Movies I’m Thankful For:  Shakespeare In Love (1998)

Shakespeare in Love poster (1998)

Winning the Oscar for Best Picture is the worst thing that ever happened to Shakespeare In Love.

Because instead of celebrating this quick-witted fictional tale of how young Will Shakespeare was inspired to write Romeo and Juliet, all any movie buff ever talks about is how (now convicted dirt bag) Harvey Weinstein’s full court press campaign for Shakespeare robbed the award from its rightful owner, Saving Private Ryan.

I’m not here to bag on Saving Private Ryan—without question it would’ve been a worthy winner.  But the Academy did itself no shame by awarding its top honor to a film that smartly threads together romance, comedy, and drama in its Shakespearian love letter to the creative process.

Young Will Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) has no money and a case of intense writer’s block.  He’s getting nowhere on his new play—a comedy he calls Romeo and Ethel the Pirate’s Daughter. 

Meanwhile, Lady Viola De Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow—whose Best Actress win had the haters blowing a second gasket) is desperate to star in one of Shakespeare’s plays.  As women were not allowed on stage in the Elizabethan era, she disguises herself as a man and wins the role of Romeo.

When Will discovers her true identity, the two embark on a passionate affair that ignites his muse.  Everything Will hears, does, and sees becomes grist for the play.  Anyone who writes (or does anything creative) can appreciate that elusive zone when everything you take in is giving you new ideas and driving your latest work.

As it becomes clear that Will and Viola have no future—he’s married, and she’s promised to marry Lord Wessex and move to Virginia—his play turns from comedy to tragedy.

But in the end, their love will live on through Shakespeare’s pen, and when Queen Elizabeth commands that his next play be a comedy, Will knows just what the plot will be—a beautiful woman survives a shipwreck on a journey to a foreign land.

She disguises herself as a man for protection as she explores a strange new world.

Her name?

Viola, of course.

And thus begins Shakespeare’s next play, Twelfth Night.

Shakespeare in Love

This is part of my Movies I’m Grateful For series, running daily through the month of November. 

Other films include: Splash | New Moon | The Lucky One | Thelma and Louise | Katy Perry:  Part of Me | Crazy Rich Asians | Under the Tuscan Sun | Terminator 2 | Moulin Rouge!How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days | Practical Magic | Schindler’s List | Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol | Stardust | The Man in the Moon | The Others | Little Women | Cruella | Sliding Doors | Far and Away | The Magdalene Sisters | The Heat | The Last Five Years

7 thoughts on “Movies I’m Thankful For:  Shakespeare In Love (1998)

    • It’s a little bit crazy to call a film with 7 Oscars underrated, but this one has been smeared by the cult of Saving Private Ryan 🙂

      That’s cool you met Tom Stoppard; the writing has everything to do with why this film works so well.

      • He got well paid for it, but his wit is worth every penny; the boatman saying to Shakespeare’ You’ll never guess who I had in the back of my boat’ is wonderfully anachronistic stuff. Much better that Private Ryan for me, that film was overrated.

  1. Well I don’t begrudge this the 7 Oscars, it was a sumptuous production with great actors (mostly) but such a shame it won because of Weinstein’s bullying campaign instead of it’s own merits. At least Spielberg won his best director Oscar without all that stuff. (Private Ryan fan- I’ll get my coat. Again. ) 🤣

    • If I kicked out everyone who liked Private Ryan, it would just me and Eddie talking to ourselves! And I really don’t want to bag on it, it’s clearly a good movie but just not for me.

      Also – this all went down when I was 17, the best age to get sucked in by Romeo and Juliet. I’ve seen SIL about 15 times since then, but I’ve never rewatched Ryan. I’d probably appreciate it a lot more now as an adult.

      • There’s a lot of pathos in it once you get passed the opening shooty bang bang, which was horrific in history and realistically so in the movie. Hanks is amazing. It did get 5 oscars in the end anyway so didn’t do too bad.

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