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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: December ::
Re: "Shakespeare in Love"
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1293  Monday, 14 December 1998.

[1]     From:   Melissa D. Aaron <
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        Date:   Saturday, 12 Dec 1998 11:49:56 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1287 "Shakespeare in Love"

[2]     From:   Richard Nathan <
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        Date:   Saturday, 12 Dec 1998 18:47:00 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1287 "Shakespeare in Love"

[3]     From:   Jerry Bangham <
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        Date:   Saturday, 12 Dec 1998 12:58:18 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 9.1287 "Shakespeare in Love" - Two more reviews


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Melissa D. Aaron <
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Date:           Saturday, 12 Dec 1998 11:49:56 -0500
Subject: 9.1287 "Shakespeare in Love"
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1287 "Shakespeare in Love"

>This film's
>exhilarating cleverness springs from its speculation about where the
>playwright might have found the beginnings of "Romeo and Juliet," but it
>is not constrained by worries about literary or historical accuracy.
<snip>
>Ingenious as the film's many inventions happen to be (from boatmen who
>behave like cabbies to its equivalent of Shakespearean outtakes-"One
>Gentleman of Verona" in the writing process)

I find myself irresistibly reminded of the cartoon "Peabody's Improbable
History" in which Peabody and Sherman journey in the Wayback machine
just
in time to suggest to Shakespeare that he might like not to entitle his
new
play Romeo and Zelda.

Incidentally, "Peabody," starring the world's most teleological dog,
really is a fascinating study, since it's the dog who keeps having to
correct the "great men" of history (invariably buffoons) so the history
books come out right.  Its insistence on hierarchical reversal is fairly
consistent right from the beginning-"And this is my boy, Sherman. Say
hello to the people, Sherman."  "Hello."  "Good boy!"

Oh, well-yet another essay I keep intending to write once this raft of
comp papers is graded.

Melissa D. Aaron
University of Michigan

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Nathan <
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Date:           Saturday, 12 Dec 1998 18:47:00 +0000
Subject: 9.1287 "Shakespeare in Love"
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1287 "Shakespeare in Love"

Stephanie Cowell asked what others thought of "SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE."

First, I'd like to start by saying I completely recommend Stephanie's
novel, "THE PLAYER" about Shakespeare's early days.  I'm not convinced
by some of her conjectures (I don't believe Southampton was the fair
youth), but it's still a great read.

I hadn't realized she has another novel out in which Shakespeare is a
character.  I'll have to look for it.

As to "SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE" - I agree with her that it's very funny and
quite silly.  The main plot line focuses on how Shakespeare takes
elements from his own life and uses them to come up with the plot of
"ROMEO AND JULIET," ignoring the fact that the story had been around for
a long time before Shakespeare got to it.

I do not agree with Ms. Cowell that Ben Afflick stuck out like a sore
thumb.  I thought he was funny and silly like the rest of the film.  The
one performance that bothered me was Joseph Fiennes in the title role.
I find him a cold actor - like his brother.  But I liked him in this
film far better than I did in "ELIZABETH."

Both the Fiennes brothers always seem to me to be holding something back
- to be detached, over-intellectualizing.  But in this film, that sort
of works for a writer.  He's never so much in the love affair that he's
not standing back and observing it, for use in his play.  He claims that
the love affair is more important to him than his plays, but I never
believed it for a moment.  I'm not sure I was supposed to believe it.
This Shakespeare seemed incapable of completely giving himself over to
feeling.  Was that the role, or was it Fiennes?

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jerry Bangham <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 12 Dec 1998 12:58:18 -0600
Subject: 9.1287 "Shakespeare in Love" - Two more reviews
Comment:        RE: SHK 9.1287 "Shakespeare in Love" - Two more reviews

TNT roughcut.com's "60-second Movie Review":
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (Miramax) R
December 11, 1998

It seems appropriate that the words to describe the entrancing
Shakespeare in Love escape me, as the film, which imagines the creation
of the greatest and most tragic love story of the ages, finds the young
Bard consumed with writer's block. Joseph Fiennes, creates a charming,
handsome William Shakespeare that looks just the way us romantics would
picture the master.  At the core of the comedy is the romance between
young Will and his muse (Gwyneth Paltrow sparkles as Viola), but more so
about the impact their love has on the tragic tale of Romeo and Juliet,
which has plagued generations since 1593. In addition to the
Fiennes/Paltrow chemistry there's a remarkable supporting cast including
Geoffrey Rush (hysterical as a struggling theater owner) and Judi Dench
(brutal perfection as the revolutionary Elizabeth I).
The verdict: Don't miss

>From "Salon"

BY LAURA MILLER | Early in John Madden's good-natured romantic comedy
"Shakespeare in Love," the eponymous Elizabethan bard (Joseph Fiennes),
tormented by writer's block, sets aside a ceramic coffee mug when local
theater manager Philip Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush) drops by to ask how his
new play is coming along. The mug has "A Present from Stratford on Avon"
printed on it. That groaner is probably the worst of the dumb, goofy
schtick littered throughout this film, although there's a moment, when
the characters pile into a tavern and you can overhear someone on the
soundtrack reciting a list of specials ("roast pig with a juniper berry
sauce on a bed of ... "), that comes pretty close. The movie has a
smattering of bookishly clever bits as well, most of which are probably
the handiwork of Tom Stoppard, who did a rewrite on Marc Norman's
original script. The nasty, squinty little boy who likes to feed live
mice to stray cats and describes his idea of great theater as "plenty of
blood" turns out to be John Webster, who will become the author of the
Jacobean gorefest "The Duchess of Malfi." A preacher denouncing the
theater in London's streets subliminally supplies some of the best lines
in the play Shakespeare is writing throughout the film, "Romeo and
Juliet." Mostly, though, "Shakespeare in Love" is a corny, old-fashioned
backstage farce, a lot like the kind of movie that would star Joan
Blondell and John Barrymore in the 1930s.

Unable to finish his new comedy, "Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's
Daughter," the up-and-coming young playwright wallows in a picturesque
funk (and puffy shirt), yearning for a new muse. Meanwhile, Henslowe
appeases a brutal loan shark by cutting him in on the new production, so
if Will doesn't produce, his boss could wind up minus an ear or two.
Furthermore, all of Henslowe's best actors are out on the road trying to
rustle up funds. Then there's the rival theater owned by the legendary
actor Richard Burbage, who has the town's finest playwright, Christopher
Marlowe, on contract, but wouldn't mind stealing Will away as well.

Will's muse arrives in the person of Viola De Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow),
an (excessively) fictional maiden of modest name and extravagant fortune
who thrills to the theater and decides to disguise herself as a boy in
order to audition for a part in Shakespeare's new play. Her parents
intend to marry her off to one Lord Wessex (Colin Firth, reprising the
uptight sourpuss role that made him a heartthrob in the BBC's most
recent version of "Pride and Prejudice"), who plans to take his bride to
Virginia. Will spots Viola at a dance, is smitten, eventually figures
out that she's the "boy" actor cast as Romeo, wins her heart and,
inspired by true love, writes his first great play.

Fiennes-a lanky, doe-eyed dreamboat-seems a perfect match with Paltrow.
Both are handsome, competent actors of no particularly distinctive
charisma or talent. Other, more appealing character actors appear in
minor, limited roles: Judi Dench as a cranky Queen Elizabeth, Rupert
Everett as Marlowe and Antony Sher (he played Disraeli in "Mrs. Brown"),
wasted, as Will's "therapist," arching his marvelous eyebrows at Will's
litany of unwittingly Freudian metaphors for his writer's block. Such
dopey anachronistic humor eventually gives way to a pleasant, if very
familiar, package of hoary showbiz jokes-vain actors, envious writers,
stage-struck investors, scheming rivals, mistaken identities,
last-minute disasters and fortuitous substitutions.

Madden clearly wants the movie to feel like one of Shakespeare's sunny,
mature comedies-a bit of melodrama, a few clowns, some disguises, a
touch of philosophy, some bawdy jokes, all wrapped around a romance-a
grab bag of whimsies transformed by the bard's uncanny alchemy into
something sublime. Of course, not even Stoppard is Shakespeare, and the
end result resembles one of Neil Simon's middlebrow romps more than it
does "As You Like It." Veins of Shakespeare's poetry run through the
screenplay, and they deliver occasional jolts of genius, heady and rich,
that tend to dull the surrounding prose. Likewise (to my own enduring
surprise) Ben Affleck, playing the famous Elizabethan actor Ned Alleyn,
strides into the beleaguered theater company halfway through the film
like a godling cast among mortals. He's so commanding a presence, such a
delight to watch, that the rest of the perfectly fine performers get
perceptibly drabber in his company. That, you think with a start, is a
movie star. Unfortunately, it's the only entirely unexpected thing about
"Shakespeare in Love."

SALON | Dec. 11, 1998
 

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