This article considers how Anne Tyler's novel, Vinegar Girl (Hogarth, 2016), adopts and adapts the critical debate concerning misogyny in Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. Social historians have helped to contextualise the shrew-taming plot, some claiming that Shakespeare's tale is romantic when read in context; however, students push back against such conclusions, arguing that teaching Shrew and its informing histories reinforces the patriarchy and risks normalising misogyny. My argument is structured, in part, as a response to students’ concerns, and is informed by girlhood and cultural studies. I survey Tyler's purposeful use of the powerful term ‘girl’ to show how the taming plot is modernised, but remains misogynistic. Vinegar Girl reveals how any tale about taming a woman has an underlying message of male dominance. In Tyler's novel, misogynistic values are sometimes romanticised, sometimes criticised, and frequently both simultaneously. In this contradictory way, it is very much like Shakespeare's original play.
Natalie K. Eschenbaum is professor of English and division chair of Arts and Humanities at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. She teaches Shakespeare, early modern literature and culture, and writing. Her research focuses on disgust and the bodily senses, as well as on Shakespeare and adaptation. Recent publications include the co-edited Disgust in Early Modern English Literature (Routledge, 2016) with Barbara Correll, and ‘Sense, Reason, and the Animal–Human Boundary in A Midsummer Night's Dream’, in Simon Smith, ed., Shakespeare/Sense (Bloomsbury Arden, 2020). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.