Kenneth Branagh, the great Shakespearean actor-director of the late 20th and early 21st Century now comes full-circle in playing the Bard himself in this film. In true Shakespearean tradition it's a dramatic interpretation of Shakespeare's last years with the dramatic license fittingly lampshaded by Shakespeare in the film. The story focuses on Shakespeare returning to Stratford after the fire that consumed the Globe Theatre. His family are estranged for him and he is also forced to at last confront the death of his son Hamnet.
- Actually Pretty Funny: Judith thinks it's hilarious that the daughter of the greatest playwright is married to a Puritan who hates art.
- Arc Words: "You must write again."
- Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Anne and Will are not on the best of terms and she is aware of his flirtations with the "Dark Lady" and "Fair Youth", but she eventually welcomes him back to their bedchamber.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Shakespeare justifies himself for his estrangement by saying that he's made his family wealthy and that they had three wonderful children.
- Loving a Shadow: Shakespeare especially mourns Hamnet's death because it seemed like his son was also a talented writer. It turns out Judith, not he, was writing all those poems, and Hamnet may have been Driven to Suicide by the idea his father would find out. Learning this is able to help Shakespeare accept a more-honest memory of his son, and to mourn and bond with his living family.
- Mythology Gag:
- "The Second Best Bed" is not only referenced but a plot point for Anne and Will's relationship. Will's decision to reference it in his will is now a heartwarming gesture of love.
- Ben Johnson is mentioned as giving Shakespeare grief for not reading Greek and giving Bavaria a coast.
- Outliving One's Offspring: Hamnet's death hangs heavy over the whole first part of the film.
- Rapid-Fire Interrupting: When an admirer shows up on Shakespeare's doorstep while Shakespeare is fixing a fence, he preemptively answers all the common question, including but not limited to what his favorite play is (he doesn't have one) and whether or not he thinks women should be allowed to perform on the stage, as is done on the continent (he does).
- Scary Black Man: While getting Susanna's accuser off her back, Shakespeare tells him that she has an old flame who's still in love with her: the huge black man who played Aaron in Titus Andronicus. This amuses his family, who knew the actor personally and recalled him as a kind, gentle person.
- Shakespeare in Fiction: Focusing on his retirement and family life at the conclusion of his career.
- Survivor's Guilt: Judith has a mixture of this and perception that she is The Unfavorite and that Shakespeare would have preferred she died to Hamnet.