Historical Elements from Shakespeare in Love

QUEEN: "Fifty pounds! A very worthy sum on avery worthy question.
Can a play show us the very truth and nature of love?"
WESSEX: "How is this to end ?"
QUEEN: "As stories must when love's denied-->."

Outline of Characters

Viola de Lesseps, (Gwyneth Paltrow) wholly fictional yet is one of the characters of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
Philip Henslowe: (Geoffrey Rush) was a real entrepreneur who owned the Rose Theatre and later the Fortune.
Earl of Wessex: (Colin Firth) fictional character.
Sir Edmund Tilney: (Simon Callow) real Master of the Revels, a kind of censor.
Christopher Marlowe (Rupert Everett) was a spy for Queen Elizabeth and born in the same year as Shakespeare (1564-1593). He was really killed in a tavern in Deptford (just south of London) over a tavern bill, as the police report reads. Although he was born the same year as Shakespeare, he went to University and became an established playwright slightly before Shakespeare; he was naturally an influence on Shakespeare and is recognized by scholars today as having established blank prose. Remember, too, how Michael Wood's work showed that he was in the small Deptford room with Robert Pooley, a spymaster of Elizabeth. Recall, too, how Kit Marlowe was planning on switching sides on Elizabeth and his recent plays satirized a fawning court and a corrupt monarch.
Richard Burbage (Martin Clunes) was a real, great Shakespearean actor; a great friend of Shakespeare.
Elizabeth I: (Judi Dench) really did love the theatre!
Ned Alleyn: (Ben Affleck) was a real and famous actor who played many of Marlowe’s major characters. He was the actor who used his money to establish Dulwich College in London.
Makepeace (Steven Beard) dress in black robe, puritan preachers commonly attacked the theatre as sinful. Notice when Will first sees and hears Makepeace say “a plague on both your houses,” Makepeace is referring indirectly to the rivalry between the two playhouses in the film. Will mindfully scans the line and later adapts it to Mercutio’s famous dying speech.

Elizabethan & Shakespearean Allusions

  • John Webster: the little boy who supplies cats with mice and has a taste for Titus Andronicus, probably the most bloodthirsty of all Shakespeare’s plays, is called John Webster. He is a real playwright who wrote the gruesome tragedy The Duchess of Malfi.
  • Richard Burbage and his crew are performing Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona in the beginning of the movie. Later, Viola de Lesseps, disguised as Thomas Kent, auditions with Valentine’s soliloquy, “If Silvia be not seen…”
  • The majority of actors audition with the famous lines from Christopher (aka. Kit) Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus (note the bold font helps illuminate the iambic beat):

  • Was this the face that launched a thousand ships
  • And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?

  • Will and Viola talk of the owl and the rooster while in Viola’s room; Will later turns this exchange into the lark and the nightingale in Romeo and Juliet.
  • Sonnet 18 is Shakespeare’s Shall I compare Thee to a Summer’s Day.
  • Following the formula from the Roman and Greek comedies, Shakespeare employs mistaken identities to create interesting situations in many of his comedies. How many ways does this motif occur in the movie?
  • When the Earl of Wessex sees Will the day after Marlowe’s murder, he thinks he is seeing a ghost, and this scene echoes the reaction of Claudius in Hamlet as well as Macbeth’s vision of Banquo.

Artful Trivia

Some fun passages from Shakespeare that are resonated in the movie:
The Two Gentlemen of Verona; Act III, Scene I
And why not death rather than living torment?
To die is to be banish'd from myself;
And Silvia is myself: banish'd from her
Is self from self: a deadly banishment!
What light is light, if Silvia be not seen?
What joy is joy, if Silvia be not by?
Unless it be to think that she is by
And feed upon the shadow of perfection
Except I be by Silvia in the night,
There is no music in the nightingale;
Unless I look on Silvia in the day,
There is no day for me to look upon;
She is my essence, and I leave to be,
If I be not by her fair influence
Foster'd, illumined, cherish'd, kept alive.
I fly not death, to fly his deadly doom:
Tarry I here, I but attend on death:
But, fly I hence, I fly away from life.

To Polonius's inquisitive question "What do you read, my lord?" (Hamlet, 2.2.191) Hamlet nonchalantly and intriguingly aptly replies: "Words, words, words" (2.2.192). It is interesting to note that Shakespeare added several thousand words to English, apart from imparting new meanings to known words. At times Shake-speare could teasingly employ the same word for different of thought. Barowne's single line, "Light, seeking light, doth light of light beguile" (Love's Labour's Lost , 1.1.77), as Harry Levin in his General Introduction to The Riverside Shakespeare (9) explains, "uses 'light' in four significations: intellect, seeking wisdom, cheats eyesight out of daylight."

Shakespeare in Love (movie):
Will Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes): Words, words, words. Once I had the gift. I could make love out of words as a potter makes cups of clay. Love that overthrows empires. Love that binds two hearts together come hell, fire, and brimstone. For six pence a line I could cause a riot in a nunnery

Notice Tom Stoppard’s anachronisms:
· Note how the boat men are equipped with the clichés of the modern London cab driver: “You’ll never believe who I had in my the other day…”
· Look carefully at the opening scene of Will writing his name at his desk. Although this scene pays tribute to the fact that William Caxton had not suggested his idea for a uniformed spelling system in London, it also shows how Shakespeare was known to have sign and spelled his name differently on numerous documents. The other fun item on his desk is a cup from the tourist shop from Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s frequently visited hometown.


Things to note from the Map:
· Playhouses were forced outside the city. You can see how the city is defined by Newgate on the west side and the Tower on the east side. At the turn of the 1600s, Shakespeare and his friends were allowed to open a theatre inside the city called Blackfriars.
· Will is referred by Lord Wessex as a Bankside, penny-a-page poet. Note how the "Bear Gardens" is also outside the city and nearby the Globe. Thus, theatres were is the sinful parts (red light district is what we might call it today) of Elizabethan London.