Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Kate expectations or, what's in a name?


Friday the marks the passing of Kate Middleton to Catherine. Prince William will be aware of the import of his fiancée's first name - it's not for nothing William Shakespeare named the main role Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew around 420 years ago.

Despite the play's inherent misogyny, its message has carried enough resonance to be worthy of more recent adaptations, notably Cole Porter's musical Kiss Me, Kate (filmed - in 3D! - in 1953) and teen movie 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), starring Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

There's another Catherine in Francois Truffaut's Jules et Jim (1962), where Jeanne Moreau's character first marries Jules (Oskar Werner), with whom she has a daughter, but seduces Jim (Henri Serre). The trio set up home together but she finds herself thwarted at being the centre of attention as Jim tries to extricate himself from the situation and her behaviour becomes increasingly erratic.

It turns out she slept with another man on the eve of her wedding to Jules to punish him for a perceived slight and, when Jim returns to his lover Gilberte, she throws her continued adultery in the men's faces. 'She's usually sweet and generous but when she feels unappreciated she becomes terrible and violently goes from one extreme to the other,' we're told.

Flighty and capricious, secretive and headstrong, 'She'll never be happy here on earth,' the boys decide. The trouble lies in the name: how to reconcile traditional Catherine and modern Kate. (There are real-life icons, too, from Katharine Hepburn to Kate Moss.) Now Ms Middleton is moving from the latter to the former, royal courtiers must be hoping it's the Kate escape.

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