TBT: The Taming of the Shrew (1967)

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Is it misogyny or is it irony? You be the judge. Both Shakespeare’s original play and this 1967 film adaption of The Taming of the Shrew posit the question: What is a woman’s place in marriage? When the play was written in the 1590s, an unmarried woman had successfully ruled England for a generation. When this movie was made, American women were experiencing sexual liberation thanks to the birth control pill and feminism.

I’ve always felt that Shakespeare was playing into a backlash against Queen Elizabeth I‘s strong hand by writing this farcical comedy about a husband achieving rule over his strong wife. The language is so playful, witty, biting, sarcastic, sly, and wicked, that it’s hard to take the plot at face value.

Likewise, this Elizabeth Taylor / Richard Burton vehicle uses the chemistry between the actors to give fire to the farce. Taylor’s Kate cannot truly be tamed — in the end, she leaves Burton’s Petruchio alone to be laughed at. Despite the sexist marketing of this movie at the time, the story this Taming of the Shrew tells more about the fight between the sexes than a woman being conquered.

Franco Zeffirelli directed this Shakespeare film the year before his equally famous Romeo and Juliet. He used the same costume designer, Danilo Donati, who received an Oscar nomination for Taming of the Shrew. The costumes are lovely, fairly modern fitting, but with many period details, and overall very much of the Italian Renaissance, circa 1530s. Except for Taylor’s makeup, which is circa 1967, always.

Taming of the Shrew (1967)

Before the wedding ceremony…

Taming of the Shrew (1967)

And the truth comes out.

Taming of the Shrew (1967)

The bodice that launched a thousand renfaires.

Taming of the Shrew (1967)

Do you think Liz & Dick kind of enjoyed filming this?

Taming of the Shrew (1967)

+10 for the balzo (this style of Italian renaissance headgear). -5 for the makeup.

Taming of the Shrew (1967)

Good 1530s menswear, & I’m especially pleased by the historically accurate eyeglasses on the guy at the far right.

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

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A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. When she’s not dressing up in costumes, she can be found traveling the world with her sweetie and, occasionally, Kendra and Sarah. Her costuming and travel adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also maintains a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

13 Responses

  1. Michael L. McQuown

    Shakespeare always knew which side his bread was buttered on.
    There is a lot that could be said about the depiction of Italians in English drama, most of it not very flattering. “The Revenger’s Tragedy,” which was filmed only once that I know of, and that as a post-blowup piece, wasn’t any nice to the Italians than Shakespeare.
    My ex could date any movie in seconds by looking at the hair and makeup.

    Reply
  2. MoHub

    I think one of the great questions is who tamed whom? Kate has actually tamed Petruchio by letting him think he’s tamed her. You just know Bianca is going to make Lucentio’s life a hell.

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    • Trystan L. Bass

      That seems to be the interpretation this film takes — Kate’s final speech is delivered straight, but she walks right out, leaving him in the lurch. HAH.

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      • MoHub

        Indeed. And she delivers that last speech in such a way that you know she hasn’t really been subdued.

        Reply
  3. Isis

    I remember reading an interview with someone involved,(Micheal York?) who said Burton and Taylor were in a genuine disaggrement when they filmed the fighting scene and really hit each other hard. And Burton managed to give Taylor a beautiful blue eye, so they had to stop filming for a few days.

    I do love this movie and always interpreted it as Kat isn’t the least subdued in the end. :)

    Not a costume movie, but I really liked the modern version with Rufus Seawell and Shirley Henderson.

    Reply
    • Tamara

      Considering the Medicis hired the landsknechts, it’s understandable to confuse ragged and mismatched Italian costumes for looking German. Petruchio is supposed to dress in ragged and mismatched clothes on their wedding day to embarrass his wife. As Donati already created a very colorful palette for the movie, they had to push Petruchio’s wedding costume even further. It fits the overall look and environment created for the film.

      Reply
  4. Lisa

    Then, for laughs and giggles, there was the version done as an episode of “Moonlighting” with Bruce Willis as Petruchio and Cybil Shepherd as Kate. The costumes were pretty wild, but it’s a hilariously fun romp!

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  5. Hillary

    My favorite movie ever! The casting was perfect, and the costumes so sumptuous! I found them really inspiring, even if they aren’t 100% accurate.

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  6. Jennifer L. Schillig

    One possible interpretation of Taming of the Shrew is that Petruchio isn’t trying to subdue Kate’s mind or spirit–just her bad temper. Kate’s not just a strong woman who speaks her mind…this is someone who PHYSICALLY ASSAULTS some poor music teacher because he had the nerve to CORRECT HER TECHNIQUE. (In short–for doing his job!) Could have given the poor guy a concussion–or maybe even killed him! So maybe Petruchio is showing Kate “THIS is what it’s like to live with someone like you–someone who flies into a rage over every little thing.”

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