You may have noticed that Shakespeare is everywhere right now, because April 23rd was the 400th anniversary of his death, which is supposedly also his birthday! If you hear Shakespeare and think dry, boring speeches, check out this week’s film for a rather different view on the greatest English playwright! If you like lush historical drama, tragic romance and fantastic costumes, try up Shakespeare in Love.
Shakespeare in Love tells the story of a young William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) as he tries to make it in London, barely earning a living as a playwright for the Lord Chamberlain’s Men and struggling to succeed while standing in his friend Christopher Marlowe’s shadow. Will needs to write a new play, but he has no inspiration, until he meets Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow). She is auditioning for a part in his play. However, the law makes it illegal for women to perform on stage, and so Viola is disguised as a boy. With Viola, Shakespeare finds true love, and the inspiration for one of his most famous plays, Romeo & Juliet.
However, to quote a different Shakespeare play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the course of true love never did run smooth, and Viola’s jealous betrothed, Lord Wessex, (Colin Firth) is determined to make an example of the charming upstart playwright who has captured his fiancé’s heart. Meanwhile, everything rides on Will’s new play being a success, especially since Queen Elizabeth I (Judi Dench) is taking an interest personally. Through a number of circumstances, Will and Viola do at least get to perform the roles of Romeo and Juliet as a final farewell in the premiere performance, but while the ending isn’t a tragic as the famous Italian couple’s, both of them know they can never have a life together.
Writer Tom Stoppard is best known for his hilarious, thoughtful play Rosencrantz and Guildernstern Are Dead, in which the story of Hamlet is told through two minors characters who are mainly famous for dying offstage. As you’d expect from such talent. the script for Shakespeare in Love is funny and heartwarming, brilliantly performed by great actors like Judi Dench, Geoffrey Rush, Ben Affleck and Rupert Everett. The costumes and visuals are stunning, as well, as they use the reconstruction Shakespeare’s Globe for the performances, though the writers play fast and loose with history for the sake of drama. It’s worth watching just for Judi Dench’s amazing outfits! For Shakespeare fans, this is a real treat, as well, because of the many references to Shakespeare’s plays, and Christopher Marlowe’s. You may be able to get a clue to one of the references from Viola’s name!
If you like Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare or historical romance, Shakespeare in Love is a fantastic film for an evening in. Celebrate Shakespeare’s anniversary in style!
Learn more about Shakespeare:
We were excited to hear that another of the famous First Folios was found in Scotland, the original printed edition of Shakespeare’s plays and the first collected version ever.
Learn about some Shakespeare-related world records here.
The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC for short) undertook an exciting new project for the 400th anniversary to bring one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to theatres around the country, combining a diverse cast of professional actors from the RSC with local actors, school children and amateurs from the regions where it is performed. This week, it’s playing in Norwich, and it’s well worth a look! The Mechanicals are played by local company The Common Lot, whose productions “are entirely original and based on local stories. They are for, with and about the people of Norfolk.” (RSC, 2016) They’re even travelling to Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace, to perform with the RSC! Pupils from Sprowston High School also got the opportunity to play fairy servants of Titania. And if you can’t get to see it in the theatre, all is not lost, as it will be broadcast on the 20th May. The RSC have really shown that A Midsummer Night’s Dream is indeed a play for the nation.
RSC (2016) The Common Lot. Available at: http://www.dream2016.org.uk/amateur-group/the-common-lot/ Accessed on: 28/04/16
Tohma (2007) London, Shakespeare’s Globe, Innenraum und Bühne. [photograph] Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Globe_Theatre_Innenraum.jpg#/media/File:Globe_Theatre_Innenraum.jpg Accessed on: 28/04/16