Shakespeare, love and theater in the 16th century.

Shakespeare in love is a movie by John Madden which came out on October 3, 1999. It takes place in London in the 16th century. At this time, London was a mix of “rich” districts and “poor” districts. The poor people found out that the theater could be a good way to make money and the rich people found a way to distract themselves, so James Burbage built the first playhouse in 1576 called : The Theater (then The Curtain).The Curtain was the number one theater in London and it worked so well that Philip Henslowe decided to build his own theater called The Rose. For many years, The Curtain and The Rose competed to get the largest audience.

In the movie, William Shakespeare is a playwright who needs to write a play for Phillip Henslowe and James Burbage but he has some trouble to get inspiration of his play. After a hard breakup, he meets Viola DeLesseps, a rich women who dreams to become an actress and falls in love with her. Viola helps William to get his inspiration for his play. This is how Romeo&Juliet was born. In the 16th century, women couldn’t perform in a play so Viola decides to dress up… as a boy ! That’s how Viola is cast as Romeo in William’s play, unfortunately a young boy spies on her through a keyhole and discovers that she is actually a woman. As a consequence the theater is shut down…


In the 16th century, the playwright weren’t really famous but in London, they were very much in demand because The Curtain and The Rose wanted to have most of the existing plays to perform. We can say that the playwrights were not really rich; in fact William Shakespeare was quite poor, he was even riddled with debts, that’s why he couldn’t have married Viola who was a noble woman even if he wanted to. Added to that we learn the Shakespeare was already married.


In my opinion, the idea of making a movie about the “backstage” of Romeo & Juliet’s first performance was good but, most of the facts are not  true and it’s what I didn’t like. But on the whole, the movie is interesting because it allows us to discover the origins of the theater. Moreover, I liked the fact that a woman disguises as a man and risks everything to fulfil her dream.

Gaëlle 3*4