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24 September 2014

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What happens in The Taming of the Shrew?

Kate (Shirley Henderson)

This programme was broadcast on 21 November 2005. Written by Sally Wainwright.

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Katherine Minola is a successful, outspoken politician, tipped for the leadership of her party. The only problem is her appalling temper. It terrifies everyone around her, including her hapless parlimentary aide Tim Agnew. And it's kept her a single virgin for the whole of her 38 years.

Her sister, Bianca, couldn't be more different. A glamorous, jet-setting model, she has men falling at her feet. When she rejects her agent, Harry Kavanagh, for sexy Italian lad Lucentio, he's left heartbroken. He even begs her to marry him - to which she replies that she'll only get married when her sister does.

She means never, but Harry's desparate enough to cling onto any hope, no matter how tiny. So when his impulsive, eccentric, cash-strapped friend Petruchio arrives unexpectedly and declares his intention to marry someone rich, it looks like the answer to his prayers.

Told about Kate, Petruchio insists on meeting her, despite being told she's agressive, ugly and rude. When he actually sees her, storming out of a party thrown by her sister, he decides he has to have her. This time, Kate turns down his proposal of marriage. Over the next few weeks his relentless wooing - plus the revelation that he's an Earl - win her round.

Petruchio has a shock for Kate at the wedding, turning up in high heels, makeup and miniskirt. Through force of will he pushes through the ceremony, then immediately drags Kate away for their honeymoon, ignoring the reception. The only thing he does stop to do is phone Harry, who is stricken as Bianca still won't marry him, and invite him to come along. Kate, meanwhile, has phoned Tim Agnew to pull out of the party leadership race.

At their honeymoon villa in Italy, Petruchio sets about breaking his sulking, angry wife's spirit. First he traps her by letting down the tyres on the car and hiding Kate's phone and clothes, then he keeps her from sleeping and starves her of food and sex. When Harry arrives, Kate's in a terrible state. The two talk, and Kate gets a better understanding of her unstable, immature, but loving husband. With a provocative comment, she shows she's given in to Petruchio, and the two end up in bed together.

Back in the UK, Kate finds herself the leader of her party - Tim Agnew ignored her instructions, and having an eccentric aristocrat husband has done her no harm at all. She and Petruchio have reached a balance with one another - each respects and obeys the other. Luckily so, as Kate's pregnant with triplets, and still has an election campaign to run!

It's underlined just how balanced their relationship is when Bianca's attempt to force Lucentio into signing a pre-nuptual agreement leads to a breakup. Bianca is supported by Mrs Minola, now engaged to Harry, but not by her sister. In an impassioned speech, Kate declares that wives should obey their husbands, and if Bianca needs a pre-nuptial agreement, she shouldn't be getting married at all.


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