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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: January ::
Re: Shakespeare in Love
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0065  Thursday, 14 January 1999.

[1]     From:   Richard Regan <
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        Date:   Wed, 13 Jan 1999 23:55:12 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0059 Re: Shakespeare in Love

[2]     From:   Hardy M. Cook <
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        Date:   Thursday, January 14, 1999
        Subj:   Re: Shakespeare in Love


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Regan <
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Date:           Wed, 13 Jan 1999 23:55:12 EST
Subject: 10.0059 Re: Shakespeare in Love
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0059 Re: Shakespeare in Love

To add to Bruce Young's quote from All's Well, see Feste in Twelfth
Night:

        Anything that's mended is but patched: virtue that
        transgresses is but patched with sin; and sin that
        amends is but patched with virtue. (I.v)

Richard Regan
Fairfield University

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:           Thursday, January 14, 1999
Subject:        Re: Shakespeare in Love

One of my faculty members passed this along to me from the Monday,
January 11, 1999, USA Today (5D).

". . . and finding laughs between the lines"

By Trey Graham
USA TODAY

Shakespeare in Love will give you the giggles even if you don't have a
drama degree-though Shakespeare scholars may laugh louder and longer.

Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard sprinkle their script with jokes about vain
stars, show-biz rivalries and shrinks-subjects still relevant in the
'90s.

Still, many of the best bits are takeoffs on lines from the Bard's
plays-and there, as Hamlet would put it, is the rub.  Most everyone will
get the joke when the Puritan preacher Makepeace rails against "sinful"
theaters in phrases lifted al-most whole from Romeo and Juliet, but what
about those sly references to less-familiar works? If you don't know
your Cymbeline from your Coriolanus, here's a cheat sheet:

* Shakespeare's signature. Wrestling writer's block, Joseph Fiennes'
Shakespeare scribbles his name over and over. Look closely You'll see he
uses different spellings-a nod to the fact that the six surviving copies
of Shakespeare's signature show considerable variations in abbreviation
and spelling. It's not that he couldn't remember his own name; in his
era, few standardized spellings existed, even of names.

* 'One Gentleman.' Fiennes says theater owner Henslowe still owes him
for "One Gentleman of Verona." Apparently Henslowe has paid only half
the fee for The Two Gentlemen of Verona-an early Shakespeare play, and
the one that catches the attention of Gwyneth Paltrow's Lady Viola with
the lines she quotws for her audition: "What light is light, if Silvia
be not seen?"

* 'The Rose smells thus rank by any name.' Makepeace is talking about
the Rose Theatre; he concludes with, say a plague on both their houses."
Both phrases a much like famous lines from Romeo. It's a funny moment
but an important one, too: this early scene, Stoppard and Norman begin
to show how their Shakespeare makes art the stuff of life-the film's
central idea. As the film goes on, Fiennes turns many more everyday
events into high drama.

* Dr. Moth The shrewd, chemist/shrink who ponders Shakespeare's
outrageous Freudian complaints ("The proud tower of my genius has
collapsed") bears the name a smart-aleck page-boy who punctures the
pretensions his buffoonish master in Loves' Labours Lost. (There's also
fairy named Moth in A Midsummer Night's Dream.)

* 'Master Crab is nervous. He's never played the palace.' Not a
Shakespeare gag, but one some younger audiences may not get: In
vaudeville days, the Palace was a top-rank New York house to "play the
Palace," literally or figuratively, means to make it to the big time.
Today's Palace is home to Broadway's Beauty and the Beast.

* Rosaline's fall from grace. Smitten by a seamstress, Fiennes changes
the title of his work-in-progress Romeo and Ethel to Romeo and Rosaline.
But when he catches her in bed with another, the seamstress loses her
chance at immortality. Rosaline never appears on stage in the Romeo and
Juliet we know, but we're told early on that she's the object of Romeo's
affection. In fact, Romeo and his cohorts crash the Capulet ball chiefly
because Benvolio, Mercutio and the rest want to get a better look at
Rosaline; Romeo, of course, forgets her instantly when he sees Juliet.

* 'Give me to drink mandragora' A dejected Fiennes orders this potion at
the local tavern. Mandragora is a sedative, and the line is from Antony
and Cleopatra; the Egyptian queen, distraught that her lover has
returned to Rome, tells her servant Charmian to "Give me to drink
mandragora . . . That I may sleep out this great gap of time."

* Marlowe's advice. Christopher Marlowe helps Fiennes define Romeo's
character and outline the play's plot. It's funny because Marlowe is
among the writers said by some doubter to be the true author of
Shakespeare's plays.

* That bloodthirsty lad. A sadistic street urchin with theatrical
ambitions likes Shakespeare's horrific Titus Andronicus best "Plenty of
blood-that's the only writing," he says. His name, Fiennes asks? "John
Webster'-who grows up to write the morbidly violent revenge tragedy The
Duchess of
Malfi. Possibly the most esoteric in-joke in the film

* Marlowe's 'ghost.' The church scene in which Lord Wessex glimpses a
man he believes to be dead will remind some of the ghostly visitations
in Hamlet. But Claudius, that play's murderer, never sees his victim's
shade. Better parallels are Macbeth, in which Banquo's ghost appears to
the usurper responsible for his death, and Julius Caesar, in which
Caesar's ghost stalks Brutus on the battlefield.

* 'Twelfth Night.' The play Fiennes begins at the movie's close does,
indeed, feature a lead named Viola who disguises herself as a boy when
shipwrecked in an unknown land. And it was commissioned probably by
Elizabeth I-for a court performance on Twelfth Night (Jan. 5, the last
of the Twelve Days of Christmas).  But it was written years after Romeo,
and almost certainly wasn't inspired by a lost love-though it is the
most tragic of Shakespeare's comedies.

* The apothecary's hat. Cast as the apothecary), in the
play-within-the-movie, producer Hugh Fennyman (Tom Wilkinson) fusses
anxiously over wearing just the right hat. His concern comes not from
pride but from a need to be part of a story that has moved him deeply,
and it echoes the touching vanity of Malvolio, the major domo of Twelfth
Night.

*'It needs no wife come from Stratford to tell you that.' Fiennes says
this to acknowledge that he can't hope to marry Paltrow (he's already
married; she's engaged to a lord). The line echoes Horatio's reply to
Hamlet's observation that Denmark is full of knaves and villains: 'There
needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave to tell us this."

Other Hamlet references pepper Shakespeare in Love - some funny, some
serious too many to list Among high lights: In a brawl. Richard Burbage
gets clobbered with a skull. (The real Burbage was the first actor to
play, Hamlet who delivers his "Alas, poor Yorick" speech to a skull.)

Indeed, says Folger Shakespeare Library scholar Georgiana Ziegler. "As
the movie. moves closer and closer to tragedy ... you get more and more
echoes of Hamlet."
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.