Shakespeare in Love

In the 1998 film Shakespeare in Love, Queen Elizabeth is played by Judi Dench, who won an Oscar for best supporting actress. The premise of the film is much less serious than Elizabeth: The Virgin Queen, namely, that Shakespeare must have written love sonnets and the play Romeo and Juliet because he was himself in love at the time. Very little is known about Shakespeare, so the film is pure fantasy, with a lot of feel-good twists and turns. However, the law at the time prevented women from acting in a public performance. One star in the film was a woman secretly dressed as a man in order to play a part in the first production of Romeo and Juliet. When authorities find out, the dramatic troupe is unable to proceed. Ultimately, Shakespeare’s lover (Gwyneth Paltrow, who received an Oscar for best actress in the role) substitutes in the performance, but Queen Elizabeth emerges from her disguise in the audience to pardon the woman for the infraction, as if Queen Elizabeth was an early feminist trying to remove barriers for women in English society. Whether you buy the plot or not, and there is no reason to do so, the film does make a statement about discrimination against women. However, most of the film is delightful fantasy, and the thought is unfortunately lost. MH

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