|Shakespeare in Love|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Madden|
|Produced by||David Parfitt
|Written by||Marc Norman
|Music by||Stephen Warbeck|
|Edited by||David Gamble|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films (US)
Universal Pictures (Worldwide)
|Box office||$289.3 million|
Shakespeare in Love is a 1998 British-American romantic comedy-drama film directed by John Madden, written by Marc Norman and playwright Tom Stoppard. The film depicts an imaginary love affair involving Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) and playwright William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) while he was writing Romeo and Juliet. Several characters are based on historical people, and many of the characters, lines, and plot devices allude to Shakespeare's plays.
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. Wessex also asks Will's name, to which he replies that he is Christopher Marlowe.
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 separated from his wife, and she knows she cannot escape her duty to marry Wessex. After Viola learns that Will is married, Will discovers that Marlowe is dead, and thinks he is the one to blame. Lord Wessex suspects an affair between Shakespeare and his bride-to-be. Because Wessex thinks that Will is Kit Marlowe, he approves of Kit's death, and tells Viola the news. It is later learned that Marlowe had been killed by accident. Viola finds out that Will is still alive, and declares her love for him. Then, Viola is summoned to court to receive approval for her proposed marriage to Lord Wessex. Shakespeare accompanies her, disguised as her female 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, when the 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."
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, with Zwick as director, but although sets and costumes were in construction, Shakespeare had not yet been cast, because 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 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.
Much of the action of the film echoes that of 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. There are references to earlier cinematic versions of Shakespeare, such as the balcony scene pastiching the Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet.
Many other plot devices used in the film are common in Shakespearean comedies and other plays of the Elizabethan era: the Queen disguised as a commoner, the cross-dressing disguises, mistaken identities, the sword fight, the suspicion of adultery, the appearance of a "ghost" (cf. Macbeth), and the "play within a play". According to Douglas Brode, the film deftly portrays many of 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 later appear in his plays, or in other ways echo those plays:
Christopher Marlowe is presented in the film as the master playwright whom the characters consider the greatest English dramatist of that time — this is historically accurate, yet also humorous, since the film's audience knows what will eventually happen to Shakespeare's reputation. 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 next, Jacobean, generation of playwrights. His plays (The Duchess of Malfi, The White Devil) are known for their 'blood and gore', which is humorously referred to by the child saying that he enjoys Titus Andronicus, and also saying of Romeo and Juliet, when asked his opinion 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.
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, at a time before the Colony of Virginia existed, also a leading character is a member of the House of Wessex, which actually died out in 1066. The clearest deviation from literary history is the made-up play's original proposed title "Romeo and Ethel", allegedly preceding the play's eventual title, "Romeo and Juliet". In fact, the story of Romeo and Juliet existed 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." Roger Ebert, who gave the film four stars out of four wrote: "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."
The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 92% of critics gave the film positive reviews based on 125 reviews and it has an average rating of 8.3 out of 10. The critics consensus states: "Endlessly witty, visually rapturous, and sweetly romantic, Shakespeare in Love is a delightful romantic comedy that succeeds on nearly every level."
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.
The Sunday Telegraph claimed that the film prompted the revival of the title of Earl of Wessex. 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.
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American Film Institute recognition:
|71st Academy Awards||Best Picture||David Parfitt, Donna Gigliotti, Marc Norman, Harvey Weinstein and Edward Zwick||Won|
|Best Actress||Gwyneth Paltrow||Won|
|Best Supporting Actress||Judi Dench||Won|
|Best Art Direction||Martin Childs and Jill Quertier||Won|
|Best Costume Design||Sandy Powell||Won|
|Best Original Musical or Comedy Score||Stephen Warbeck||Won|
|Best Original Screenplay||Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard||Won|
|Best Director||John Madden||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Geoffrey Rush||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography||Richard Greatrex||Nominated|
|Best Film Editing||David Gamble||Nominated|
|Best Makeup||Lisa Westcott and Veronica Brebner||Nominated|
|Best Sound||Robin O'Donoghue, Dominic Lester, and Peter Glossop||Nominated|
|52nd British Academy Film Awards||BAFTA Award for Best Film||Won|
|BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role||Judi Dench||Won|
|BAFTA Award for Best Editing||David Gamble||Won|
|BAFTA Award for Best Direction||John Madden||Nominated|
|BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role||Joseph Fiennes||Nominated|
|BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role||Gwyneth Paltrow||Nominated|
|BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role||Geoffrey Rush||Nominated|
|BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role||Tom Wilkinson||Nominated|
|BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography||Richard Greatrex||Nominated|
|BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay||Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard||Nominated|
|BAFTA Award for Best Makeup and Hair||Lisa Westcott||Nominated|
|BAFTA Award for Best Sound||Robin O'Donoghue, Dominic Lester, Peter Glossop, and John Downer||Nominated|
|Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music||Stephen Warbeck||Nominated|
|BAFTA Award for Best Costume Design||Sandy Powell||Nominated|
|BAFTA Award for Best Production Design||Martin Childs||Nominated|
|49th Berlin International Film Festival||Golden Bear||Nominated|
|Silver Bear||Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard||Won|
|Directors Guild of America Awards 1998||Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures||John Madden||Nominated|
|56th Golden Globe Awards||Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy||Won|
|Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy||Gwyneth Paltrow||Won|
|Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay||Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard||Won|
|Golden Globe Award for Best Director||John Madden||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture||Geoffrey Rush||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture||Judi Dench||Nominated|
|5th Screen Actors Guild Awards||Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture||Won|
|Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role||Joseph Fiennes||Nominated|
|Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role||Gwyneth Paltrow||Won|
|Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role||Geoffrey Rush||Nominated|
|Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role||Judi Dench||Nominated|
|Writers Guild of America Awards 1998||Best Original Screenplay||Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard||Won|
|1998 New York Film Critics Circle Awards||Best Screenplay||Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard||Won|
In November 2011, Variety reported that Disney Theatrical Productions intended to produce a stage version of the film in London with Sonia Friedman Productions. The production was officially announced in November 2013.
The production opened at the Noël Coward Theatre in London's West End on 23 July 2014, receiving rave reviews from critics, calling it "A joyous celebration of theatre" Daily Telegraph ,"Joyous" The Independent and "A love letter to theatre" The Guardian
Based on the film screenplay by Norman and Stoppard, it was adapted for the stage by Lee Hall. The production was directed by Declan Donnellan and designed by Nick Ormerod, the joint founders of Cheek by Jowl.
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|Academy Award winner for
Best Actress and
Best Supporting Actress
No film has achieved this since