Judi Dench, Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in LoveThis is the (fictional, obviously) story of how Shakespeare came to write Romeo and Juliet. His writer’s block, his doomed and impossible love affair for Lady Viola, his rivalry with Christopher Marlowe, the jostling for position between theatre companies, the precarious business of putting on plays in the sixteenth century – a colourful mix, in which Shakespearean lines and fragments abound. The inspriation for “A plague on both your houses!” comes from a street preacher, for example. And the nightingale/lark scene is played out in Lady Viola’s bedroom with an owl and a rooster. 

There is also quite a lot in the way of boys dressing up as girls dressed up as boys dresing up as girls (confused yet? I think I might be.) In those days, of course, it was unseemly for a woman to be a player and so all the female parts were taken by men and boys. Thus, Shakespeare often has his female characters dressing up as men: dramatic irony and all that. It was kind of fun to see them play with gender this way: Shakespeare’s face immediately after kissing Thomas Kent – just before finding out that “he” was really Lady Viola – lovely.

Highly amusing. Not even very annoying. And Judi Dench was, of course, excellent as the aging Elizabeth One.

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