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.