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William Boyd has written some wonderful books and screenplays. I am a bit confused about his intention here. Is he trying to say that the Bard was so disturbed by the death of his son Hamnet that he transferred his affections to William Herbert? In a purely platonic way? Does he see something of the delicate Hamnet in Herbert's feminine good looks? Boyd is walking on eggshells here. He has to play around with the traditional chronology and compress events considerably to have both the young man and the dark lady of the sonnets arrive in Shakespeare's life on practically the same day. Of course, nobody knows for sure what happened, or even if the story told in the sonnets is autobiographical, so Boyd has a perfect right to postulate what he will. But I am disappointed with his treatment. He seems to have thought he was rewriting "Ulysses," with Shakespeare as Leopold Bloom. Here was an opportunity to speculate about the great loves of Shakespeare's life, and Boyd reduces one to a son-surrogate and the other to a working mom. And poor Anne Hathaway is a henpecking shrew. The daughters play no role in this drama. It's also interesting that Boyd exalts Shakespeare to the position of poet-in-residence with the King's Men, without explaining that he also took a hand in the troop's business and acted important roles in his own and others' plays, all the while he was becoming a wealthy landowner in Stratford. This might go a ways toward explaining why the playwright didn't return to live with his family until he was ready to retire. In the film, Boyd would have you believe that everybody he knew was trying to get their favorite cash cow to leave London and effectively retire from the stage.
I also liked a lot of things about "A Waste of Shame," not the least of which was Rupert Graves' dead-on impersonation of the Bard. I also liked seeing the criminally underused Nicholas Rowe as Richard Burbage and Zoe Wanamaker as the Duchesss of Pembroke. It was Wanamaker's father, Sam, who fought to rebuild the Globe Theatre on the south bank of the Thames, where it stands today, as evidenced by its inclusion in this production. The scenes with Ben Jonson and of Shakespeare at the book stalls were also inspired. But Tom Sturridge (as Herbert) looked like a clueless generation X-er in a bad wig, and Shakespeare's attraction to Lucy (the dark Lady) was underdeveloped--what did he see in her, apart from the fact that she was working, as he was, in London in order to support a family in France? I am rating this film as high as I am because William Boyd cannot help but write a literate script, and the acting in this production (with the possible exception of Sturridge) is first-rate. I also like Boyd's use of lines from the sonnets to introduce scenes. But I remain unconvinced by the scriptwriter's major premise, that, rather than take Herbert to bed, Shakespeare only wanted to be his father.
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