Shakespeare in Love Essay
Shakespeare in Love
By: Fernanda Price
Shakespeare in Love explores an inside- albeit fictional- look at the great William Shakespeare’s method of coming to write one of his most talked about works Romeo and Juliet. Through this insider’s view, there is another topic that comes to light; if perhaps one that is talked about today even more than his works. This is the issue of authorship.
As a playwright in a time period not bothered with copyright laws, or ownership of intellectual property, citations and such, William Shakespeare took a lot of liberties with his work, as is demonstrated time and again throughout Shakespeare in Love. There are several instances throughout the film in which issues about legitimate authorship are raised, but not addressed directly.
Perhaps the main example of this is the scene in the bar when Shakespeare is conversing with fellow playwright Christopher Marlowe. In it, Marlowe aids Shakespeare’s creative juices by feeding him ideas, even throwing out names (such as Mercutio) which Shakespeare takes as his own and incorporates into the final play. This raises the issue of ownership of intellectual property, as well as what constitutes an author. Can Shakespeare be said to be the true author of Romeo and Juliet, even though he used Marlowe’s ideas and thoughts to compose the storyline? In fact would the story even exist without Marlowe’s contributions? In this aspect, Marlowe could be said to be as much an author of the play as Shakespeare, or at least a very generous contributor/collaborator. Yet, Shakespeare never acknowledges this fact. This happens again towards the end of the film, when Viola gives Shakespeare, once again a starting point to his next play, The Twelfth Night.
Another issue is that of rights over a piece of work, at least in terms of usage. In the beginning of the movie, Shakespeare promises two different theater owners the same play. One of them even goes so far as to paying Shakespeare two shillings for his first pages. However, he never receives said pages. In fact, Shakespeare relinquishes the entire play to the other producer in its entirety. In a case such as this, would the theater owner that was promised and paid for the pages in advance, have a right to take them away- since they were supposed to be written for him in the first place?
And the final issue seen in the movie comes about when Shakespeare throws away his original draft- written for Rosalyn- into a street trash can. If someone had found those pages, would they have a right to use them, since Shakespeare disposed of them? Would an act such as this relinquish ownership of the work?
Although there are many instances of authorship issues throughout the film, the larger implication and overarching theme can perhaps be said to be the renown for a piece of work. William Shakespeare will continue to be known as one of the greatest playwrights throughout history whether or not he deserves the extent of the credit and renown for his works. In the long-run, all that can be done is to continue to explore and learn from not only his works, but his lifetime and how those works came to be as well. In this way, the implications of his authorship will set an example for generations of writers to come.
I went to see this movie not knowing what to expect. On the one hand, I was excited, because you see, I am an English major and here was this movie based on the life of William Shakespeare. In the realm of Shakespeare rip-offs (i.e., "Romeo & Juliet," "Macbeth," etc..)"Shakespeare in Love" clearly stood out. This is the first film I've seen based on the author, rather than his work. And it was a refreshing change from watching the pompous over-fed Hollywood egoes trying to pass themselves off as true actors. At the same time, however, the casting had me a bit nervous. I had not seen Joseph Fiennes work, but I had high hopes since his brother is, in my opinion, a brilliant actor. I liked Gwyneth Paltrow in "Emma" and "Sliding Doors," but I was wary to see how she would pull this one off. And as for Ben Affleck.. well, I was truly afraid he would flop. I saw him in "Armageddon" and immediately racked him up on the list of other such forgettable actors as .. well never mind. The point is, I was afraid he would make a laughing-stock of this movie. As for the other actors,I did not recognize any one else except Judi Dench, and I figured hers was a bit role, nothing that could affect this movie much. I was wrong on almost all counts. Gwyneth Paltrow was so radiant in this movie, she fairly set the screen ablaze. I never knew she had such range. I had not expected such fire in her, I always thought she was a rather calm actress, incapable of such passions. Joseph Fiennes amazed me far more than his brother in that he knows how to balance wit and passion, joy and sorrow gracefully, even more so than Ralph. Together, these two actors did more than carry off the film; they raised it up to levels higher than any other actors I've seen in a very long time. Judi Dench may have had a bit role, but she managed to make a lot out of it. She played Queen Elizabeth with more majesty and grace than any other Queen-playing actress I've seen. (I've yet to see Cate Blansett in the movie "Elizabeth.")But the true darkhorse of this movie is Ben Affleck. My God, he has a sense of humor! I never imagined. "Armageddon" didn't give him much space to roam in, but in this film he was all over the place. Had he not been flanked by such worthy thespians, he just might have stolen the show. The actors could not have done such marvelous work had it not been, of course, for the writing. The play flows smoothly, with nary a glitch in sight. This is note-worthy, for it is well over 100 minutes. It is written in a style that is at once clever and grave, passionate and dry. Love is one of the most abused notions on the screen today. It is rare to see a movie portray Love with as much originality and truth as this film has accomplished. Perhaps the highest compliment I can pay this movie I already did on Christmas night, when I went to go see this film. As the movie ended and the actors' names scrolled up on the screen, tears trickled down my cheeks. I must say it is not often a movie makes me cry. And don't underestimate me just because I am a girl and because I may be more sensitive because you see, my boyfriend left the theater with suspiciously bright eyes as well..
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