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The Taming of the Shrew – An Uproariously Funny Modern Adaptation

The Taming of the Shrew - "Happy" Newlyweds Photo: BBC
The Taming of the Shrew – A modern take Photo: BBC

ShakespeaRe-Told: The Taming of the Shrew (2005) – Film Review

Back in 2005, the BBC decided to bring four of Shakespeare’s most popular plays into the present: Two comedies and two tragedies. The result was four straight to TV modern retellings that took the viewers by surprise with their fresh and original takes on the classics. Sometimes it truly feels like the BBC can do no wrong! It has given us so many wonderful adaptions of our beloved classics.

Each of the four retellings is clever in their own way, but The Taming of the Shrew shot into a league of its own. It is nothing short of genius! Even if you’ve read the play or seen one of the adaptions, it will still take you by surprise. It is not as predictable as one would think a Shakespeare retelling would be. I promise you that you have never seen a Taming of the Shrew adaptation quite like this one.

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The Cast

Rufus Sewell plays Petruchio, who is looking to marry for money since he is so poor at managing his own but ends up finding the woman of his dreams in the process. We have seen him play the lead in enough films to know that he plays dashing rogues excellently. However, I have never loved him quite as much as I did here. He is wonderfully outrageous, but that is nothing compared to Kate played by Shirley Henderson.

She is fantastic in this role! Her Kate snarls her way onto the screen as a spitfire politician (running a leadership campaign) whom everyone fears. She is very outspoken to the frustration of all her colleagues, family members, and everyone else she comes across. It’s hard to believe that she played one of Bridget Jones’ less outspoken and meek friends before.

“Don’t tell me I have to be nice to them in order to get them to vote for me. I have integrity.”

Love at First Snarl

Taming of the Shrew - Alluring Snarl
Petruchio: There is something really very alluring, arousing about the way you move your lips when you snarl; Kate: Excuse me? Photo: BBC

The first meeting between our main leads takes place in an elevator. Those of you who have ever watched Grey’s Anatomy will know that it is the ultimate place for romance to bloom. Even business books teach us that one should always have one’s elevator pitch at the ready. This is equally true when it comes to romance. Petruchio must have read the right books because he comes prepared with the ultimate pitch: a marriage proposal.

Petruchio is instantly attracted to the plucky heroine. She, in turn, is taken aback by his forward approach and the fact that he is not in the least intimidated by her behaviour. After all, it is the first time that someone found her rudeness appealing.

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Love transcends all, even language barriers. Bianca Minola: The seductress. Photo: BBC

Just like in the play, we have several love stories played out parallel to the leads. Kate’s sister is played by Jaime Murray (Dexter, Hustle, OUAT), who is a major model and star in this version of the story. She finds herself a gorgeous Italian tourist who doesn’t speak a word of English. The inevitable love quarrels that ensue consequently need to have interpreters present so that they can actually understand what each is saying.

Taming of the Shrew - The look of love
A spontaneous first date. Kate: “You might be surprised to learn that this is the first offer of marriage I’ve had all week.” Photo: BBC

The flirting between Kate and Petruchio is adorably unique and all the more amusing for it. Here’s an example:

Kate: Are you stalking me?

Petruchio: No, but I’d like to.

Kate: What do you want?

Petruchio: I want you to have all my babies.

Taming of the Shrew - The start of the Honeymoon
Let the taming begin! Photo: BBC

In keeping with the plot of the play, these two rush into marriage (each for their own reasons). Their wedding needs to be seen to be believed! It is laugh out loud funny. That scene, alone, is worth watching this film for, but the real fun starts after said wedding. They head off to Italy on their honeymoon, but they don’t exactly get to take in the beauty of the place seeing as they are at each other’s throats constantly. Their Happily Ever After is postponed slightly until they learn to actually get along with each other first.

How Does It Compare to the Original?

I will admit that there are parts of the original play that don’t sit too well with me. In particular, the seeming encouragement that a wife should be servile to her husband at all times. The beauty of this version though is that while Petruchio is taming Katherine, she is also taming him right back. When even Kate is surprised by Petruchio’s behaviour given that she is used to being the craziest person is the room, we know we are in for quite the ride. They are truly a perfect match.

They are also a lot more honest with each other here. I adore the fact that Petruchio tells her about his monetary problems straight away. In fact, they clearly already have feelings for each other even before the wedding takes place. They may not see eye to eye on some things, but there is definitely a foundation of trust between these two.

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The dialogue is brilliantly witty, the music both fun and ominous, the cast outstanding! They even made excellent use of Yma Sumac’s Gopher Mambo. You won’t be able to get it out of your head for weeks afterwards. I have nothing but good things to say about this retelling!

Content Note: It’s rated 12 in the UK and while unrated in the U.S. would probably be TV-14. Katherine Minola is famous for her rudeness, so some foul language is to be expected. After all, our main characters are very fiery individuals.

Where to Watch: It’s available on DVD, and through streaming services like YouTube and BBC iPlayer.

What do you think about this retelling of The Taming of the Shrew? Sound off below…


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“The stuff that dreams are made of.”


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“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.

I have loved none but you.”

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By on April 25th, 2017

About Yaroslavna Simdyankina

Storytelling in all formats has held Yaroslavna captive since her childhood. She cannot simply watch or read something, but has a tendency to analyse every story and scene in great detail. Human interactions, people's ability to change and improve, and the way the human psyche works has always fascinated her. Her favourite stories are those where characters go through profound changes or are so firm in their beliefs that they affect the world around them through their actions.

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8 thoughts on “The Taming of the Shrew – An Uproariously Funny Modern Adaptation”

  1. I’ve been trying to re-familiarize myself with Shakespeare’s plays recently and just watched the film version of Taming of the Shrew with Elizabeth Taylor. I like the overall story, but never appreciated the ending where Katerina is totally submissive. This one looks really interesting.

    • I think you will like the ending of this one, if that is why you disliked the Burton-Taylor version. In fact, I had a similar problem with it.

      The 2005 version does discuss this issue and while it manages to stay true to Shakespeare, it brings a modern touch to it. The fact that Kate is in a position of power from the very start helps to solidify the fact that she will not allow herself to be treated like a servant, which was refreshing considering the original material.

    • Ah, yes! Heath Ledger willing to make a fool of himself by singing to Kate in front of the entire school is a classic 🙂

  2. I love this version (although the ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ in this series was my favourite.) There’s so much chemistry between them!

    • That one was also a lot of fun too! I will always remember it for introducing me to the wonderful Damian Lewis 🙂

  3. I’ve been through this version so many times I can’t remember!…. And I’ve always had so much fun. I love this couple and the witty connection between Kate (Shirley Henderson) and Petruchio (Rufus Sewell)!!!


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