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Shakespeare’s Dramas, Dramatized

Having been taught to appreciate The Bard’s influence across many different forms of media, a semester’s class of Transmedial Shakespeare has also brought to my mind one of my favorite films – Shakespeare In Love.


Shakespeare In Love imagines the story of William Shakespeare (played by Joseph Fiennes) as he writes Romeo and Juliet, and casts an actor named Thomas Kent as Romeo. Thomas is in fact Viola de Lesseps (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) who is disguised as a man because women, at the time, were not allowed to perform plays. After finding out Viola’s true identity, they fall in love. Unfortunately, Shakespeare is married, and Viola is engaged to the Duke of Wessex. Will their love transcend the confines of reality, or will they end up like Romeo and Juliet?

The film is a minefield of references to Shakespeare’s plays. These are what I noticed:

  • In the scene where Shakespeare has writer’s block while writing Romeo and Juliet, he throws balled-up pieces of paper to different corners of his room, which show props from other plays: the skull from Hamlet and the open chest from The Merchant of Venice.
  • Shakespeare writes to Viola: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”, which is a line from Sonnet 18.
  • Viola becomes Shakespeare’s inspiration for the character of Viola in Twelfth Night.
  • The plot of the movie uses story elements from many of Shakespeare’s plays, including cross-dressing, adultery, star-crossed lovers, the “play within a play” concept, and the appearance of a “ghost”.

This film interests me so much because it portrays Shakespeare as the man behind the playwright. The plays featured are also given another (speculative) layer to them, suggesting a back story to their conception. Although it is purely fictional, we see The Bard shown as just another hopeless romantic in longing, loving, and losing.

Watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gk1rTKB6ZF8





Cristelle Elaine V. Collera

II AB Interdisciplinary Studies

Ateneo de Manila University

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