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The ShakespeareInFiction RomanticComedy that won Best Picture of 1998 at the AcademyAwards, surprising all those who were backing ''Film/SavingPrivateRyan''. To some, it's one of the greatest {{award snub}}s in the history of the Oscars. To others, it's a blessed relief from the Oscar's usual insistence that TrueArtIsAngsty, a very intelligent and fun romp through a not-quite-accurate Elizabethan England. Creator/TomStoppard's script is witty and wise, and all of the cast, especially Creator/GwynethPaltrow as Viola, is at the top of their game.

Meet Creator/WilliamShakespeare (Creator/JosephFiennes), aspiring playwright who can't find the inspiration to write another ScrewballComedy, and works for a theater that needs money, badly. In the bed of his mistress, Rosaline, he tries to find inspiration for a comedy titled ''[[RomeoAndJuliet Romeo and Ethel the Pirate's Daughter]]''. Meanwhile, Viola De Lesseps (Creator/GwynethPaltrow), a noblewoman engaged to marry an entrepreneur in the Americas, dreams of the stage but is frustrated, because women are banned from the boards. However, she goes out to audition anyway, dressed up as a boy, and is astounded when she gets the part... of [[WholesomeCrossdresser Romeo]]. Tension soon erupts between her and the suddenly single Will, and [[HilarityEnsues Hilarity, Angst, Secrecy, and a Little Sex Ensue.]] Much like a Shakespeare comedy, you might say.

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!!This film provides examples of:
* AlwaysSomeoneBetter: Marlowe, to poor Shakespeare. It's a one-sided rivalry with poor Will envious of all the fame Marlowe has, while Marlowe easily passes along story ideas without a care. A bit of a HistoricalInJoke because at the time Marlowe ''was'' the better regarded writer: Shakespeare's reputation really didn't take off until later.
* AnachronismStew: The film does not hesitate to throw historical accuracy out the window [[RuleOfFunny if they can sneak in a joke]] about the modern studio system. Standouts are Shakespeare's visit to Dr Monk (poking fun at modern psychiatrists), and the audition scene (Elizabethan companies of players didn't do this, although they do make the excuse that the normal troupe is still coming back from a country tour and is running late).
* AristocratsAreEvil: Viola's husband, the Earl of Wessex, is a total scumbag. Queen Elizabeth, on the other hand, is hard but fair.
* ArtisticLicenseHistory: The real Shakespeare definitely wouldn't have been making the plot of ''Theatre/RomeoAndJuliet'' up as he went along since - as is the case with most of his work - he was adapting pre-existing poems, stories or historical records for the stage; in this case ''The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet.''
** Royalty at this point in time would never have attended a public theatre. Full stop.
* BittersweetEnding:[[spoiler: Shakespeare and Viola don't end up together, and Viola is destined for a loveless marriage, but they console each other with the knowledge that they will be ageless in each other's memories. The film ends with Shakespeare writing ''Theatre/TwelfthNight'', with Viola as his muse, as a way to imagine an unlikely happy ending for the two of them.]]
** In better news, [[spoiler:Shakespeare becomes in-story the next great dramatist, whose literary works in RealLife will shape the English language and have remained... will remain... timeless.]]
* CastingGag: Ben Affleck has a minor role, playing a big-name actor who is tricked into taking a minor role.
--> '''Shakespeare:''' You, sir, are a gentleman.
--> '''Alleyn:''' And you, sir, are a Warwickshire shithouse.
* CatchPhrase: "I don't know... it's a mystery."
* CoitusUninterruptus: Probably more realistic than most modern examples, as back in the day notions of privacy (especially among the lower classes, which certainly included actors) were... different. (Read: almost non-existent.) Regardless, it doesn't last.
* DeusExMachina: Queen Elizabeth I. Of course, there wasn't as much of a stigma attached to the trope back in Shakespeare's day -- many of his plays had a duke or prince showing up in the last act to pass judgment and ensure a happy ending -- so it could be justified by the GrandfatherClause.
* DidNotGetTheGirl: DoomedByCanon; History - and the film itself - tells us that Shakespeare married a woman named Anne Hathaway ([[Creator/AnneHathaway not that one]]), so viewers shouldn't get their hopes up.
* DriverOfABlackCab: Rower of A Thames Ferry Boat.
-->"I had Christopher Marlowe in my boat once."
* EnemyMine: Shakespeare and Richard Burbage put aside their rivalry when Burbage offers Shakespeare's players the use of the Curtain theatre, saying that as theater people they should stand up to the Master of the Revels.
* [[FollowThatCar Follow That Boat!]]
* GondorCallsForAid:
-->"The Master of the Revels despises us all for vagrants and peddlers of bombast. But my father, James Burbage, had the first license to make a company of players from Her Majesty; and he drew from poets the literature of the age. We must show them that we are men of parts. Will Shakespeare has a play. I have a theater. [[CrowningMomentOfHeartwarming The Curtain is yours.]]"
* GoodAdulteryBadAdultery: Shakespeare is married and Viola is engaged to Lord Wessex, but Lord Wessex is only marrying her for her money and Anne Hathaway is in Stratford-upon-Avon, and not particularly well inclined towards Will at present.
* HeReallyCanAct: an in-universe example as the LoanShark Fennyman worms his way into the performance as the Apothecary. Shown nervous and worried beforehand, when the scene comes Fennyman gives an incredible performance that stuns Shakespeare.
* HistoricalDomainCharacter: [[UsefulNotes/ElizabethI Elizabeth I]], Creator/ChristopherMarlowe, John Webster, Shakespeare himself, not to mention the entire cast of ''Romeo and Juliet.''
* HistoricalInJoke: Tied with GeniusBonus.
* HistoricalPersonPunchline: The boy who wants to write violent plays is actually ''John Webster.'' (For clarification, he'll eventually write ''The Duchess of Malfi'' and ''The White Devil,'' both considered quite dark and macabre works with plenty of gruesome deaths.)
* ImpoverishedPatrician
* InterruptedIntimacy: A RunningJoke.
* KingIncognito: [[spoiler: Queen Elizabeth and her attendants go to the performance of ''Romeo and Juliet'' in disguise.]]
* LampshadedDoubleEntendre: In the grand Shakespearian tradition, penis jokes:
-->'''Will''': "It's as if my quill is broken, as if the organ of my imagination has dried up, as if the proud tower of genius is collapsed. Nothing comes. It's like trying to pick a lock with a wet herring."\\
'''Dr. Moth''': Tell me, are you lately humbled in the act of love? How long has it been?\\
'''Will''': A goodly length, in times past, but, lately...
* LastKiss: [[spoiler:Shakespeare and Viola]] share one before she leaves with her new husband [[spoiler:(''not'' Shakespeare)]] to a colony in the new world.
* LoanShark: The movie opens with Fennyman the Moneylender torturing the owner of the Rose for his unpaid debts. He ends up being enamoured of the theatre.
* MoodWhiplash: A few examples:
** One minute, the troupe is carousing in a local bar/brothel, the next, Henslowe mentions Shakespeare's wife in passing, and Viola takes off. Then one of the actors comes in with the news that Marlowe has been killed, and Shakespeare thinks he's responsible because he gave Wessex Marlowe's name as a pseudonym, and told him that he's been visiting his future wife.
** The scene where Shakespeare learns the truth behind [[spoiler:Marlowe's death. He holds Wessex at knifepoint and loudly proclaims him to be Marlowe's murderer... only to be informed that Marlowe actually died in a bar fight over his tab, after getting [[EyeScream a knife through the eye]].]]
** After Shakespeare explains how ''Theatre/RomeoAndJuliet'' takes a turn for the worse:
-->'''Henslowe:''' *deadpan* Well, that'll have 'em rolling in the aisles.
** Another example comes after [[spoiler:Tilney closes the Rose because they were unknowingly letting Viola act.]] Fennyman comes in, still wrapped up in trying to memorize his lines, and asks "Everything all right?"
* MoralGuardians: There are two.
** Part of Tilney's job as Master of the Revels is to censer plays intended for public performance so that they do not offend either the Queen or the people.
** Before the play opens at The Curtain there's a Puritan protesting the performance.
* TheMuse: Almost the entire point of the movie.
* MyGodWhatHaveIDone: Shakespeare, when he thinks he got Marlowe killed by Wessex.
* NobilityMarriesMoney: Viola, a daughter of a wealthy merchant, marries Lord Wessex, who needs money to fund his colony in the new world.
* OhCrap: Romeo and Juliet, debut performance. At stake, Shakespeare's entire reputation. [[spoiler: Will, playing Romeo, is in the depths of despair; Sam, the boy supposed to play Juliet, has just hit puberty with a horrifically broken voice; and as the curtain rises, the actor reciting the Prologue can't get out a single word in his stuttering panic.]] The fifteen or twenty seconds that follows is one drawn-out OhCrap moment before he starts off what has to be the most touching version of RomeoAndJuliet ever to be performed onscreen.
* OscarBait: An English period piece, featuring (however briefly) a royal. Works every time.
* PimpedOutDress: It's the Elizabethan period. ''Duh.'' It's actually in the script that Viola's dress be literally stunning.
* PuddleCoveringChivalry: The queen stops in front of a puddle and looks for help. All the guys hesitate and then reach to throw their jackets down for her. But she loses patience and just steps in the mud.
* RecursiveCrossdressing: Features a woman, dressing as a male actor, who plays Juliet... resulting in this classic line:
--> ''"That woman... is a '''woman'''!"''
* TheRenaissance
* RichSuitorPoorSuitor: Struggling playwright Shakespeare vs. Lord Wessex (who isn't actually ''rich'' - that's why he's marrying Viola in the first place - but has the noble name to back himself up.) [[spoiler:Wessex inevitably 'wins.']]
* RomanticComedy
* ARoundOfDrinksForTheHouse: The producer orders one before exclaiming "Oh, [[AnachronismStew happy hour!]]" (with the inflection one would use for "oh, happy day!").
* RunningGag: Henslowe saying "It's a mystery" when he does not know how a problem will be solved. [[spoiler:And, in the good tradition of theater, it does, every time.]]
* {{Sexposition}}: An early scene with the theatre manager has him discussing the staging of the play while having energetic sex with a prostitute. As with many instances of Sexposition, this one overlaps with CoitusUninterruptus.
* ShakespeareInFiction: Here, he's young, charismatic, melancholy, mostly lovelorn, and looking for a muse.
* ShapedLikeItself: "That woman is a woman!"
* ShoutOutToShakespeare: Obviously.
* ShownTheirWork
* SlowClap: The first performance is met with this... mostly because the audience is weeping.
* SpannerInTheWorks: Two, in fact; [[spoiler: Elizabeth I snidely informs Lord Wessex that Viola has [[VirginVision "been plucked since I saw her last, and not by you"]] and John Webster spies Shakespeare and Viola kissing and later squeals on them to Mr Tilney.]]
* StutteringIntoEloquence : Wabash, introducing the play.
* SweetPollyOliver
* VirginVision: The Queen has it, unfortunately.
* WholesomeCrossdresser: Viola and Sam, the actor who is cast as Juliet.
* WritersBlockMontage: Played with. Our first shot of Will sees him busily and confidently scribbling away, and we cut to his paper to see that he's just trying out different signatures over and over (A HistoricalInJoke on the famously inconsistent signatures we have records of.) However, he ''does'' crumple up a sheet of parchment and toss it away moodily - only for it to land next to a very {{Hamlet}}-esque skull.
* TakeThat: Fennyman proposes to Henslowe that the actors get paid for the play from the nonexistent profits the company will receive, a swipe at Hollywood's rather [[HollywoodAccounting loose accounting procedures]].
* YoungFutureFamousPeople
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