Study Guide

Shakespeare in Love Genre

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Romantic Comedy; Historical Fiction; Biographical Film
Laughing and Crying (All the Way to the Bank)

William Shakespeare penned tragedies and comedies, and although this film is centered around one of his greatest tragedies—Romeo and Juliet—it isn't a tragedy itself. At it's heart it's a romantic comedy, more concerned with jokes, humorous nods to Shakespearean trivia, and the romance between its two leads.

The film changes its tragedy into a comedy, and makes comedy a tragedy. Trying to write Romeo and Ethel as a comedy is a total failure, which prompts Shakespeare to change it to the tragedy we know and love today.

But romantic comedies don't normally win Academy Awards. This is why the film masquerades as historical fiction similar to how Viola masquerades as a man. However, the movie is so historically inaccurate we're surprised they didn't give Shakespeare a flip phone. However, it does fill in gaps in history quite astutely at times. One notable example is when Shakespeare briefly mentions wife Anne Hathaway. According to him, their marriage is les miserable, and that could be the truth. Not much is known about their marriage.

Every good romantic comedy has an element of fantasy. In this film, not only is Willy Shakespeare a dreamboat, but merely getting a glimpse into his little-known life—even one that fudges details a bit—is a fantasy for many.

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