Shakespeare in Love (1998)

R   |    |  Comedy, Drama, History


Shakespeare in Love (1998) Poster

A young Shakespeare, out of ideas and short of cash, meets his ideal woman and is inspired to write one of his most famous plays.

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7.1/10
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  • Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes in Shakespeare in Love (1998)
  • Ben Affleck at an event for Shakespeare in Love (1998)
  • Ben Affleck at an event for Shakespeare in Love (1998)
  • Judi Dench in Shakespeare in Love (1998)
  • Gwyneth Paltrow at an event for Shakespeare in Love (1998)
  • Gwyneth Paltrow at an event for Shakespeare in Love (1998)

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Cast & Crew

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Director:

John Madden

Writers:

Marc Norman, Tom Stoppard

Reviews & Commentary

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User Reviews


14 February 2003 | tjowen
Excellent
Those who are looking for a historically accurate portrayal of Shakespeare's life had better look elsewhere - but then this was never intended to be a serious look at the life of the man. Those who attack it for its' fanciful relation to history have missed the point entirely. It is a romantic comedy obsessed with nothing more than making references in storyline and plot to the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and those references are made so seamlessly it could almost be assumed that what we see on the screen actually happened to the man.

In fact the overall story we are presented with is not new. Anyone who had read or seen `Romeo and Juliet' will have a pretty shrewd idea of the path the narrative takes - the twist is that in the film, Shakespeare writes the play `Romeo and Juliet' in parallel to, and based on, his `real life' relationship with Lady Viola.

The opening sees Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) desperately trying to write the masterpiece `Romeo and Ethel, the Pirates Daughter', a comedy he hopes will rival anything by Christopher Marlow (Rupert Everett). Words fail him until his muse appears in the shape of Lady Viola (Gwyneth Paltrow), a noblewoman whose love for the work of Shakespeare's leads her to dress as a boy (since at the time women were not allowed on stage) and attend an audition in disguise (mistaken identity and women dressing as men are devices Shakespeare often used in his comedies). She is given the role of Romeo and begins a forbidden relationship with Shakespeare, the only one who knows her real identity, in spite of the fact that she is betrothed to the villainous Lord Wessex (Colin Firth) at Queen Elizabeth's (Judi Dench) command.

Fiennes portrays Shakespeare wonderfully and not as the infallible master of rhetoric. He takes the Bard from the pedestal and brings him down to a human level that we can all sympathise with. His relationship with Paltrow is handled sensitively, although many of the scenes that are exclusively their own did have enough a little too much `Chick-Flick' for my liking. Paltrow's R.P. accent is technically very good, and though I normally like my English to be played by the English, I was as happily surprised by her performance as I was by Ben Affleck's brief, but memorable portrayal of the self-important Ned Alleyn. Much of the credit, though, must go to Michelle Guish for the wonderful supporting cast including: Judi Dench, Simon Callow, Imelda Staunton, Jim Carter, Martin Clunes and Geoffrey Rush, to name but a few.

John Madden directs hypnotically and constantly keeps the camera on the move but most credit for the film must go to Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard for their cunning and often self-parodying script. The only comment I would make is regarding the sheer number of theatre references. Those who have worked in the theatre will be aware of many, if not all, of the in-jokes that the film is littered with. Those who have not may be left with the feeling that they have been excluded from much of the content.

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Reference is made to Edward Alleyn on a promotional leaflet for one of William Shakespeare's plays at the beginning of the film. Edward Alleyn, an actor in Shakespeare's time, ("Ned" in the film, played by Ben Affleck) was the real-life founder of the famous London private secondary schools Dulwich College and Alleyn's School.


Quotes

Hugh Fennyman: Henslowe! Do you know what happens to a man who doesn't pay his debts? His boots catch fire!
Hugh Fennyman: Why do you howl when it is I who am bitten?


Goofs

Near the end the Queen commands Wessex to pay off the wager of 50 pounds which Viola carries in a pouch. At that time, a British pound coin would have contained one troy pound of silver (hence its name). A troy pound weighs approximately 75% of a normal pound, and would therefore mean the sack she is carrying would be very heavy, much heavier than it appears to be in the movie. However, the pouch that Wessex hands over is the one he received from Viola's father when he asked for 'fifty pounds in gold' - gold, being much more valuable than silver would require a smaller mass for the same value.


Alternate Versions

The Region 2 DVD contains some deleted scenes:

  • A different end sequence. Here the conversation between Will and Viola is shorter than in the final film. After Viola has left Burbage enters and stops Will from running after Viola. He also takes the 50 pounds and says "Welcome to the Chamberlain's Men". The scene where Lord Wessex's ship sinks is also different. Here we see that Viola survives the drowning and is washed ashore an unknown coast. There she asks two people where she is. Their reply is "This is America".
  • A slightly different version of the scene where Burbank and his men fight against Will and his actors in the theatre. The sequence is largely the same as the scene used in the final film but parts are shown from different angles. A small conversation between Fennyman and Henslowe is added where they discuss about business.
  • A small scene which takes place after Henslowe has announced the audition. Here the two actors John and James walk to the court to play witnesses. When they meet the other actors and hear that Will Shakespeare needs actors for his new play they follow them to the audition.
  • A deleted take where Tom Wilkinson announces that he will be playing the apothecary. To Rushs question "How does the comedy end?" Fiennes replys "By God, I wish I knew". Then Rush says "By God, if you do not, who does? Let us have pirates, clowns and a happy ending and you'll make Harvey Weinstein a happy man."


Soundtracks

The Play & the Marriage
(uncredited)
Written by
Stephen Warbeck
Performed by Catherine Bott
Conducted by Nick Ingman

Storyline

Plot Summary


Synopsis (WARNING: Spoilers)


Genres

Comedy | Drama | History | Romance

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