Shakespeare in Love (1998) starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, Ben Affleck, Tom Wilkinson, Imelda Stuanton, Judi Dench, Simon Callow, Rupert Everett directed by John Madden Movie Review

Shakespeare in Love (1998)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Joseph Fiennes and Ben Affleck in Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Shakespeare's Muse Amuses

Will Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) is many things but most significantly he is a struggling playwright consumed by writer's block which is not good seeing that he has already sold his next play, "Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter", to Philip Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush) the owner of the Rose who owes money to Hugh Fennyman (Tom Wilkinson). In need of a muse to start writing that play he meets the attractive Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) a love of theatre who would loved to act but of course can't as only men and boys are allowed to take to the stage. In order to get around this she disguises herself as a man and goes by the name of Thomas Kent to audition for Will's next play. It doesn't take long for Will to see through the disguise and they start an affair which is doomed as not only is Will already married but Viola has been promised to Lord Wessex (Colin Firth). But their affair inspires Will to write one of his greatest plays.

At school during the 80s as part of the British Curriculum we had to study one Shakespeare play, we didn't get the choice and we were given "Macbeth" to study. I remember there were three witches and someone called MacDuff but in brutal truth I have forgotten the rest of it. I don't blame Shakespeare, how could I, but I do blame the tired education system in Britain during the 80s which not only sapped the life out of learning but sapped the life out of students so that we weren't allowed to think or question. You may be wondering why I mention this but it is to excuse my ignorance when it comes to "Shakespeare in Love" a fictitious story/ comedy about Shakespeare finding his inspiration to write Romeo and Juliet.

Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Now how to describe "Shakespeare in Love" well in a way it feels like the writers watched "Monty Python and the Holy Grail", "Blackadder II" as well as a few "Carry on" Movies. The result of which is a comedy which bounds along with a joyful irrelevance as we get served up one quirky character after another right from the word go as we are introduced to Henslowe who is being tortured with his feet over hot coals by Fennyman. And all these character spew out dialogue with a sharpness which makes the stupid so much fun.

Then there is the casting and one of the joys of "Shakespeare in Love" is in the long list of well known names and faces who appear. When you have just had an enjoyable laugh and we then get Jim Carter show up or Rupert Everett it just makes it even better. It is the same when Ben Affleck bursts into the room as Ned Alleyn and has that energy of a cod piece wearing swashbuckler in love with himself. And here is the thing; whilst many were impressed by the performances of Fiennes and Paltrow I found more enjoyment from the eclectic cast and the equally eclectic collection of comedy characters than any single performance.

Whilst I may not be an expert in Shakespeare the various references such as Viola dressing as a man all add to the entertainment. Plus there is the look and the sets and costumes are just as entertaining and all add to why "Shakespeare in Love" is entertaining.

What this all boils down to is that "Shakespeare in Love" is a lot more entertaining than I had been expecting and genuinely took me by surprise with its comic style which seems to have taken the best bits of other comedies and refined them into this amusing take on young Shakespeare as he wrote Romeo and Juliet.