to have sex first.

Page #87 act ii scene 1 line 177-189 petruchio:

“And woo her with some spirit with then she comes! Say that she rail; why then 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: If she do bid me pack, I'll give her thanks, As though she bid me stay by her a week: If she deny to wed, I'll crave the day When I shall ask the banns and when be married. But here she comes; and now, Petruchio, speak.

In this scene in “Taming of the Shrew” Petruchio is about to meet Katherine and is saying what he will say to her when he meets her.  His plan is to contradict whatever it is she says or thinks; for example, he says that if she wants him to leave, he will stay for a week, and if she does not wish to get married, he will say he does.  

This connects very closely to Groundhog Day in the above two scenes.  One of the scenes is when Phil is trying to get to know Rita, he doesn’t contradict her per se but he does play mind tricks.  What he did was he would ask her things that would give him information like when he was buying her drinks and she said that her favorite drink was a sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist.  Phil used that information to his advantage and said the next day that his favorite drink was a sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist, to which Rita responded, “Really? Mine too!”  This connects with the Taming of the Shrew, because both Petruchio and Phil were taking advantage of the women in the situation by exercising power and control in the relationship by using the words that the women speak against them.

(pg#83 act 2 scene 1 line: 121-127 Petruchio)

Signior Baptista, my business asketh haste, And every day I cannot come to woo. You knew my father well, and in him me, Left solely heir to all his lands and goods, Which I have better'd rather than decreased: Then tell me, if I get your daughter's love, What dowry shall I have with her to wife?

In this scene in The Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio has heard of Katherine and how she can be like a “Shrew” and that she is a strong independent woman.  He does not actually want to marry Katherine.  He is just marrying for the dowry that he will receive from Baptista, and as a challenge for himself to see if it is possible to change someone from being shrew like to be ladylike or a good wife.  It is basically an economic transaction, and a social experiment, for Petruchio.


In The above scene in Groundhog Day, Phil is super popular after having just saved the lives of a couple people and helped out countless others.  He is playing the piano for a big party in Punxsutawney.  There is then an auction event where the prizes are the bachelors in the room.  The rules are that you can do whatever you want with them, as long as it is legal.  Phil walks onto the stage, and people start yelling out numbers immediately, going up by five dollars each time, and eventually realize that they are going to run out of money, when suddenly Rita calls out from the back of the room “$339.88”.  This is obviously the highest number in the room, so Rita dances with Phil like she had been before the auction.  This scene shows how modern American society places monetary value on relationships.

In both the Taming of the Shrew and in the movie Groundhog Day the themes are very similar.  They both deal with power, control, and sex in relationships.  Both talk about how women in society have typically been used primarily for their bodies and have been seen as objects and not as people.  Both texts talk about how men try to exercise power, and control women, in relationships.  Both show how society monetizes relationships.  Both texts show male and societal expectations in relationships in very much the same way, even though they are very different situations