Shakespeare in Love (1998)

R | 112 mins | Comedy-drama | 11 December 1998

THIS TITLE IS OUTSIDE THE AFI CATALOG OF FEATURE FILMS (1893-1993)
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HISTORY

Shakespeare in Love was ranked 50th on AFI's 2002 100 Years...100 Passions list of the greatest love stories of all ...

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Shakespeare in Love was ranked 50th on AFI's 2002 100 Years...100 Passions list of the greatest love stories of all time.

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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Los Angeles Times
11 Dec 1998
p. 1.
New York Times
11 Dec 1998
p. 16.
Variety
7 Dec 1998
p. 53, 57.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
MUSIC
DETAILS
Release Date:
11 December 1998
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 11 Dec 1998
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
112
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In 1593, young playwright and actor Will Shakespeare embarks on his latest play, Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter, to be performed at the Rose Theatre in London, England. In the throes of writer’s block, he pursues an affair with Rosaline, the mistress of Richard Burbage, owner of the Curtain Theatre. Shakespeare also endeavors to have Burbage buy his play from the Rose’s failing owner, Philip Henslowe. Shakespeare’s romantic hopes are dashed when he learns Rosaline is having an affair with Edmund Tilney, who oversees the theater world as Master of the Revels. Meanwhile, Philip Henslowe pushes forward with auditions for Shakespeare’s unfinished play despite a mounting debt to moneylender Fennyman. The auditions attract the wealthy Viola de Lesseps, who wants so badly to act that she disguises herself as a man, “Thomas Kent,” to qualify for the male-only cast. Shakespeare is deeply impressed by “Thomas’s” performance of a monologue from his The Two Gentlemen of Verona. However, Viola flees the moment he questions her, lest the playwright discover her true identity. He follows her home, leaves a note to request her presence at rehearsals, then sneaks into a ball being held there. Shakespeare dances with Viola, unaware that she is “Thomas Kent,” but her betrothed, Lord Wessex, forces him to leave. Shakespeare deceives the angry Wessex by identifying himself as Christopher Marlowe, a rival playwright. With Wessex gone, Shakespeare sneaks into the garden and beckons Viola. The two confess their attraction to each other but Viola’s nurse intervenes. The newfound infatuation inspires Shakespeare to write. He alters his current play, which becomes Romeo and Juliet. “Thomas Kent” is cast as “Romeo,” and ...

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In 1593, young playwright and actor Will Shakespeare embarks on his latest play, Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter, to be performed at the Rose Theatre in London, England. In the throes of writer’s block, he pursues an affair with Rosaline, the mistress of Richard Burbage, owner of the Curtain Theatre. Shakespeare also endeavors to have Burbage buy his play from the Rose’s failing owner, Philip Henslowe. Shakespeare’s romantic hopes are dashed when he learns Rosaline is having an affair with Edmund Tilney, who oversees the theater world as Master of the Revels. Meanwhile, Philip Henslowe pushes forward with auditions for Shakespeare’s unfinished play despite a mounting debt to moneylender Fennyman. The auditions attract the wealthy Viola de Lesseps, who wants so badly to act that she disguises herself as a man, “Thomas Kent,” to qualify for the male-only cast. Shakespeare is deeply impressed by “Thomas’s” performance of a monologue from his The Two Gentlemen of Verona. However, Viola flees the moment he questions her, lest the playwright discover her true identity. He follows her home, leaves a note to request her presence at rehearsals, then sneaks into a ball being held there. Shakespeare dances with Viola, unaware that she is “Thomas Kent,” but her betrothed, Lord Wessex, forces him to leave. Shakespeare deceives the angry Wessex by identifying himself as Christopher Marlowe, a rival playwright. With Wessex gone, Shakespeare sneaks into the garden and beckons Viola. The two confess their attraction to each other but Viola’s nurse intervenes. The newfound infatuation inspires Shakespeare to write. He alters his current play, which becomes Romeo and Juliet. “Thomas Kent” is cast as “Romeo,” and Henslowe pacifies Fennyman with a small role as the “Apothecary.” Shakespeare uncovers Viola’s ruse, and the two conduct a secret affair while she stays on in the play. One day, under the guise of a female relative, Shakespeare accompanies Viola to a court hearing, in which she and Wessex seek approval for their marriage. The disguised Shakespeare challenges Wessex to a bet of £50 that a stage play can capture the essence of true love, and Queen Elizabeth I agrees to judge the play and declare a winner. Elsewhere, Richard Burbage learns that Shakespeare seduced Rosaline and also cheated him out of money. He goes to the Rose Theatre and incites a brawl. Burbage is defeated, and afterward, a victorious, drunken Henslowe reveals to the disguised Viola that Shakespeare is married but estranged from his wife. Shakespeare gets news that playwright Christopher Marlowe was murdered, and worries that Wessex is to blame. Viola briefly thinks that Shakespeare was killed, but they reunite at a church service. She admits her love for Shakespeare but cannot break her obligation to Wessex. Nevertheless, the two make love again, only to be spied on by a young boy who informs Edmund Tilney. In turn, the Master of the Revels has the Rose Theatre shut down for using a woman actor. Viola is publicly outed and must leave the production. Burbage saves the show by moving it to the Curtain Theatre, and a despondent Shakespeare replaces Viola as “Romeo.” On the day Viola is married to Wessex, she sneaks away to view a performance. Coincidentally, the pubescent young boy playing “Juliet” is fired for suddenly sounding too manly, and Henslowe enlists Viola to replace him. She and Shakespeare wow the crowd with their electric performances. Recognizing Viola, Tilney threatens to arrest the company for indecency, but Queen Elizabeth I, who has camouflaged herself within the audience, stops him. Keeping up the ruse that Viola is “Thomas Kent,” she tells Kent to retrieve Viola, as she has orders to travel to the colony of Virginia with her new husband. She also declares that Shakespeare has won the £50 bet, and has the money delivered to him with a note demanding a more upbeat play next time. As Viola and Shakespeare part ways, he vows to write a character for her in his next play, The Twelfth Night.

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Legend
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AFI Life Achievement Award
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.