The Taming of the Shrew in the Room

An essay by Cameron Samodai

   Having read the Taming of the Shrew, my first thought was to compare it to Tommy Wiseau’s magnum opus, and what is commonly regarded as one of the worst movies of all time, The Room. In The Room, the characters of Johnny and Lisa have an unhappy marriage that prompts Lisa to have an affair with Johnny’s best friend, Mark. In The Taming of the Shrew, numerous Italian men vie for the affection of Bianca, apparently the most beautiful woman in Padua, by pretending to be teachers with reasonable day rates.The common theme here is deception. Though an essay could be written about that, a more interesting area to cover here is the intention of the authors of the media in question. Throughout the course of both pieces, it is plausible that a reader may ask themselves “Is the author serious?” This uncertainty propels the reader forward in both stories, proving that it is a useful and lasting method.

   The catch in the Taming of the Shrew is that Bianca’s older sister Katherine must first be married before a man can become Bianca’s suitor. A wealthy man in pursuit of more power, Petruchio, offers to marry Katherine. Petruchio, unfazed by Katherine’s reputation as a shrew (the titular shrew, in fact), began training his new wife, just as one would train a pet. After a non-specified duration of training, Katherine eventually submits to the will of Petruchio, delivering this brief announcement during a mid-travel argument in which Petruchio swears to ensure they do not reach their destination unless she gives in:

"Then, God be bless'd, it is the blessed sun:

But sun it is not, when you say it is not;

And the moon changes even as your mind.

What you will have it named, even that it is;

And so it shall be so for Katherine."

(Act 4, Scene 5, lines 21-25)

   Certainly, that’s a convincing way to affirm that you have become the perfect wife, docile and obedient. However, the context of this quote must be considered. Katherine has not said anything along these lines, or even vaguely cooperative, to Petruchio before. This is the written word we’re talking about here. Knowing the character of Katherine, she very well could be being sarcastic. Unfortunately, whether that is the case or not is lost to history. In addition, this set of lines have the vibe that they are spoken merely to keep Petruchio content with how his glorious plan is going, at least to the point where he is willing to allow the completion of the trip. Tying into the theme of deception, Katherine is manipulating and deceiving Petruchio, who believes he is manipulating and deceiving Katherine. Next, the intent of the author must be considered. Shakespeare, being a playwright, wanted people to see his plays. He wanted people to pay to see them multiple times, in fact. Therefore, it is probably in his best interest to keep things somewhat ambiguous so multiple directors and such could have different takes on the written play. Another example of this ambiguity is at the very end of the book, where Katherine reveals her apparent change of heart:

"Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,

Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee,

And for thy maintenance commits his body

To painful labour both by sea and land,

To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,

Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe;

And craves no other tribute at thy hands

But love, fair looks and true obedience;"

(Act 5, Scene 2, lines 162-169)

   Doesn’t this seem to be laying it on a little thick? Especially since this is a mere component of a larger rant/monologue on the same topic, which was a portion of a bet that Petruchio made with the other husbands at a gala. Isn’t it a bit convenient that Katherine is suddenly so willing now that earning money is in the picture?


   In this highly peculiar non sequitur, male leads Johnny, Mark, Denny, and Mike decide to play football in their tuxedos in an alley. Not only does this scene have no context, it also has no later relevance. On a related note, Claudette (Lisa’s friend) suddenly reveals to Lisa during a conversation the she has breast cancer, another subplot that continues on to mean absolutely nothing. These subplots, like the mysterious nature of Katherine’s allegedly changed behavior, do a wonderful job of keeping the reader perplexed.

  In conclusion, it is important to consider the tone of the author when analyzing a text on its portrayal of love and romance. As proven by these two texts, keeping the reader in question of whether or not a text is serious is an effective way of at least maintaining interest. However, confusing the reader with false starts and missteps can only go so far. While the Taming of the Shrew is generally accepted as a classic, the Room is known worldwide purely for being a terrible film.