Discussion Questions for “Shakespeare in Love”

Write a paragraph or two in response to each of the following prompts:

Let’s start with the title, “Shakespeare in Love.” How does this movie portray Shakespeare? What sort of a person is he? What are his strengths and weaknesses?  What are his hopes and desires? What are his darkest fears?

Let’s continue with the title. What does this movie suggest about “love”? What are the different types of love it explores? Are Will and Viola really “in love”? If so, how do we know? What are the signs and symptoms of romantic love? What does this movie suggest about the relationship between love and marriage?

During the play, Will and Wessex enter into a wager for the huge sum of fifty pounds about whether or not a play can “capture the nature of true love.” At the end of the movie, after everyone has just seen the first production of Romeo & Juliet, Queen Elizabeth (not portrayed here as a tender-hearted romantic) judges that Wessex has lost the bet and that Shakespeare has indeed captured the nature of true love in his play. Is she correct? Why or why not? How can we define the “nature of true love” that is captured by Romeo & Juliet?

What does this movie suggest as the relationship between life and art? Does one imitate the other? Is there an ongoing interplay between the two? Further, what is the relationship that this movie posits between an artist’s life and that artist’s work?

Finally, why do you think the movie ends with Will and Viola hatching the storyline for Twelfth Night (which we recently saw updated in “She’s the Man”)? What makes that particular play an especially fitting imagined next step for these characters?

Published by Chuck Caruso

writer of dark fiction (crime, horror & western noir), literary & textual scholar (american gothic, noir, po-co, sf), and cultural critic

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