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Shakespeare in Love: A Screenplay

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The screenplay to the critically acclaimed film which New York Newsday called one of the funniest, most enchanting, most romantic, and best written tales ever spun from the vast legend of Shakespeare. Marc Norman and renowned dramatist, Tom Stoppard have created the best screenplay of the year according to the Golden Globes and the New York Film Critics Circle.


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The screenplay to the critically acclaimed film which New York Newsday called one of the funniest, most enchanting, most romantic, and best written tales ever spun from the vast legend of Shakespeare. Marc Norman and renowned dramatist, Tom Stoppard have created the best screenplay of the year according to the Golden Globes and the New York Film Critics Circle.

30 review for Shakespeare in Love: A Screenplay

  1. 4 out of 5

    tortoise dreams

    The pre-shooting screenplay from the Academy Award winning film. Book Review: At first glance the published screenplay for Shakespeare in Love is a throw-away movie tie-in, worth no more than a bemused chuckle. But on reading (especially while watching the film -- I mix the two media here), it's an eye-opening learning experience for any prospective actor, screenwriter, or director. It's fascinating to see what was changed, dropped or added, between writing and filming. Some improvements, some mi The pre-shooting screenplay from the Academy Award winning film. Book Review: At first glance the published screenplay for Shakespeare in Love is a throw-away movie tie-in, worth no more than a bemused chuckle. But on reading (especially while watching the film -- I mix the two media here), it's an eye-opening learning experience for any prospective actor, screenwriter, or director. It's fascinating to see what was changed, dropped or added, between writing and filming. Some improvements, some missed bets. For someone who loves the movie (yes, me), the screenplay adds a whole other level of subtlety, showing just how intelligent the writing, how sharp the humor (both high and low), how clever the whole conception. Shakespeare in Love is the perfect definition of what literature in film should be. Set in the London of 1593, the star-bedazzled cast presents Will Shakespeare as he desperately seeks love, his muse, and to complete his latest work, Romeo and Ethel the Pirate's Daughter. The script is full of in-jokes: the more you know of Shakespeare and his time, the more you'll get from the movie. Lines from his great plays are strewn throughout the dialog. We meet Kit Marlowe (an uncredited Rupert Everett, never more handsome), a young and vicious John Webster, a Lord Wessex (Thomas Hardy, anyone?). We see the immortal playwright, a skull on his shelf, practicing his signature, writing sonnets, visiting his shrink. Since we know so little of him, the comedic imagining of Shakespeare rings true with only a little suspension of disbelief. He is humanized in Shakespeare in Love, given a credible life and personality that compels the reader to keep reading (and the viewer to keep watching), even while knowing how it all must come out. The audience roots him on. Shakespeare writes his great romantic tragedy scene by scene, even as the play is being rehearsed, the rehearsal of the growing play mirroring the budding romance between Shakespeare and Viola, his love and muse. There is ample humor, adequate swashbuckling, and just enough bawdiness to fit the times. The film's sets, score, and costumes are immaculate, the whole generously textured with perfect detail. The actors, both leads and supporting, are uniformly brilliant, and Judi Dench even more so as Queen Elizabeth. In the end this intertwined romantic comedy and tragedy reveals the power and beauty to be found in Shakespeare, and convincingly argues why we continue to read and watch his work after so many centuries. Even the question of authorship of the plays is answered. Shakespeare in Love is an incredible script and a vital film for anyone who appreciates, or wants to appreciate, the genius of William Shakespeare. How did they make this virtually perfect movie? I don't know. It's a mystery.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    For years I avoided Shakespeare in Love, mostly because I find Gwyneth Paltrow insufferable. I finally watched the film earlier this year, and over a decade after everyone else, I get why this film was such a big deal. It's beautiful and smart and funny and all of the best of what Hollywood aspires to be. Heck, the film is so good it even balances out the insufferability that is the Paltrow. This might be the best I’ve ever seen her (although she didn’t deserve an Academy Award, and Fiennes and For years I avoided Shakespeare in Love, mostly because I find Gwyneth Paltrow insufferable. I finally watched the film earlier this year, and over a decade after everyone else, I get why this film was such a big deal. It's beautiful and smart and funny and all of the best of what Hollywood aspires to be. Heck, the film is so good it even balances out the insufferability that is the Paltrow. This might be the best I’ve ever seen her (although she didn’t deserve an Academy Award, and Fiennes and Firth were robbed for not even getting nominations, but I digress). Given how much goes on within the film – and the layers within the dialogue – I decided to read the script. And I wasn’t disappointed. It’s lovely. Beyond lovely. Reading Shakespeare in Love allowed me to focus entirely on the words, on the complex turns of phrases and the nimble asides – and it’s simply beautiful. The costumes, the acting, and the cinematography - all of those breathe life in the film. But the script is, on its own, a wonderful, brilliant piece of literature worthy of attention. Highly recommended.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mohamed Al-Moslemany

    This is my second time to read a screenplay after Alfred Hitchcock's "Dial M for Murder" Reading screenplays can be tricky especially after seeing the piece, but sometimes it can turn into magical experience, filled with wonders, moans and souls of the characters. Marc Norman's screenplay is without a doubt funny most enchanting, most romantic, and best written tales ever spun from the vast legend of Shakespeare. it can't be compared but the original wonder itself "Romeo and Juliet". The original te This is my second time to read a screenplay after Alfred Hitchcock's "Dial M for Murder" Reading screenplays can be tricky especially after seeing the piece, but sometimes it can turn into magical experience, filled with wonders, moans and souls of the characters. Marc Norman's screenplay is without a doubt funny most enchanting, most romantic, and best written tales ever spun from the vast legend of Shakespeare. it can't be compared but the original wonder itself "Romeo and Juliet". The original text of course gave me pain compared to the modern but it was bless of agony nevertheless. An epic drama with a sweet dulcet touch of comedy! a true literature my dear lord :) "The more I give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite" "Come, bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide. Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on The dashing rocks thy seasick, weary bark. Here’s to my love!" "A glooming peace this morning with it brings. The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head. Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things. Some shall be pardoned, and some punishèd. For never was a story of more woe Than this of Juliet and her Romeo."

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jasmine

    This was a good screenplay, although a little hard to follow at some parts. If nothing else it has interested me in watching the film. I am glad I finally got it off my to-read list as I have owned it for close to ten years now. Overall enjoyable.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Michael P.

    This screenplay is almost as charming as the film. The story construction is easier to spot here in the screenplay. Very smart work.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Joey

    SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (2 hours 17 minutes) The language used in this screenplay is rather powerful in demonstrating the emotion of love while also making allusions to Shakespearean writing. Shakespeare In Love isn’t just a film that you fast forward through on VHS cassette tape to see Gwyneth Paltrow’s bosoms. Italics are used to describe scenes. There is a typo on page 38: “intotwo” (VO) = voiceover (cont’d) = continued Some of the few film directions include: INSERT MANUSCRIPT:, ANGLE ON WILL, DIS SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (2 hours 17 minutes) The language used in this screenplay is rather powerful in demonstrating the emotion of love while also making allusions to Shakespearean writing. Shakespeare In Love isn’t just a film that you fast forward through on VHS cassette tape to see Gwyneth Paltrow’s bosoms. Italics are used to describe scenes. There is a typo on page 38: “intotwo” (VO) = voiceover (cont’d) = continued Some of the few film directions include: INSERT MANUSCRIPT:, ANGLE ON WILL, DISSOLVE. An apothecary is someone who prepares and sells medicine and drugs. Polaxed is English slang. Presented chronologically are unique words and phrases used throughout the entirety of the script (apologies if some are repeats): Pinioned, (the mathematical genius with a notebook), infrequent intervals, haranguing, apothecary, hubbub, idiosyncratic, sweetmeat, coarsely, intermittently, (dumbly), tankards, aghast, sovereign, brooding, factotum, lustily, nimbly, (twice as firmly), moving trancelike, insinuated, entranced, affably, anaesthetic, parapet, candelabra, glowers, (a girlier voice now), vainly, grimly, sober interest, letter-poem, drowsily, demurely, born-again theatre groupie, royal routs, gallantly, vortex, throng, gratuitously, venomously, titter, scatters of applause, vertical, copulation, sheaf, astride, rouses, pig swill, stave, rapiers, fray, engulf, barbershop quartet of actors, stone cold sober, horror-stricken, stagnant, demented, sidesaddle, catatonic, bedraggled, ravaged, paralysed, sobered, murmurs, appaled, octavo size, planking, peephole, agony, bewildered, dumbstruck, (triumphantly), berserk, polaxed, sock to the jaw, attitudes of despair or worse, sober-faced, tankard, flintstock pistol, paste-pot, entourage, extricates, inexorably, furtive, sheepish, audacious, luckily in an aisle seat, cowering, rapt, fever of nervousness, transfixed, recoil, arresting eye, inconspicuous, gaggle Other examples of unique descriptive language include: “Hawkers are crying their wares, tract-sellers, delivery boys, and merchants go about their business.” (6) “in other words he reminds us of Hamlet” (14) “ROSALINE is big breasted, dark-eyed, dark-haired, sexual” (14) “Elsewhere is LORD WESSEX, our villain. WESSEX is in his forties, dark, cruel, self-important.” (19) “replaced by a beanpole of a man” (32) “WILL emerges from the theatre into a street throbbing with nefarious life-whores, cutpurses, hawkers, urchins, tract-sellers, riffraff of all kinds in an area of stews (lowdown pubs), brothers and slums.” (36) “Her hair tumbles down about her shoulders, so we will call her VIOLA again.” (37) “He turns to blood. Love at first sight, no doubt about it. VIOLA has not seen him. She is doing a daughter’s duty among her parents’ friends. The guests form up to begin a changing-partners dance (the very same one you get in every ROMEO and JULIET).” (42) “WILL tries to speak but the silver tongue won’t work. He is dumb with adoration.” (44) “WILL is burning midnight oil- literally and metaphorically. His quill has already covered a dozen sheets. He is inspired.” (47) “As he goes, we see that VIOLA is love-struck by him, a riot in the heart.” (58) “He kisses here with more passion that ceremony” (60) *“WILL finds the loose end and spins her naked.” (69)* (nice) “She is winning” (71) “His life has turned perfect” (73) “They lose themselves for a fraction of a moment.” (75) “Clearly, this stuff is a cut above the normal” (81) “SAM exits (i.e. enters to us) through the curtain)” (85) “In a moment they are in world of their own.” (101) “The place is already crowded with WHORES and CUSTOMERS. It’s a party.” (103) “An awful lot of drink has gone down.” (105) “The church is empty, but for the demented, grieving figure of SHAKESPEARE, kneeling, praying, weeping, banging his head, in his private purgatory, dimly lit by tallow candles, gazed upon by effigies of the dead and images of his Redeemer. He is wet, bedraggled, weeds and leaves in his hair.” (108) “Will is a spectral, bedraggled figure, backlit by a great shaft of light, he would look like a ghost at the best of times, and this is the worst.” (110) “But after a few moments it is definitely lovemaking.” (116) “Bu now, her loosened bosom-bandage has been pulled away and WILL passionately embraces her nakedness.” (117) “and now it becomes a parody of the Hamlet duel” (119) “rigid as a pole” (124) “Some of them are cloaked and hooded, slumming incognito.” (131) *“As WILL embraces her, VIOLA’s eyes flicker open (shielded by WILL from the audience) and the lovers look at each other for a moment as WILL and VIOLA rather than as ‘ROMEO’ and ‘JULIET.’ Their eyes are wet with tears.” (143)* THE END

  7. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    Reading screenplays with the film is very good homework. It lifts the curtain of magic of suspended reality. It gives a whole new appreciation of just how great the writing is. I’m moved just writing about it. Wether it is timeless Shakespearean literature like this love letter to theater or more contemporary screenplays like Crowes love letter to music in Almost Famous. We all feel like we are a part of those stories. Because we are all of us fans and many of us creators. The music of that incr Reading screenplays with the film is very good homework. It lifts the curtain of magic of suspended reality. It gives a whole new appreciation of just how great the writing is. I’m moved just writing about it. Wether it is timeless Shakespearean literature like this love letter to theater or more contemporary screenplays like Crowes love letter to music in Almost Famous. We all feel like we are a part of those stories. Because we are all of us fans and many of us creators. The music of that incredible era will always be golden to me. As will all the hustle and backflips it takes to bring a play to fruition for us players. It hits a chord in the heart strings I guess. The life on the road the after parties the rehearsal the art the love the friendships. Studying a screenplay with a film is a useful kind of deconstruction if you can get your hands on it. I can see why at the Award shows now they show the shooting script in the announcements. So many participating by watching forget the essential elements that come together to make a film great. The book for this is so witty and well done and it resonates so deeply. I can see why it’s been put on stage too. How incredible it must be to get to be part of work that feels like it has a host of spirits in its history smiling from the wings and under the boards. These plays have there own life and this one has been played so many times 😂 when you play it you feel the legacy surrounding it. This imagining of Stoppards and the plays inception is marvelous. Very personal to many people. Which is why I think it is still relevant. The mojo in stories about plays like this is that so many people have participated in them. There is an ongoing affair with no sign of slowing. Thank you you incredible creators. There might be nothing sweeter in life than when creators create for other creators the stories of our age old creations hahahahaha . “It will all work out! How do you know? It’s a mystery! “ 😂 if you know, you know just how much this sums it all up . Brilliant

  8. 5 out of 5

    BookWermTin

    “If I can write in the beauty of his eyes, i was born to look into them and know myself.” -The Bard “Goodnight, goodnight, goodnight. Oh will thou leave me so unsatisfied? What satisfaction canst thou have tonight? The exchange of thy love’s faithful vow for mine. My bounty is as boundless as the sea, My love is deep, the more i give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite. Oh blessed, blessed night, I’m afraid, being in night, all this is but a dream, Too flattering sweet to be substantial. “If I can write in the beauty of his eyes, i was born to look into them and know myself.” -The Bard “Goodnight, goodnight, goodnight. Oh will thou leave me so unsatisfied? What satisfaction canst thou have tonight? The exchange of thy love’s faithful vow for mine. My bounty is as boundless as the sea, My love is deep, the more i give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite. Oh blessed, blessed night, I’m afraid, being in night, all this is but a dream, Too flattering sweet to be substantial. To cease thy strife and leave me to my grief, A thousand times goodnight, Goodnight.” -Shakespeare

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dylan Zucati

    I’m starting in on rehearsals for this now and honestly? This show is really funny. Yes, be pretentious and talk about how clever it is and why it won the oscar blah blah blah. For me, the best parts of the play are when it’s making fun of the genre it’s built upon, and it does plenty of that if you let it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    P.S. Winn

    Funny romantic story written in screenplay form. I found it a quick read but would like the original story better I think.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Christopherseelie

    Hilarious. Better than the film.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Naliza Fahro-Rozi

    The screenplay to the critically acclaimed film which New York Newsday called one of the funniest, most enchanting, most romantic, and best written tales ever spun from the vast legend of Shakespeare

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mystery Theater

    The screenplay is brilliant because the writers knew that Shakespeare was the real genius of it and put his creation front and center.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nick Martin

    I am afeared. Being in night all this is but a dream, too flattering sweet to be substantial.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rama

    love is what makes us feel complete and have the courage to become great.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Evgenia

    This is the imagined story of how William (“Will”) Shakespeare’s one true love helps him overcome writer’s block to convert what began as the shipwreck comedy Romeo and Ethel the Pirate’s Daughter to the romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet. It is everything a Shakespearean comedy ought to be. Mistaken identities. Gender-role reversals. Comic coincidences. Biting wit. Star-crossed lovers (of course). And, “a bit with the dog.” Much as the real Shakespeare must have reflected contemporary ideas in h This is the imagined story of how William (“Will”) Shakespeare’s one true love helps him overcome writer’s block to convert what began as the shipwreck comedy Romeo and Ethel the Pirate’s Daughter to the romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet. It is everything a Shakespearean comedy ought to be. Mistaken identities. Gender-role reversals. Comic coincidences. Biting wit. Star-crossed lovers (of course). And, “a bit with the dog.” Much as the real Shakespeare must have reflected contemporary ideas in his plays of antiquity, so Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman channel modern sensibilities through characters who are only nominally Elizabethan. Rather than a defect, this blatant disregard for fact is the creative triumph of the script. It is a veritable treasure trove of Easter eggs, from historical figures as realized by the screenwriters (e.g., Christopher Marlowe as Shakespeare’s frenemy), to purported source material for Romeo and Juliet (e.g., a comic twist on the “actual” balcony scene), to current concepts packaged into Tudor garb (e.g., an apothecary as Shakespeare’s shrink). Holding up this tableau is the cornucopia of characters, many of them in supporting roles. Geoffrey Rush is the nervous and wily stage producer, Ben Affleck is the unwittingly upstaged theater star, Tom Wilkinson is the investor with acting aspirations—to a person, a true delight. The comedy is perfectly timed, line-for-line brilliant. In the screenwriters’ own words, it “will have them rolling in the aisles.” All of which is to say that the love affair, as depicted by Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes, is nothing more than a MacGuffin. For those who worry about that. Yes, dear reader, I snuck in a movie review here. But a movie whose brilliance is rooted in its multilayered script. Watch it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Simsim99

    Funny and Tragic. the perfect combination of creating a story about shakespeare himself. i wonder if the story has some truth about Shakespeare's life..i am sure Shakespeare had Muses or else how can that man write so many Epic legendary plays?. my eyes tear at the end, no doubt about it. i'm wondering what happened to Viola at the end? maybe they banished her like they did to Will, cause he obviously couldn't reach her anymore. William Shakespeare: You will never age for me, nor fade, nor die. just Funny and Tragic. the perfect combination of creating a story about shakespeare himself. i wonder if the story has some truth about Shakespeare's life..i am sure Shakespeare had Muses or else how can that man write so many Epic legendary plays?. my eyes tear at the end, no doubt about it. i'm wondering what happened to Viola at the end? maybe they banished her like they did to Will, cause he obviously couldn't reach her anymore. William Shakespeare: You will never age for me, nor fade, nor die. just like his stories.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Somehow, I think this is one of those situations where Marc Norman wrote a screenplay, Tom Stoppard came in and made it awesome, and the WGA/contracts gave them equal writing credit. Because this is not a Stoppard script. There are moments of Stoppard awesome, and I don't want to suggest it isn't a witty, fun script, but it is not a Stoppard script. (I sekritly love this movie a lot, even through Paltrow's frankly disappointing performance. Everyone else is delightful.) Somehow, I think this is one of those situations where Marc Norman wrote a screenplay, Tom Stoppard came in and made it awesome, and the WGA/contracts gave them equal writing credit. Because this is not a Stoppard script. There are moments of Stoppard awesome, and I don't want to suggest it isn't a witty, fun script, but it is not a Stoppard script. (I sekritly love this movie a lot, even through Paltrow's frankly disappointing performance. Everyone else is delightful.)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I love Tom Stoppard. When I read the screenplay of Shakespeare in Love, I couldn't help but marvel at how very Shakespearean it was - the banter, the wit, the pace, the mistaken identity, the innuendo. Since there is nothing I love more than Shakespeare's comedies, this is pretty much the highest praise I can heap on a playwright. I love Tom Stoppard. When I read the screenplay of Shakespeare in Love, I couldn't help but marvel at how very Shakespearean it was - the banter, the wit, the pace, the mistaken identity, the innuendo. Since there is nothing I love more than Shakespeare's comedies, this is pretty much the highest praise I can heap on a playwright.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Maddie Ricchiuto

    Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman crafted a really splendid screenplay, and it only gets better the more of Shakespeare you have at your mental fingertips. Almost every line is a reference, the plot itself works around the idea that Twelfth Night is the foil of Romeo and Juliet and it works astonishingly well.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Brian Burns

    Loved it. Yes it's fiction. But written beautifully. If you liked this book, and are in the small minority of people who hasn't already seen the flick, you should definitely watch it too. It's one of those rare films that does justice to the book. Fiennes and Paltrow do a fantastic job. Loved it. Yes it's fiction. But written beautifully. If you liked this book, and are in the small minority of people who hasn't already seen the flick, you should definitely watch it too. It's one of those rare films that does justice to the book. Fiennes and Paltrow do a fantastic job.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    I enjoyed reading this screenplay because sometimes you miss poignant lines in movies, but I'd say rather just watch the movie. I enjoyed reading this screenplay because sometimes you miss poignant lines in movies, but I'd say rather just watch the movie.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ali

    A wonderful piece of writing ... i would say again and again; it's not a good idea to read the book after the movie -- A wonderful piece of writing ... i would say again and again; it's not a good idea to read the book after the movie --

  24. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    This was so beautiful! I had already seen the movie, which I also loved. I remember reading this during a very long bus ride in England, and it was perfect!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    A must-see movie for any Shakespeare buff, and the screenplay is what makes it. Stoppard does an amazing job weaving lines from various Shakespeare plays into the screenplay. Genius.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Leon M

    It is quite unusual to read a screenplay and I found it hard at times.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rachel C.

    For fellow English majors and romantics. We read Marc Norman's early draft in my screenwriting class. It was terrible. Almost everything witty and clever in it comes from Tom Stoppard. For fellow English majors and romantics. We read Marc Norman's early draft in my screenwriting class. It was terrible. Almost everything witty and clever in it comes from Tom Stoppard.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Oscar

    I love when these screenplays are published, because then I can take as much time as I need with them and catch some of the jokes that are too fast on screen. This one is particularly well done.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sofie

    GREAT!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Minerva

    **** 3.5 stars ****

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