1998 • Shakespeare in Love

Shakespeare in LoveI have always hated everything Shakespearian, from our college adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew to 1948 Best Picture Hamlet. It’s just all those unnecessary old-sounding words thrown in that ruin things for me, I think! So going into 1998’s Best Picture, Shakespeare in Love, I was holding out very little hope. Only the fact that this was considered a light-hearted comedy gave me reason to believe I may enjoy this movie.

Directed by football legend John Madden (no, not that John Madden), Shakespeare in Love is the largely fictional story of William Shakespeare writing his famous play Romeo and Juliet (or Romeo and Ethel the Pirate’s Daughter as it is first known) and how his ongoing torrid love affair with the beautiful but engaged Viola de Lesseps inspires his script. The premise is further complicated when Viola poses as a young man in order to act in the play, since at the time women were banned from the theater.

I am always one for a good caper involving deception—hence The Sting being ranked #1 on my list to this point—and therefore I actually was fully engaged from start to finish with the surprising Shakespeare in Love. Joseph Fiennes, the younger brother of The English Patient’s Ralph Fiennes, kept me very captivated in his lead role of Shakespeare. Gwyneth Paltrow was also excellent in her supporting role of Viola, for which she won Best Supporting Actress, and even Ben Affleck gets involved with a small but memorable role. While I would hardly consider there to be any funny moments, it did come across as somewhat light-hearted. I was thoroughly relieved that the characters spoke in modern English.

There’s not much else I can say about Shakespeare in Love. While I found it to be surprisingly better than anticipated, it still ranks no higher than middle-of-the-pack on this project. I thought it most closely resembled Tom Jones of any movie to this point, so I ranked it one position higher than Tom at #40, and one spot behind Ordinary People.

Next up, we close out the 90s with one of my favorite movies, American Beauty.

1 Comment

  1. Everybody here is just having a total ball with this material, and it then gets pushed onto us as well. Great directing job, great screenplay, and even better acting. Good review, check out mine when you can!


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