Sometimes, we don’t like the people we love. Throughout, “The Taming of the Shrew,” the charismatic Petruchio attempts to transform his wife, Katherine, into a more docile, submissive companion, and goes to extreme lengths in doing so. In, “Annie Hall,” Alvy Singer, a paranoid, nervous comedian, attempts to do the same with his girlfriend, Annie Hall.
Although Annie and Katherine are very much different from each other, they still aren’t the women their partners want them to be. Katherine is too demanding; Annie is too optimistic. Katherine is too mean; Annie is too ditzy, etc. While Alvy and Petruchio’s tactics are different, their goal is still the same - to transform their lovers into different people. Both men felt that their partners didn’t quite meet their expectations, and instead of adjusting their expectations accordingly, they sought to adjust the women to fit their expectations. However, there is one key difference in these stories: while, “Taming of the Shrew,” ends with Petruchio having successfully tamed Katherine, “Annie Hall,” continues a little further, showing the audience what happens when you try to change somebody. Annie falls out of love with Alvy; he changed her, so much to the point that she was no longer the person who fell in love with him. While Katherine stayed with Petruchio, and Annie left Alvy, both stories stated that people can be influenced and changed, for better or worse. Furthermore, love is a fragile thing, and can only exist between two specific people - before Katherine was ‘tamed,’ she did not love Petruchio. After Annie was ‘tamed,’ she did not love Alvy. The idea that, by changing the nature of your lover, you change the love itself, is one that has remained common since Shakespearean times.
“I will be master of what is mine own.
She is my goods, my chattels; she is my house,
My household stuff, my field, my barn,
My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything.
And here she stands, touch her whoever dare”
(Act 3, Scene 2, line number 235)
In this quote, Petruchio describes his relationship with Katherine. While the context suggests that this quote is more about him being her sole suitor, the implication is still clear: Katherine, or perhaps more broadly, woman, is something to be possessed and held like property, rather than partner.
While Alvy is obviously less overt in his words, he too sees Annie as something he can exert control over.
In this scene from, “Annie Hall,” Alvy attempts to convince Annie to start taking college classes - he sees her as a bit of a ditz, and wants her to be as well-read and pessimistic as himself. Immediately following this scene, we see the two of them arguing on a street; Alvy is convinced that Annie is cheating on him with her professor, and tells her to stop taking classes, that higher education is pointless. Essentially, Alvy doesn’t care what’s actually good for Annie, he just wants to make her into the person he wants.
"Such duty as the subject owes the prince
Even such a woman oweth to her husband;
And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,
And not obedient to his honest will,
What is she but a foul contending rebel"
(Act 5, Scene 2, line numbers 171)
In this quote from, “Taming of the Shrew,” we are met with the fruit of Petruchio’s labors; Katherine has been tamed. She has now become the docile wife that Petruchio was looking for.
Annie, too, has a transformation of her own.
Annie is now totally dependent on Alvy. In this scene, she breaks down after they take time away from each other, because she missed him so much. If Alvy’s goal was to make Annie into a woman who truly needed him, he succeeded. He had tamed her. However, unlike the play, this scene is markedly sad, and lacks the positive nature of Katherine’s transformation. This may hint at the biggest difference between the two stories.
While, “Taming of the Shrew,” ends with Katherine’s transformation, “Annie Hall,” goes on a while longer. Eventually, they fall out of love, and decide to break up. Alvy, however, has second thoughts, and flies from New York to Los Angeles, where Annie now lives, to ask her to marry him. She says no - she’s a different person now. He asks her if she still loves him. She says no - she’s a different person now. Alvy is incredulous, possibly because he still believes that Annie is something he can exert control over, and that his loving her should be cause enough for her to love him. Of course, it isn’t.
Alvy changed Annie into someone who no longer loved him. Petruchio changed Katherine into someone who could love him. Both stories leave us with the same message: love can only exist between two specific people, and if one those people is changed, or ‘tamed,’ the love itself will be changed. However, “Annie Hall,” gives us one last lesson before the end of the film. Annie and Alvy find each other again, and while they’re both in different relationships, they’re still able to enjoy each other. While they lost the love between them, they still found a common friendship - which, maybe, is something that Alvy wanted all along.