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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: January ::
Re: Shakespeare in Love
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0040  Monday, 11 January 1999.

[1]     From:   Andy White <
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        Date:   Sunday, 10 Jan 1999 15:56:34 -0500
        Subj:   SIL and The Celluloid Closet

[2]     From:   Marion K Morford <
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        Date:   Sunday, 10 Jan 1999 20:34:35 +0000
        Subj:   'Shakespeare in Love'

[3]     From:   Matthew Gretzinger <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Jan 1999 08:45:45 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 10.0033 Re: Shakespeare in Love

[4]     From:   Hardy M. Cook <
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        Date:   Monday, January 11, 1999
        Subj:   Re: Shakespeare in Love


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andy White <
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Date:           Sunday, 10 Jan 1999 15:56:34 -0500
Subject:        SIL and The Celluloid Closet

Perhaps, rather than asking for explicit signs of sexual orientation, we
could spend some time looking behind the obvious stuff for other, more
subtle signs of homo-or-bisexuality in Shakespeare in Love.  For those
familiar with The Celluloid Closet and its premise, there is often more
to be gained looking beyond the surface.

By way of an example, not exactly related but I hope helpful, I've
recently enjoyed watching an old Hitchcock flick, The Secret Agent,
starring John Gielgud.  He is introduced, through a long focus on a
newspaper headline, as a "Bachelor Poet".  His character is sent to
Switzerland on a spying mission, and he is given a wife as a cover for
his activities.

The dialogue between Gielgud and his "wife" upon his arrival in
Switzerland is priceless, if you know  Gielgud's orientation, and the
way Hitchcock creates the character is so subtle that you'd miss it if
you were a typical hetero-type, simply going to the cinema for a good
suspense flick.

I would imagine there are similar bits of business in SIL, and hope we
can begin to cover those.  My impression of the Elizabethan scene is
that it was one in which sexuality was in flux, there was a wide variety
of activity, untainted by attempts to pidgin-hole people (pardon the
expression) into one orientation or another.

Cheers,
Andy White
Arlington, VA

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marion K Morford <
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Date:           Sunday, 10 Jan 1999 20:34:35 +0000
Subject:        'Shakespeare in Love'

Dear Bard-buds;

This was in my local paper on Sunday.

Morf

----------------------------------
In-jokes and allusions add humor and depth to 'Shakespeare in Love'

Robert W. Butler; Knight Ridder Newspapers

You don't have to know anything about the world of Elizabethan theater
to enjoy "Shakespeare in Love," a romantic comedy set in the London of
1593. But those who have grounding in the personalities and events
depicted may get much more from the movie.

Screenwriters Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard have crammed the movie with
in-jokes and scholarly references, deftly throwing together fictional
characters and real historic personages and scattering visual and spoken
allusions that fly over the heads of all but the most alert Shakespeare
aficionados.

One example: Shakespeare's plagiarism. Scholars have long recognized
that Shakespeare cribbed his subjects and plots from plays, histories
and other sources. They hasten to add that the Bard from Avon improved
them immensely, thanks to his inventive dialogue, an unprecedented grasp
of language and subtly drawn characters.

"Shakespeare in Love," though, plays with the notion that Shakespeare
(portrayed by Joseph Fiennes) didn't write his own dialogue but used
snatches of conversation he overheard.

Philip Henslowe (portrayed by Geoffrey Rush) was real, a theatrical
entrepreneur who opened several theaters, including the Rose in
Southwark, for which Shakespeare wrote and performed.

Henslowe's account books have for 400 years provided the most complete
description of Elizabethan theater - costs for costumes, fees paid to
playwrights and actors, production schedules and so forth.

The movie strays, though, when it portrays Henslowe as a laughable
bungler and monetary incompetent in debt to a thuggish loan shark. The
truth is quite different.

According to "Brewer's Theater: A Phrase and Fable Dictionary," "The
accounts of Henslowe's theaters include loans made to actors. Some
researchers suspect that Henslowe kept actors in debt to him in order to
tie them to his theater. In 1615 several actors drew up a document
headed 'Articles of Grievance, and Articles of Oppression, against Mr.
Hinchlowe,' accusing him of embezzling their money and unlawfully
retaining their property."

In the film, young Shakespeare's main theatrical rival is Christopher
Marlowe, who has enjoyed several big hits while the man from Stratford
struggles to find his voice.

Among Marlowe's most famous plays are "The Tragical History of Doctor
Faustus," "The Jew of Malta" and "Tamburlaine the Great."

In the film, the young Shakespeare is struggling with the play that will
eventually become "Romeo and Juliet," and the screenwriters have created
for their Shakespeare a fictional lover, a young woman named Viola de
Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) who is engaged to the pompous Lord Wessex
(Colin Firth). When Wessex accuses Shakespeare of having an affair with
Viola and demands his name, Shakespeare answers: "Christopher Marlowe."

Then, when Marlowe is killed in a tavern fight, Shakespeare is overcome
with guilt. He assumes the killers were assassins sent by Wessex and
fears that he is responsible for an innocent man's death.

The real Marlowe was killed in a barroom brawl in Deptford in 1593; the
business about Shakespeare being indirectly responsible is fiction.

The real Marlowe also was gay, which makes ironic the idea of
Shakespeare categorizing him as a womanizer. And though there's no
reference to Marlowe's sexual orientation in the movie, he's portrayed
by Rupert Everett ("My Best Friend's Wedding"), one of the few openly
gay actors working in films.

There's yet another in-joke at work here. When Shakespeare tries to pass
himself off as Christopher Marlowe, it's a sly reference to those who
have suggested that Marlowe actually wrote some of the plays credited to
Shakespeare.

Ned Alleyn (Ben Affleck) is a vain but talented actor who in
"Shakespeare in Love" takes the showcase role of Mercutio in "Romeo and
Juliet" (though he's still upset that his character is killed halfway
through).

There really was an Edward "Ned" Alleyn, who began his acting career
about 1583 and gained wide fame for portraying Dr. Faustus and
Tamburlaine in Marlowe's plays.

Alleyn married three times and became quite wealthy from real estate
investments and theatrical interests. Eventually he was elevated to the
position of royal zookeeper and master of the royal bear garden.

One of the film's minor characters is a surly street urchin (Joe
Roberts) who spies on rehearsals in The Curtain Theatre and takes
perverse delight in dangling a live mouse in front of a hungry feline.

Late in the film we learn the boy's name: John Webster. The real John
Webster was a playwright who wrote two masterpieces of the so-called
Jacobean "revenge tragedy": "The White Devil" (1612) and "The Duchess of
Malfi" (1614).

The film suggests Webster got the theater bug after watching Shakespeare
work and found it a perfect outlet for his anti-social inclinations.

One of the major plot developments of "Shakespeare in Love" has Viola
disguising herself as a man so she can audition for a role in
Shakespeare's new play, "Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter" (which
during rehearsals, at Alleyn's suggestion, will become "Romeo and
Juliet"). At the time, women were banned from the English stage.

Shakespeare finds himself strangely drawn to this young "man," not
recognizing him as the woman he loves. Later he discovers Viola's ruse
and is amused by his earlier attraction.

Women posing as men became a recurring motif in Shakespeare's later
comedies, and the film suggests this is where he got the idea.

January 10, 1999

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Matthew Gretzinger <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Jan 1999 08:45:45 -0500
Subject: 10.0033 Re: Shakespeare in Love
Comment:        RE: SHK 10.0033 Re: Shakespeare in Love

Please forgive my Johnny-come-lateness.  The film didn't make it to my
part of Ohio 'til this last Friday.

I want to thank the makers of 'Shakespeare in Love' for bringing to my
local Cineplex the single word "SHAKESPEARE", in letters three feet
tall, where usually stand such words as "SCREAM" or "ARMAGEDDON" or "THE
FACULTY." Thanks also for the amazing film they produced, no more
unfaithful to history or anachronistic than Richard III or Henry IV, and
for me at least, just as much fun.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:           Monday, January 11, 1999
Subject:        Re: Shakespeare in Love

>Please go see this film.  Let it make an obnoxious amount of money.  Let
>it win more Oscars than Titanic.  Send Hollywood the message that we
>like this type of romantic comedy (even if not historically pure and
>accurate) and that we could do with more of it and less of Adam Sandler,
>and Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan not only re-making Jimmy Stewart films but
>re-making their own.  Forget for the films "two hours and more" traffic
>of the stage/screen everything you had to learn in defense of your
>dissertation and just enjoy it.  Please.

Hear! Hear!

>>Mike Field:  (I'm assuming, like most people, that the script is
>>virtually entirely his [Stoppard's] own).

>Yes, that's what I assume too.

I am wondering if anyone knows for sure about the collaboration between
Norman and Stoppard on the script?

>One thing I found interesting in the film was that Gwyneth Paltrow was >a much more convincing Romeo than she was a Juliet.

Independently, both my daughter Melissa and wife Kathy told me that they
thought that Gwyneth Paltrow was a better Romeo than Joseph Fiennes was.
Kathy elaborated, saying that she felt that Viola played Romeo the way
that a woman would want a man to behave.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.