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Shakespeare in Love (1998)

R  |   |  Comedy, Drama, Romance  |  8 January 1999 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 167,086 users   Metascore: 87/100
Reviews: 747 user | 131 critic | 33 from Metacritic.com

A young Shakespeare, out of ideas and short of cash, meets his ideal woman and is inspired to write one of his most famous plays.


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Won 7 Oscars. Another 55 wins & 85 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Tim McMullan ...
Frees (as Tim McMullen)
Steven Beard ...
Patrick Barlow ...
Sandra Reinton ...
Bridget McConnell ...
Lady in Waiting (as Bridget McConnel)
Georgie Glen ...
Lady in Waiting


Will Shakespeare is a known but struggling poet, playwright and actor who not only has sold his next play to both Philip Henslow and Richard Burbidge but now faces a far more difficult problem: he is bereft of ideas and has yet to begin writing. He is in search of his muse, the woman who will inspire him but all attempts fail him until he meets the beautiful Viola de Lesseps. She loves the theatre and would like nothing more than to take to the stage but is forbidden from doing so as only men can be actors. She is also a great admirer of Shakespeare's works. Dressing as a man and going by the name of Thomas Kent, she auditions and is ideal for a part in his next play. Shakespeare soon sees through her disguise and they begin a love affair, one they know cannot end happily for them as he is already married and she has been promised to the dour Lord Wessex. As the company rehearses his new play, Will and Viola's love is transferred to the written page leading to the masterpiece that is ... Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


...A Comedy About the Greatest Love Story Almost Never Told... See more »


Comedy | Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

8 January 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Shakespeare apasionado  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$25,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$224,012 (USA) (11 December 1998)


$100,241,322 (USA) (23 July 1999)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Marc Norman conceived the idea of the movie in 1988. The movie was made 10 years later. See more »


William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet is generally thought to have been performed for the first time in 1595 or 1596. Shakespeare in Love has it performed in 1593, but this is part of the "secret history" which the film is "discovering". See more »


[first lines]
Philip Henslowe: [screams in pain]
Hugh Fennyman: Henslowe! Do you know what happens to a man who doesn't pay his debts? His boots catch fire!
Philip Henslowe: [screams]
Hugh Fennyman: Why do you howl when it is I who am bitten?
See more »


Referenced in Fear of Clowns (2004) See more »


The Play & the Marriage
Written by Stephen Warbeck
Performed by Catherine Bott
Conducted by Nick Ingman
See more »

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User Reviews

An excellent film in all aspects.
29 December 1998 | by See all my reviews

I had high hopes for this film from the first time I saw the trailer. I am happy to say that the film lives up to the previews. Although it is an art house flick of sorts, it manages to be profound and accessible at the same time. So many art house films manage to be merely pretentious, as if aimed at those that want to believe that they are having an intellectual experience rather than those who are really open to one. This film shows that you can make a film of substance that is at the same time very entertaining.

One thing that stood out was the way they showed enough of the performance of Romeo and Juliet so that you could understand what the play is about, without making it a film of the play per se. There are many parallels between the fictional play and the events of the film, and this goes to underscore the relevance of great literature to the human condition. The actual performance of the play was acted so well that there were times when a character in the play was in a fight and I said to myself "they're really fighting, that guy really got stabbed!" So often a play within a movie is acted in a very staged manner, so this was a welcome surprise. And for anyone who is a fan of Shakespeare, it is easy to find little tidbits to reflect upon - such as the fact that Shakespeare himself was fond of the "play within a play" theme that we see in this film.

The performances are excellent throughout, including minor characters. In the midst of tragedy there is genuine comic relief, just as in Shakespeare. The historical details that surround the conjectural main plot are accurate down to the names of the actual people with whom Shakespeare crossed paths. In the end "Shakespeare in Love" causes us to feel as well as think, to think as well as to be entertained.

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Little Historical Accuracy nielw
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