Shakespeare in Love
|Shakespeare in Love|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Madden|
|Produced by||David Parfitt
|Written by||Marc Norman
|Music by||Stephen Warbeck|
|Editing by||David Gamble|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films (US)
Alliance Atlantis (CAN)
Universal Studios (Worldwide)
|Running time||123 minutes|
Shakespeare in Love is a 1998 British romantic comedy-drama film directed by John Madden, written by Marc Norman and playwright Tom Stoppard. The film depicts a love affair involving playwright William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) while he was writing the play Romeo and Juliet. The story is fiction, though several of the characters are based on real people. In addition, many of the characters, lines, and plot devices are references to Shakespeare's plays.
William Shakespeare is a poor playwright for Philip Henslowe, owner of The Rose Theatre, in 1593 London. After learning that his love was cheating on him with his patron, Shakespeare burns the comedy and restarts, then writing Twelfth Night. Suffering from writer's block, he is unable to complete the play, but begins auditions for Romeo. A young man named Thomas Kent is cast in the role after impressing Shakespeare with his performance and his love of Shakespeare's previous work. Kent is actually Viola de Lesseps, the daughter of a wealthy merchant who desires to act but, since women are banned from the stage, she must disguise herself.
After Shakespeare discovers his star's true identity, he and Viola begin a passionate secret affair. Inspired by her, Shakespeare writes quickly, and benefits from the advice of playwright and friendly rival Christopher 'Kit' Marlowe. Shakespeare and Viola know, however, that their romance is doomed. He is married, albeit long separated from his wife, while Viola's parents have arranged her betrothal to Lord Wessex (Colin Firth), an aristocrat who needs money. When Viola is summoned to the court of Queen Elizabeth I, Shakespeare dons a woman's disguise to accompany her as her cousin. At court, he persuades Wessex to bet £50 that a play cannot capture the nature of true love. If Romeo and Juliet is a success, Shakespeare as playwright will win the money. The Queen, who enjoys Shakespeare's plays, agrees to witness the wager.
Edmund Tilney, the Master of the Revels, the Queen's official in charge of the theatres, learns that there is a woman in the theatre company at The Rose playhouse, and orders the theatre closed for violating morality and the law. Left without a stage or lead actor, it seems that Romeo and Juliet must close before it even opens, until Richard Burbage, the owner of a competing theatre, the Curtain, offers his stage to Shakespeare. Shakespeare assumes the lead role of Romeo, with a boy actor, playing Juliet. Viola learns that the play will be performed on her wedding day, and after the ceremony secretly travels to the theatre. Shortly before the play begins, the boy playing Juliet starts experiencing the voice change of puberty. Viola replaces him and plays Juliet to Shakespeare's Romeo. Their passionate portrayal of two lovers inspires the entire audience.
Tilney arrives at the theatre with Wessex, who has deduced his new bride's location. Tilney plans to arrest the audience and cast for indecency, but the Queen is in attendance. Although she recognizes Viola, the Queen does not unmask her, instead declaring that the role of Juliet is being performed by Thomas Kent. However, even a queen is powerless to end a lawful marriage, so she orders "Kent" to fetch Viola so that she may sail with Wessex to the Colony of Virginia. The Queen also states that Romeo and Juliet has accurately portrayed true love so Wessex must pay Shakespeare £50, the exact amount Shakespeare requires to buy a share in the Lord Chamberlain's Men. The Queen then directs "Kent" to tell Shakespeare to write something "a little more cheerful next time, for Twelfth Night".
Viola and Shakespeare part, resigned to their fates. The film closes as Shakespeare begins to write Twelfth Night, Or What You Will imagining his love washed ashore in a strange land after a shipwreck and musing, "For she will be my heroine for all time, and her name will be...Viola", a strong young woman castaway who disguises herself as a young man.
- Joseph Fiennes as William Shakespeare
- Gwyneth Paltrow as Viola de Lesseps
- Geoffrey Rush as Philip Henslowe
- Colin Firth as Lord Wessex
- Ben Affleck as Ned Alleyn
- Judi Dench as Queen Elizabeth I
- Simon Callow as Edmund Tilney
- Jim Carter as Ralph Bashford
- Martin Clunes as Richard Burbage
- Antony Sher as Dr. Moth
- Imelda Staunton as Nurse
- Tom Wilkinson as Hugh Fennyman
- Mark Williams as Wabash
- Daniel Brocklebank as Sam Gosse|Juliet
- Jill Baker as Lady de Lesseps
- Patrick Barlow as Will Kempe
- Joe Roberts as John Webster
- Simon Day as First Boatsman
- Rupert Everett as Christopher 'Kit' Marlowe
The original idea for Shakespeare in Love came to screenwriter Marc Norman in the late 1980s. He pitched a draft screenplay to director Edward Zwick. The screenplay attracted Julia Roberts who agreed to play Viola. However, Zwick disliked Norman's screenplay and hired the playwright Tom Stoppard to improve it (Stoppard's first major success had been with the Shakespeare-themed play Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead).
The film went into production in 1991 at Universal Pictures, with Zwick as director, but although sets and costumes were in construction, Shakespeare had not yet been cast, because Julia Roberts insisted that only Daniel Day-Lewis could play the role. Day-Lewis was uninterested, and when Roberts failed to persuade him, she withdrew from the film, six weeks before shooting was due to begin. The production went into turnaround, and Zwick was unable to persuade other studios to take up the screenplay.
Eventually, Zwick got Miramax interested in the screenplay, but Miramax chose John Madden as director. Miramax boss Harvey Weinstein acted as producer, and successfully persuaded Ben Affleck to take a small role as Ned Alleyn.
The film was considerably reworked after the first test screenings. The scene with Shakespeare and Viola in the punt was re-shot, to make it more emotional, and some lines were re-recorded to clarify the reasons why Viola had to marry Wessex. The ending was re-shot several times, until Stoppard eventually came up with the idea of Viola suggesting to Shakespeare that their parting could inspire his next play.
References to Shakespeare's work 
Christopher Marlowe appears in the film as the master playwright whom the characters within the film consider the greatest English dramatist of that time—this is accurate, yet also humorous, since everyone in the film's audience knows what will eventually happen to Shakespeare. Marlowe gives Shakespeare a plot for his next play, "Romeo and Ethel the Pirate's Daughter"
A reference is also made to Marlowe's final, unfinished play The Massacre at Paris in a scene wherein Marlowe (Rupert Everett) seeks payment for the final act of the play from Richard Burbage (Martin Clunes). Burbage promises the payment the next day, so Marlowe refuses to part with the pages and departs for Deptford, where he is killed. The only surviving text of The Massacre at Paris is an undated quarto that is too short to represent the complete original play and in all probability it is a memorial reconstruction by the actors who performed the work.
After the film's release, certain publications, including Private Eye, noted strong similarities between the film and the 1941 novel No Bed for Bacon, by Caryl Brahms and S. J. Simon, which also features Shakespeare falling in love and finding inspiration for his later plays. In a foreword to a subsequent edition of No Bed for Bacon (which traded on the association by declaring itself "A Story of Shakespeare and Lady Viola in Love") Ned Sherrin, Private Eye insider and former writing partner of Brahms', confirmed that he had lent a copy of the novel to Stoppard after he joined the writing team, but that the basic plot of the film had been independently developed by Marc Norman, who was unaware of the earlier work.
The film's plot can claim a tradition in fiction reaching back to Alexandre Duval's "Shakespeare amoureux ou la Piece a l'Etude" (1804), in which Shakespeare falls in love with an actress who is playing Richard III.
The writers of Shakespeare in Love were sued in 1999 by bestselling author Faye Kellerman. She claimed that the plotline was stolen from her 1989 novel The Quality of Mercy, in which Shakespeare romances a Jewish woman who dresses as a man, and attempts to solve a murder. Miramax Films spokesman Andrew Stengel derided the claim, filed in the US District Court six days before the 1999 Academy Awards, as "absurd", and argued that the timing "suggests a publicity stunt".
The film is "not constrained by worries about literary or historical accuracy" and includes anachronisms such as a reference to Virginia tobacco plantations, when there was no Virginia. The most apparent deviation from the actual literary history is the made-up play title "Romeo and Ethel" allegedly preceding the present version. In fact, the story of Romeo and Juliet had been invented before Shakespeare. It was well-known from Arthur Brooke's 1562 narrative poem The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet, which itself was rooted in an Italian original.
Janet Maslin made the film an "NYT Critics' Pick", calling it "pure enchantment"; according to Maslin, the film is "far richer and more deft than the other Elizabethan film in town (Elizabeth); she notes "Gwyneth Paltrow, in her first great, fully realized starring performance, makes a heroine so breathtaking that she seems utterly plausible as the playwright's guiding light." According to Roger Ebert, who gave the film four stars out of four:
"The contemporary feel of the humor (like Shakespeare's coffee mug, inscribed "Souvenir of Stratford-Upon-Avon") makes the movie play like a contest between "Masterpiece Theatre" and Mel Brooks. Then the movie stirs in a sweet love story, juicy court intrigue, backstage politics and some lovely moments from "Romeo and Juliet"... Is this a movie or an anthology? I didn't care. I was carried along by the wit, the energy and a surprising sweetness."
Shakespeare in Love was among 1999's box office number-one films in the United Kingdom. The U.S. box office reached over $100 million; including the box office from the rest of the world, the film took in over $289 million.
It has been reported by The Sunday Telegraph that the film had an impact on the British Royal Family in prompting the revival of the title of Earl of Wessex, which had been extinct since the 11th century. Prince Edward was originally to have been titled Duke of Cambridge following his marriage to Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999, the year after the film's release. However, after watching Shakespeare in Love, he reportedly became attracted to the title of the character played by Colin Firth, and asked Queen Elizabeth II to be given the title of Earl of Wessex instead.
||This section needs additional citations for verification. (April 2012)|
American Film Institute recognition:
Cultural influence 
- The film was spoofed and homaged, along with Star Wars, in the 1999 short film George Lucas in Love.
- The film was seen and frequently interrupted by Brenda Meeks in Scary Movie.
Stage adaptation 
In October 2011 the show-business paper Variety reported that Disney Theatrical Productions, linked to Miramax through former owners Disney Corporation, intend to mount a stage version of the movie in London. Co-producer will be Sonia Friedmann Productions. The writer will again be Stoppard and he will be joined by director Jack O'Brien and designer Bob Crowley, who worked with Stoppard on his Coast of Utopia trilogy and The Invention of Love.
- "Shakespeare in Love (1998)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 2012-02-19.
- Peter Biskind, "Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film" (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004), p. 327.
- Peter Biskind, "Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film" (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004), p. 328-30.
- Peter Biskind, "Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film" (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004), p. 330-1.
- Atkins, Carl (2007). Shakespeare's Sonnets: With Three Hundred Years of Commentary. Madison, NJ: Farleigh Dickinson University Press. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-8386-4163-7.
- Ebert, Roger (25 December 1998). "Shakespeare in Love". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2012-02-16.
- Greenwich 2000 (2010-01-05). "Greenwich England: Deptford". Wwp.greenwich2000.com. Retrieved 2010-07-05.
- Probes, Christine McCall (2008). "Senses, signs, symbols and theological allusion in Marlowe's The Massacre at Paris". In Deats, Sara Munson; Logan, Robert A. Placing the plays of Christopher Marlowe: Fresh Cultural Contexts. Aldershot, England: Ashgate. p. 149. ISBN 0754662047.
- Burt, Richard (2002). Shakespeare After Mass Media. London: Macmillan. p. 306. ISBN 978-0-3122-9454-0.
- "Closed government". The Spectator. 6 February 1999. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
- Portillo, Rafael; Salvador, Mercedes (2003). In Pujante, Ángel-Luis; Hoenselaars, Ton. Four Hundred Years of Shakespeare in Europe. Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press. p. 182. ISBN 0-87413-812-4.
- "Novelist sues Shakespeare makers". BBC News. 1999-03-23. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
- "Writer sues makers of 'Shakespeare in Love'". CNN. 1999-03-23. Archived from the original on 2008-04-04. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
- Maslin, Janet (11 December 1998). "Shakespeare Saw a Therapist?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-02-16.
- Richard Eden (12 December 2010). "Royal wedding: Prince William asks the Queen not to make him a duke". The Telegraph. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
- "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions" (web). Retrieved 2012-03-30.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-02-16.
- "The 71st Academy Awards (1999) Nominees and Winners". Oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
- "Berlinale: 1999 Prize Winners". Berlinale.de. Retrieved 2012-02-04.
- Gordon Cox (21 October 2011). "'Shakespeare' to take stage". Variety (London). Retrieved 25 October 2011.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Shakespeare in Love|
- Official website
- Shakespeare in Love at the Internet Movie Database
- Shakespeare in Love at AllRovi
- Shakespeare in Love at Box Office Mojo
- Shakespeare in Love at Rotten Tomatoes
|Academy Award winner for
Best Actress and
Best Supporting Actress
No film has achieved this since