Study Guide

Shakespeare in Love Queen Elizabeth (Judi Dench)

Queen Elizabeth (Judi Dench)

The Harshest Critic

Elizabethan theatre gets its name from (who else?) Queen Elizabeth. If there's one thing Queen Elizabeth I has in common with modern high school students, besides amazing fashion sense, it's that Shakespeare's dramatic monologues put her to sleep.

The Queen ain't got time for that. She wants to laugh and be entertained and just have a good ol' time. Plus, she thinks plays are fakity fake fake.

"Playwrights teach nothing about love, they make it pretty, they make it comical, or they make it lust. They cannot make it true."

That sounds like a challenge to us—and to Will—and he's motivated by her criticism.

Seven-Minute Monarchy

Even though Judi Dench is only onscreen as the Queen for approximately seven minutes, she took home an Oscar and a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress. Interestingly, Cate Blanchett was an Oscar nominee the same year for playing Queen Elizabeth I in Elizabeth (source).

Basically, the Queen makes those seven minutes count—she's a commanding presence and she's even given a few names in the film, like "Gloriana Regina, God's Chosen Vessel, the Radiant One," and "old boot." But if we had to sum up how the Queen is portrayed in this movie… well, we wouldn't do it do her face, that's for sure.

She's intimidating, bossy, and blunt. And, even though we wouldn't say that to her face, she would find out we said it, because she is also exceptionally intelligent and keenly aware of her surroundings. She demonstrates this by telling Will to "Come as yourself," meaning she saw right through his disguise as a woman earlier in the film… but she didn't say anything.

She's quite compassionate toward Viola, so she likely kept her lips zipped for a change because she knew Will makes her happy. The Queen identifies with Viola because both characters are women doing men's roles.

Although some of Shakespeare's earlier dramas bore her, he turns around her opinion with Romeo and Juliet. And what the Queen says goes. If she likes it, so will the public… or else. Her influence makes Will a success.

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