Shakespeare in Love (1998) - Plot Summary Poster

Plot Summary

  • 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 Romeo and Juliet.

    - Written by garykmcd
  • 1593 London. Master Will Shakespeare, an up and coming playwright and sonneteer, is not nearly as well known as his counterpart, Christopher Marlowe. So Will's current writer's block does not help matters for him or for the owner of the Rose Theatre, Philip Henslowe, who Will generally writes his plays for, that is when the theater is not closed due to the plague or Henslowe's financial problems. That current unwritten play commissioned is a comedy tentatively titled "Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter". Will's block is partly due to the loss of his muse, his mistress, who he caught in bed with another man, he having a mistress as he would otherwise be alone with his wife back in Stratford. Will begins to write again and passionately when he falls in love with Viola de Lesseps, who comes from a well respected well-off family. Shakespeare also learns that Viola and Thomas Kent, the young man who recently joined the company of the Rose, are one and the same, Viola masquerading as a man to infiltrate the theater world, a domain purely for the male sex, as she is in love with the written word, especially Shakespeare's. As such, she too falls in love with Shakespeare the man and Shakespeare the writer. Without telling Henslowe or Ned Alleyn, an egotistical actor, the play is neither the comedy "Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter" or one called "Mercutio" - the name of Alleyn's character - but is rather morphing into a love story called "Romeo and Juliet", the love based on his mutual feelings for Viola. Beyond her continuing to masquerade as Thomas Kent, their own love story has a major obstacle in that she is betrothed to Lord Wessex, a man she detests and a union sanctioned by her merchant father and Queen Elizabeth primarily for financial/business purposes. The mounting of the play, Viola and Will's personal love affair, and their professional collaboration as playwright Will Shakespeare and actor "Thomas Kent" are set against the cutthroat business side of sixteenth century English show business.

    - Written by Huggo
  • Romantic comedy set in London in the late 16th century: Young playwright William Shakespeare struggles with his latest work "Romeo and Ethel the Pirate's Daughter". A great fan of Shakespeare's plays is young, wealthy Viola who is about to be married to the cold-hearted Lord Wessex, but constantly dreams of becoming an actress. Women were not allowed to act on stage at that time (female roles were played by men, too), but dressed up as a boy, Viola successfully auditions for the part of Romeo. Soon she and William are caught in a forbidden romance that provides rich inspiration for his play.

    - Written by Armin Ortmann <armin@sfb288.math.tu-berlin.de>
  • 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.

    - Written by Anonymous


The film centres around the forbidden love of William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) and a noble woman...

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