The film 10 Things I Hate About You takes its primary plot from Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, in which Baptista forbids his younger daughter, Bianca, from marrying until a husband has been found for his oldest daughter, Katharina--the shrew. The film's depiction of the two sisters as alternately well-desired, in the case of Bianca, and widely despised and even feared, in the case of Kat, possesses clear allusions to their corresponding characters in the play. Additionally, the film's Patrick--whose name is itself an Anglicization of the original character's name, Petruchio--is, like his namesake, able to carry on with Kat because he is equally anti-social; though similar to the original play in this regard, Patrick is presented as Kat's equal, whereas Petruchio is presented as Katharina's master, one who literally tames her by denying her food, sleep, and clothing. Additionally, although the play's Petruchio is encouraged to marry Kate for the sake of Bianca's competing suitors, they are each in on the plot, and there is therefore no analogue for the film's subterfuge subplot based around deceiving Joey.
The film’s sequences in which Cameron grows close to Bianca while attempting to teach her French function as a minor allusion to the play’s subplot, in which Lucentio exchanges places with his servant, Tranio, in order to enter Baptista’s household in the guise of a tutor.
Despite the basic similarities, there is one striking difference between the play and the film: attitudes toward women. The Taming of the Shrew, even in its title, presents a problem for modern audiences by presenting potentially misogynistic treatments of women; although, there has been much scholarly debate about how to interpret these plot points. The film, on the other hand, is filled with allusions to feminist prose and criticism, and Kat remains a strong female protagonist throughout, never bowing to her man as her literary predecessor may literally do during her final monologue, which contains the implicit stage direction, "And place your hands below your husband's foot/ In token of which duty, if he please/ My hand is ready, may it do him ease" (5.2.177-9).
Another important difference, which is further tied to the treatment of women, comes in the fathers’ reasons for holding their daughters hostage. In the play, the father is trying to rid himself of the unruly Katharina, and his exchange with Petruchio treats her as though she were property; this attitude is later confirmed when, refusing to allow Kate to attend her own marriage feast, Petruchio asserts,
I will be master of what is mine own:
She is my goods, my chattels; she is my house,
My household stuff, my field, my barn,
My horse, my ox, my ass, my any thing;
The film’s father, on the other hand, is counting on Kat’s misanthropy to keep Bianca from dating, because of his (somewhat exaggerated) fear of her becoming pregnant. Concerned for his daughters’ well being, he advocates a path that will keep them both independent and able to make their own decisions.