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 Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) and 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.
A stage adaptation is currently in production, due to have its world premiere in London's West End in July 2014.
In 1593 London, William Shakespeare is a sometime player in the Lord Chamberlain's Men and poor playwright for Philip Henslowe, owner of The Rose Theatre. Shakespeare is working on a new comedy, Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter. Suffering from writer's block, he has barely begun the play, but starts auditioning players. Viola de Lesseps, the daughter of a wealthy merchant who has seen Shakespeare's plays at court, disguises herself as "Thomas Kent" to audition, then runs away. Shakespeare pursues Kent to Viola's house and leaves a note with the nurse, asking Thomas Kent to begin rehearsals at the Rose. He sneaks into the house with the minstrels playing that night at the ball, where her parents are arranging her betrothal to Lord Wessex, an impoverished aristocrat. While dancing with Viola, Shakespeare is struck speechless, and after being forcibly ejected by Wessex, uses Thomas Kent as a go-between to woo her.
When he discovers her true identity, they begin a secret affair. Inspired by her, Shakespeare writes quickly, with help from his friend and rival playwright Christopher 'Kit' Marlowe, completely transforming the play into what will become Romeo and Juliet. Viola is appalled when she learns he is married, albeit long separated from his wife, and she knows she cannot escape her duty to marry Wessex when she is summoned to court to receive approval for the match. Shakespeare dons a woman's disguise to accompany her as her cousin. There, he persuades Wessex to wager £50 that a play can capture the true nature of love, the exact amount Shakespeare requires to buy a share in the Chamberlain's Men. Queen Elizabeth I declares that she will judge the matter, as occasion arises.
When Edmund Tilney, the Master of the Revels, is informed there is a woman player at The Rose, he closes the theatre for breaking the ban on women. Viola's identity is exposed before the company, leaving them without a stage or lead actor, until Richard Burbage, owner of the Curtain, offers them his theatre. Shakespeare takes the role of Romeo, with a boy actor as Juliet. Following her wedding, Viola learns that the play will be performed that day, and runs away to the Curtain. Planning to watch with the crowd, Viola overhears that the boy playing Juliet cannot perform, and offers to replace him. While she plays Juliet to Shakespeare's Romeo, the audience is enthralled, despite the tragic ending, until Master Tilney arrives to arrest everyone for indecency due to Viola's presence.
But the Queen is in attendance and restrains Tilney, instead asserting that Kent's resemblance to a woman is, indeed, remarkable. However, even a queen is powerless to end a lawful marriage, and she orders Kent to fetch Viola because she must sail with Wessex to the Colony of Virginia. The Queen also tells Wessex, who followed Viola to the theatre, that Romeo and Juliet has won the bet for Shakespeare, and has Kent deliver his £50 with instructions to write something "a little more cheerful next time, for Twelfth Night".
Viola and Shakespeare say their goodbyes, and he vows to immortalize her, as they improvise the beginnings of his Twelfth Night, Or What You Will, imagining her as a castaway disguised as a man after a voyage to a strange land. "For she will be my heroine for all time, and her name will be...Viola."
- Gwyneth Paltrow as Viola de Lesseps
- Joseph Fiennes as William Shakespeare
- Geoffrey Rush as Philip Henslowe
- Colin Firth as Lord Wessex
- Ben Affleck as Ned Alleyn
- Judi Dench as Elizabeth I of England
- 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
- 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 Elizabethan literature
The main source for much of the action in the film is Romeo and Juliet. Will and Viola play out the famous balcony and bedroom scenes; like Juliet, Viola has a witty nurse, and is separated from Will by a gulf of duty (although not the family enmity of the play: the "two households" of Romeo and Juliet are supposedly inspired by the two rival playhouses). In addition, the two lovers are equally "star-crossed" — they are not ultimately destined to be together (since Viola is of rich and socially ambitious merchant stock and is promised to marry Lord Wessex, while Shakespeare himself is poor and already married). There is also a Rosaline, with whom Will is in love at the beginning of the film. These sometimes reference earlier cinematic versions of Shakespeare. The balcony scene pastiches the Zeffirelli version of Romeo and Juliet.
Many other plot devices used in the film are common in various Shakespearean comedies and in the works of the other playwrights of the Elizabethan era: the Queen disguised as a commoner, the cross-dressing disguises, mistaken identities, the sword fight, the suspicion of adultery (or, at least, cheating), the appearance of a "ghost" (cf. Macbeth), and the "play within a play". According to Douglas Brode, the film deftly portrays many of the these devices as though the events depicted were the inspiration for Shakespeare's own use of them in his plays.
The film also has sequences in which Shakespeare and the other characters utter words that will later appear in his plays:
- On the street, Shakespeare hears a Puritan preaching against the two London stages: "The Rose smells thusly rank, by any name! I say, a plague on both their houses!" Two references in one, both to Romeo and Juliet; first, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" (Act II, scene ii, lines 1 and 2); second, "a plague on both your houses" (Act III, scene I, line 94).
- Backstage of a performance of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Shakespeare sees William Kempe in full make-up, silently contemplating a skull, a reference to Hamlet.
- Shakespeare utters the lines "Doubt thou the stars are fire, / Doubt that the sun doth move" (from Hamlet) to Philip Henslowe.
- As Shakespeare's writer's block is introduced, he is seen crumpling balls of paper and throwing them around his room. They land near props which represent scenes in his several plays: a skull (Hamlet), and an open chest (The Merchant of Venice).
- Viola, as well as being Paltrow's character in the film, is the lead character in Twelfth Night who dresses as a man after the supposed death of her brother.
- At the end of the film, Shakespeare imagines a shipwreck overtaking Viola on her way to America, inspiring the second scene of his next play, Twelfth Night, and perhaps also The Tempest.
- Shakespeare writes a sonnet to Viola which begins: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" (from Sonnet 18).
- Shakespeare tells Henslowe that he still owes him for "one gentleman of Verona", a reference to Two Gentlemen of Verona, part of which we also see being acted before the Queen later in the film.
- In the boat, when Shakespeare tells Viola, disguised as Thomas Kent, of his lady’s beauty and charms, she dismisses his praise, as no real woman could live up to the ideal. This is a set up for Sonnet 130, “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun”.
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" ("Romeo is Italian...always in and out of love...until he meets...Ethel. The daughter of his enemy! His best friend is killed in a duel by Ethel's brother or something. His name is Mercutio.") Marlowe's Doctor Faustus is quoted repeatedly: "Was this the face that launched a thousand ships/ And burned the topless towers of Ilium?" 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 octavo that is probably too short to represent the complete original play. It has been suggested to be a memorial reconstruction by the actors who performed the work.
The child John Webster who plays with mice is a reference to the leading figure in the Jacobean generation of playwrights. His plays (The Duchess of Malfi, The White Devil) are known for their blood and gore, which is why he says that he enjoys Titus Andronicus, and why he says of Romeo and Juliet when asked by the Queen "I liked it when she stabbed herself."
When the clown Will Kempe (Patrick Barlow) says to Shakespeare that he would like to play in a drama, he is told that "they would laugh at Seneca if you played it," a reference to the Roman tragedian renowned for his sombre and bloody plot lines which were a major influence on the development of English tragedy.
Will is shown signing a paper repeatedly, with many relatively illegible signatures visible. This is a reference to the fact that several versions of Shakespeare's signature exist, and in each one he spelled his name differently.
Plot precedents and similarities
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, and references the House of Wessex that died off in 1066. 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:
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions – #50 
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs – Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) - Nominated
- 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.
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 Friedman Productions.
The West End production was officially announced in November 2013, and will begin previews at London's Noel Coward Theatre on 2 July 2014, ahead of the World Premiere on 23 July.  Based on the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, it will be adapted for the stage by Lee Hall. The production will be directed by Declan Donnellan and designed by Nick Ormerod, the driving force behind the world-renowned theatre company, Cheek by Jowl. Shakespeare In Love will be produced by Disney Theatrical Productions and Sonia Friedman Productions. Official website
Tom Bateman will play the role of Will Shakespeare, while Lucy Briggs-Owen will play Viola.
- "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.
- French, Emma, Selling Shakespeare to Hollywood: Marketing of Filmed Shakespeare Adaptations from 1989 Into the New Millennium, University of Hertfordshire Press, 2006, p.153.
- Douglas Brode, Shakespeare in the movies: from the silent era to today, Berkley Boulevard Books, 2001, p.240.
- 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). Pujante, Ángel-Luis; Hoenselaars, Ton, ed. 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.
- A.R.T. – American Repertory Theater
- 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.
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ballot
- "The 71st Academy Awards (1999) Nominees and Winners". Oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
- "Berlinale: 1999 Prize Winners". Berlinale.de. Retrieved 2012-02-04.
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|Academy Award winner for
Best Actress and
Best Supporting Actress
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