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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 165,499 users   Metascore: 87/100
Reviews: 748 user | 130 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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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?


The play being performed for the Queen at the beginning of the film is Two Gentlemen of Verona. See more »


In the opening scene, Mr. Fennyman (Tom Wilkinson) and his henchmen Mr. Frees (Tim McMullan) and Lambert (Steven O'Donnell) are torturing Philip Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush) due to an unpaid debt. Henslowe offers to cut Fennyman in on the profits from a new play by William Shakespeare. We hear Lambert, off-camera, say, "I think I've seen it," but it appears the on-camera Mr. Frees is actually mouthing the words. The shot then cuts to Lambert, who says on-camera, "I didn't like it." 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 Melissa & Joey: The Unfriending (2013) 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

Impressive spin on Shakespeare, with a contemporary feel
13 January 1999 | by (Fargo, North Dakota) – See all my reviews

Tom Stoppard, who penned Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, knows a thing or two about the modern deconstruction and reconstruction of Shakespeare's work -- and it shows in the bright and vivid Shakespeare in Love, which Stoppard co-wrote with Marc Norman. Applying many of the same conventions favored by Shakespeare in his own work (including primarily the confusion over mistaken identity and gender) the screenwriters begin with the "what if" premise and run with it, speculating with wicked delight on the Bard's rivalry with Christopher Marlowe, his use of overheard phrases finding their way into his plays, and best of all, the possible sources of his inspiration. Will's muse is Violet, played wonderfully by Gwyneth Paltrow, who shows off in this film her finest acting to date and credibly pulls off the tricky task of being both an object of poetic inspiration and a genuine, down-to-earth human being.

39 of 56 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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The ending confused me so much jimmyr5595
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