Shakespeare In Love

by KE Monahan Huntley

Shakespeare in Love, a fictional account of the life that inspired the art-Romeo and Juliet, is an excellent and lamentable original screenplay by Marc Norman and playwright Tom Stoppard, its every word and staged action a tribute to the Bard. From a Dramatica point of view, it is intriguing how the two compare (see Romeo and Juliet). The objective and relationship story thematics (domain, concern, issue, and problem) are the same; because of different character and plot dynamics, the thematics for the main and influence character throughlines are reversed.

The objective story occurs in the domain of physics. As the film opens, actions (story driver) precipitate decisions--Philip Henslowe, patron of the arts, ". . . is pinioned in a chair, with his feet stuck out over the hot coals of a fire burning." Henslowe owes Fennyman "forty three pounds five shillings and nine pence"--the only way the moneylender can be appeased is to enter into a partnership with the theater owner, contingent upon the successful performance (os concern-doing) of William Shakespeare's new comedy "Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter." Because, even in the Elizabethan times, everyone wants to be in show business.

What the irate Fennyman does not expect (os problem), is rival theaters "The Rose" and "The Curtain" are " . . . closed by the plague. . . by order of the Master of the Revels!"


Mr. Fennyman, let me explain about . . . the theater business (os benchmark-learning). The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.


So what do we do?


Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well (os solution-determination).




I don't know. It's a mystery.

As in Romeo and Juliet, the thematic conflict of experience vs. skill in the objective story is emphasized--a high premium is put on wit and "words, words, words."


Beginners! Places! There is no dog in the first scene . . . though if the green, unlettered playwright had known about comedy he would have put one there. How goes it, Will?


I know more about comedy Burbage, than you dream on.


. . . A clown, a dog, a buxom maid, a deceived lover-Any of five scribblers in any of ten taverns in Bankside can give me that. When will you write me a tragedy, Will? You have it in you (mc problem-expectation).

Unfortunately for William Shakespeare (main character), he has a classic case of writer's block (mc domain-universe) and an ". . . emptiness that seeks a soul mate." He is contracted to Henslowe, who desperately inquires of the "wordwright": "Where is the play? Tell me you have it nearly done! Tell me you have it started!" (mc concern-progress)

Unbeknownst to Will, he has a fan in the lovely Viola De Lesseps, a lady of fortune (influence character). After watching his plays, she has quite made up her mind (ic domain):


I will have poetry in my life. And adventure. And love. Love above all. . . . Unbiddable, ungovernable-like a riot in the heart, and nothing to be done, come, come . . . ruin or rapture. Love-like there has never been in a play.

Viola is determined to be a player, and disguised tolerably well (ic symptom-accurate) as "Thomas Kent," she auditions for Williams Shakespeare's as yet unfinished play, much to the dismay of her nurse:


He sees himself in me! Romeo Montague, a young man of Verona!


Your mother, and your father (ic thematic issue-worry)-



From tomorrow, away in the country for a month (ic thematic counterpoint-confidence)! Is Master Shakespeare not handsome?. . . Oh, Nurse! He would give Thomas Kent the life of Viola De Lesseps' dreaming.


And you would bring ruin on us all! Think (ic benchmark-conscious) of your family, your dear mother-


Who marries me off like a prize mare to the highest bidder (ic driver-result). . . . this chance I must take come what may (ic solution-process).

Will has followed (mc approach-doer) "Thomas Kent" to the De Lesseps' estate. Once he sees Viola, it is love at first sight (rs driver-effect). Viola is in love with Will as well-but for now she must masquerade as a boy. Her impulses (oc concern-preconscious) undermine her intentions once Will romantically declares his feelings for Viola to "Thomas Kent": "His words have almost unmasked her. The closeness does the rest. She kisses him on the mouth and runs into the house. She throws a coin to the Boatman . . ."


Thank you, my lady!





Viola De Lesseps. . . . Strangely enough, I'm a bit of a writer myself.

The Boatman produces his memoirs in manuscript.


It wouldn't take you long to read it, I expect (os problem) you know all the publishers . . .

Will and Viola enter into a love affair (rs thematic issue-desire) that parallels Romeo and Juliet-dependent upon charade (rs concern-being) and manipulation (rs domain-psychology). As an example, Viola, betrothed to Lord Wessex, as Juliet was promised to Count Paris, appears before Queen Elizabeth: "Her majesty's consent is a requisite when a Wessex takes a wife, and once gained, her consent is her command." Will accompanies Viola and Wessex to Greenwich as Viola's chaperone-"Miss Wilhelmina . . . gowned and bonneted."

It is during this audience the goal is set forth in the form of a wager:


Can a play show us (doing) the very truth and nature of love?

Viola marries Wessex, but before her departure to the American colonies, she plays Juliet to Will's Romeo--as always, theaters open and close, players come and go, but the show must go on. The Queen is in attendance, and settles that Romeo and Juliet does indeed illustrate the "very truth and nature of love." In the objective story, all's well that ends well (outcome-success).

For William Shakespeare, a "sad wretch" who must let Viola go (mc growth-stop), all is not lost. Picking up his quill to begin a new play (mc resolve-change), Will has found a muse "that will never age . . . nor die, nor fade." A lifelong heroine to inspire poetry for the centuries (judgment-good).

About the Author

KE Monahan Huntley is an editor and publisher based in Southern California. As one of the original contributors to Dramatica, she helped edit and analyze many of the examples. In addition, her numerous articles provided an insightful "conversational" approach to the theory. Today she can be found at Write Between the Lines or follow her on Twitter @kemhuntley.

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