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January 28, 2019

Wherefore Art Thou? 10 things you didn’t know about Shakespeare in Love


In 1988, Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman’s Shakespeare in Love quickly became one of the most beloved films of all-time – so much so, in fact, that the writers of this beautiful film decided to transfer it to the stage. It has all the wit and wisdom of William Shakespeare’s original works mixed with a brand new comedic take on how he came to be such a talented writer.

As the title suggests, this story is about Shakespeare falling in love with his soon-to-be muse, Viola. “Against a bustling background of mistaken identity, ruthless scheming and backstage theatrics, Will’s love for Viola quickly blossoms and inspires him to write his greatest masterpiece.” Aren’t convinced that this is a one-of-a-kind play just yet? Fear not! We’ve got 10 fun facts about Shakespeare in Love just for you:

1.  Shakespeare in Love was a box office success, grossing $289.3 million worldwide and was the ninth highest-grossing film of 1998 (Source)

2.  Shakespeare in Love won the Best Picture trophy in 1999 over Steven Spielberg’s WWII masterpiece, Saving Private Ryan – and it came out on top with 3 awards throughout the night. (Source)

3.  Disney Theatrical Productions produced the first stage version of the film in London in 2014 at the Noel Coward Theatre. It was called “A joyous celebration of theatre” in the Daily Telegraph, and it received much critical praise during its run. (Source)

4.  Dame Judi Dench won an Academy Award for her performance in the film – which, in total, was only 8 minutes of screen time. She acknowledges this in her Oscar acceptance speech.

5.  Bridget McConnell and Georgie Glen played Judi Dench’s courtiers in both Shakespeare in Love and Mrs. Brown. This repeat casting is “hardly a coincidence” seeing as both films were directed by John Madden. (Source)

6.  The story of Shakespeare in Love may be fictional, but in addition to William Shakespeare, his rival Christopher Marlowe and, as previously mentioned, Queen Elizabeth I, many of the other characters did exist during the Bard’s time. Elizabethan-era actors Richard Burbage and Ned Alleyn were indeed the equivalent of modern Hollywood superstars (Source)

7.  One of the reasons co-screenwriters Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard were able to take so many liberties with the script was that not much is known about William Shakespeare’s life between the years 1585 and 1592. (Source)

8.  Romeo & Juliet isn’t the only Shakespeare work referenced in Shakespeare in Love. Hamlet (Will tosses a crumpled-up paper at a skull), Twelfth Night (Paltrow’s character of Viola, with both her name and tendency to cross-dress, is suggested to have inspired the future Shakespeare comedy) and “Sonnet 18” (Will compares Viola to “a summer’s day”). (Source)

9.  There are a few historical inaccuracies within the story, as the writers had a plethora of liberties with the film. One of these includes a plan to take a trip to Virginia – however, considering real-world history, American colonies were not established yet during the time Shakespeare in Love was set. (Source)

10. Gwyneth Paltrow initially turned down the part of Viola de Lesseps, citing emotional distress following her breakup with Brad Pitt. Eventually, she was persuaded by Miramax producer Paul Webster to go out for the role, and the rest is Oscar history. (Source)

To purchase a copy of Shakespeare in Love, click here, and to learn more about licensing a production, click here.