When we think about Shakespeare, we think about his comedies that aren’t really that funny or his tragedies where nearly everyone dies. In no way, shape, or form do we think about Shakespeare as romantic. So, how is it possible that some of his comedic works can be thought of as romance novels in the making? Or better yet, can be transformed into Rom-Com movies?
For example, his play The Taming of the Shrew was retro-fitted to a contemporary Rom-Com, yet is supposed to be a comedy. In the play, the father will not allow his younger daughter, the demure Bianca, to marry until his older daughter, the shrewd Katherine, is married. Does the story sound familiar? This play was made into 10 Things I Hate About You starring Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger. Although I’d seen the movie, it wasn’t until I read the play that I even realized The Taming of the Shrew was the basis. I completely overlooked the reference made in the movie when Kat inquires of her professor if they can write their poem in iambic pentameter. The meter Shakespeare often used for his work. I was a bit amused once I understood this, especially since I didn’t really find Shakespeare’s play all that funny. Though I suppose my idea of comedy is much different now than it would have been in Shakespeare’s era.
Especially since this isn’t the only Shakespeare play that has been made into a Rom-Com movie. I know, right. But, lo and behold, the next play in my Shakespeare class we read was also a movie I had seen. The play Twelfth Night or more commonly known as What You Will is another comedy that served as the basis for a Rom-Com. In the play, Viola, having survived a boating accident and separated from her twin brother Sebastian, disguises herself as a man to make it easier to blend in around town. She ends up becoming a servant to Orsino, the Duke of Illyria. Sound familiar? It should, especially if you’ve ever seen She’s the Man starring Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum.
I began seeing a pattern, especially after I read the plays. I know Shakespeare calls them comedies, but I could totally see how they could be turned into Romantic-Comedies. And honestly, it kind of makes you wonder if that’s more what Shakespeare had in mind.
First, we have to think about the requirements of your typical romantic-comedy. Obviously, there has to be humor in it and of course, there has to be a couple set to fall in love, but with some obstacle, they will have to face before they get their happy ending. Are you getting the picture? No? Okay. Let’s compare the play with the movie.
The Taming of the Shrew vs. 10 Things I Hate About You
Couple: Katherine and Petruccio vs. Katarina and Patrick
Plot: Katherine is a shrew, but must marry before her younger sister can; Katarina (Kat) is a bitch but has to date before her younger sister can.
Issue: Petruccio has to get Katherine’s shrewdness under control to make her a proper wife; Patrick has to convince Kat he’s a good guy who actually likes her despite the bitchiness that she can trust.
Ending: Both couples happily come together in the end.
Granted, Petruccio didn’t sing like Patrick.
Still, not convinced? Okay, how about the next play.
What You Will vs. She’s the Man
Couple: Viola and Duke vs. Viola and Duke
Plot: Viola disguises herself as a man to blend in and becomes a servant to Duke of Illyria. Duke sends her to carry out messages to Olivia, whom he is attracted to; Viola disguises herself as a guy so she can get on Illyria’s soccer team after the girl’s soccer team at her school is cut. Viola and Duke make a deal. She’ll help him with Olivia if he helps her with soccer.
Issue: Love triangle. Duke likes Olivia who likes Viola (disguised as a man) who likes Duke. (And this is the same for both the play and the movie.)
Ending: Duke and Viola end up together.
Though I have to say, I like the way Viola revealed herself in the movie better than the play.
Not to mention, the guys were hot!
You can see why it’s easy to conclude that Shakespeare was really a romantic at heart. Both plays have the required obstacles for the couples. Both plays have a happily-ever-after. And okay, both plays have a touch of comedy. I guess he did something right.
After all, his work is still standing, still being taught, and still applicable today.
Author/Contributor: Brigit Rosé