Study Guide

Shakespeare in Love

Shakespeare in Love Summary

What light through yonder film screen breaks? It is the beginning of Shakespeare in Love, which tells us that it's 1593.

We're backstage of the Rose, an Elizabethan theater, and there's more drama backstage than there is onstage. The Rose's owner, Philip Henslowe, is being tortured by his financier, Mr. Hugh Fennyman, who's lighting a fire under Henslowe's feet. 

Literally.

Henslowe isn't good at managing money, but he swears he's good at managing talent. He promises a new play soon, one sure to fill seats: a comedy by William Shakespeare called Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter. 

Hmmm… sounds like it could use a bit of editing.

But first, it could use a bit of writing. William Shakespeare, a dreamy lad, needs a muse. He thinks it might be Rosaline, seamstress to actor William Burbage, but when he catches her in bed with Mr. Tilney, the Master of Revels, their writer/muse relationship is kaput. Where's he going to look now? He can't put an ad on Craigslist looking for a muse. (Note: Don't ever answer an ad on Craigslist looking for a muse.)

Depressed, Will drinks away his sorrows. In the pub, he meets fellow playwright Christopher Marlowe, who gives him a few revisions for his play. Romeo is a lovesick Italian, in love with a girl he cannot be with, etc. etc. It's starting to sound like the play we're familiar with. But who will play Romeo?

Enter Viola de Lesseps. If that doesn't sound like a man's name, it's because it isn't. Viola wants to be an actor in a time where women aren't allowed on stage. So she straps down her chest, puts on some boy's clothes, changes her name to Thomas Kent, and auditions for the role of Romeo. Will is entranced. Could Shakespeare be falling for Romeo?

He follows Kent to the de Lesseps estate where a party is in full swing. There he meets Viola, who is simply gorgeous (and female), and Will falls hard for her. However, Viola is engaged (against her will) to Lord Wessex, who wants to know why this scrawny little writer keeps dancing with his woman. Will tells Wessex his name is "Christopher Marlowe" and flees.

But he meets Viola on her balcony, and their interaction is so romantic that someone should it in a play. Hey, that's an idea. Will rushes home to write new scenes, using Viola (who, unbeknownst to Will, is his Romeo) as inspiration for his Juliet. A theater troupe called the Admiral's Men, led by Ned Alleyn, joins the play, and Viola-as-Thomas takes the role of Romeo.

But Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou so sad? 

Lord Wessex has decided to marry Viola in two weeks and take her to the Colony of Virginia. Viola-as-Thomas delivers a letter to Will from Viola-as-Viola forbidding him from pursuing their relationship further.

If you know anything about Shakespeare, it's that he loves him some forbidden love. This prompts him to chase down Thomas Kent, who finally reveals that he is actually Viola. Just to make sure, Will goes to her room and takes off all her boy's clothes. Yep, there's a woman underneath all that.

And so begins their passionate love affair. This includes kissing, writing, and other things ending in –ing, including visiting the Queen. Did we mention kissing? Shakespeare in Love even took home MTV's Best Kiss award in 1999 (source).

Anyway, Queen Elizabeth I is interrogating Wessex's bride-to-be. She's shocked that Viola loves poetry and plays so much. The Queen doesn't believe that a play can accurately portray love: "Playwrights teach nothing about love, they make it pretty, they make it comical, or they make it lust. They cannot make it true."

A bet is made that someone can do it. William Shakespeare, perhaps? The pressure is on for him to write more, and write better.

All the while, though, a deadline looms: Viola's wedding to Lord Wessex. They know their affair has a short lifespan. It ends up being cut even shorter when Christopher Marlowe turns up dead, and Will thinks that (a) Wessex killed Marlowe and (b) he's responsible. He slips into a deep grief. Plus, Viola finds out Shakespeare has an estranged wife, Anne Hathaway. (No. Really. Her name is Anne Hathaway, and she's in Stratford-Upon-Avon, not off filming The Princess Diaries 3.)

However, it's revealed that Wessex didn't kill Marlowe… but he still wants William Shakespeare dead. They duel in an epic swordfight on the stage of the Rose while Viola, as Thomas, watches helplessly. It ends in a draw, and Wessex leaves. However, Mr. Tilney, Master of Revels, enters and shuts down the Rose for lewdness. He says there's a woman acting on stage, and Thomas's true identity is revealed. Viola had been ratted out by a grubby little street urchin who had been fired from the play.

Now Shakespeare has lost his Romeo, and he will soon lose his real-life Juliet. Viola is wed to Lord Wessex, but she learns that the play is being performed at a different theatre, the Curtain, and she sneaks away to watch it. With Viola expelled from the theatre, Will steps into Romeo's breeches. And backstage, the young boy to play Juliet is going through a voice change. His voice is too deep to play the maiden, so the play is suddenly without a Juliet. 

Whose light through yonder window will break?

Viola finds out there is no Juliet, and she steps in to play the role. A woman playing a woman. Scandalous! But, with Will as Romeo and Viola as Juliet, the play is a smash hit. Not only does the public love it, but so does the Queen, who somehow snuck in even though she's wearing a truly gigantic dress. When Mr. Tilney tries to get the Curtain shut down too, for having a woman on stage, the Queen lies for Viola, saying that Viola is a man, Thomas Kent, who is just really really good at looking like a woman.

Most importantly, the Queen declares that a playwright has finally portrayed true love, cementing Romeo and Juliet's reputation as a timeless play. However, she tells Thomas Kent to go fetch Lord Wessex's bride. She may have gotten to be an actor for a day, but Viola still must go to the United States with a man she does not love.

Viola and Will says a tearful goodbye, but not before brainstorming his next play, one in which a woman named Viola is the sole survivor of a shipwreck. The Queen wants it performed for Twelfth Night, which sounds like a really catchy title, too. Viola and Will say they will love each other always. Viola departs, and Will beings to write again.

  • Scene 1

    Scene 1

    • We begin in 1593.
    • A text prologue tells us that two Elizabethan theatre playhouses battled it out for writers and audiences. (And whether to spell it "theater" or "theatre." "Theatre" wins. It's more pretentious that way.)
    • Richard Burbage, the Clooney of the time, was at the Curtain Theatre.
    • The other theatre, (The Rose) is founded by Philip Henslowe, is a bit strapped for cash.
    • The camera pans down to a flyer advertising a new play: The Moneylender Reveng'd. It has a little illustration of a guy being stabbed in the face. This sounds like a good play.
    • We cut to men torturing Henslowe backstage at The Rose for not paying his bills. This isn't a play.
    • He is being tortured by having his feet lowered onto hot coals. Yowza.
    • The man says he can pay up in three weeks, max.
    • He has a wonderful new play, a comedy by William Shakespeare: Romeo and Ethel: The Pirate's Daughter.
    • Mr. Fennyman, the debt collector, is satisfied this new play will pay the debt.
  • Scene 2

    Scene 2

    • Shakespeare is writing, but he isn't working on a play, he's practicing writing his own name.
    • Henslowe arrives and pleads for Shakespeare's new play.
    • Shakespeare starts quoting verse to him instead of answering. A man quoting himself is never attractive.
    • He says he needs to find his muse before he can finish it.
    • Henslowe tells him that the whole theatre is in jeopardy (not the Alex Trebek kind), if Shakespeare won't finish his play.
    • But Shakespeare doesn't want to write a comedy, which is what audiences want.
    • Will asks Henslowe for a fifty-dollar loan, which he needs to join the Chamberlain's Men, which is a theatre company.
    • Henslowe doesn't have the money to give Will.
    • As they walk through the streets, they hear a street preacher denouncing the theatre to the public.
  • Scene 3

    Scene 3

    • Will whines to his therapist that he has lost his gift.
    • The doctor suggests that Will has been "humbled in the act of love."
    • Will talks about his estranged marriage to Anne Hathaway. (No, not Catwoman.)
    • The doctor prescribes him a snake-shaped bangle, saying if he puts his name inside it, and gives it to a woman, she will fall in love with him. Yes, that's sound medical advice.
    • Will travels to the Palace to talk to Richard Burbage.
    • He wants to sell his still-unwritten play to Burbage for more money than Henslowe will pay.
    • Trumpets sound and the Queen enters.
    • As the actors perform, Will slips his name into the snake bangle.
    • A woman named Rosaline approaches Will and kisses him.
    • He gives her the bangle and asks her to be his muse.
    • A clown takes the stage and performs a series of pratfalls, making the Queen and everyone in attendance laugh.
    • Well, except for Will, who pouts in the back of the room. A pretty blonde woman watches him brood. Pretty blonds love brooding dark-haired men.
  • Scene 4

    Scene 4

    • In a gigantic house, the pretty blonde, Viola, talks to her nurse about the play at the Palace.
    • Viola doesn't like the fact that men play the ladies' roles.
    • The nurse points out that Lord Wessex was eyeballing her, but Viola thinks men are just after her money. She wants only true love. "Like a riot in the heart." That sounds dangerous.
  • Scene 5

    Scene 5

    • The next morning, Henslowe is dragged away by the loan sharks.
    • His money troubles are getting worse, because theatres have been closed by the plague.
    • A bell crier in the square announces that the theatres have reopened. Wow, shortest plague ever.
    • The loan sharks let Henslowe go, and he runs to Shakespeare's apartment.
    • Will has wonderful news: Romeo and Rosaline, Scene 1.
    • He runs to deliver to Burbage, and he finds Rosaline in bed with another man: Mr. Tilney, the Master of Revels.
    • Will says that Burbage has just lost the play, and that Rosaline won't be immortalized in it either.
    • Dejected, Will leaves and throws the play into a fire.
    • In a tavern, Henslowe recruits actors for the new play, which Will tells him is almost finished.
    • Will sits at the bar, where he's addressed by Kit Marlowe, another playwright.
    • Kit says he has a new play almost finished: The Massacre of Paris.
    • Good title, especially when compared to Romeo and Ethel, The Pirate's Daughter.
    • Will admits he hasn't written a word of it.
    • Kit gives him a couple of story ideas: Will loves the daughter of an enemy, his best friend is killed in a duel, etc. Hmm… that sounds familiar.
  • Scene 6

    Scene 6

    • At the theatre, Henslowe conducts auditions.
    • Will says he didn't see any of them fitting the role of Romeo.
    • One last actor comes in: Thomas Kent.
    • "Thomas" is actually Viola in men's clothing.
    • She delivers a monologue different than all the other actors.
    • Will wants her to take off her hat. She recognizes him as Master Shakespeare, and she runs away before he can see her without her hat.
    • He chases her through the theatre and the village. She runs fast.
    • She gets into a boat, and Will jumps into another, ordering the rower, "Follow that boat!"
    • A slow-speed boat chase ensues. If you're hoping for fast speedboats and explosions, you're watching the wrong movie.
    • Viola returns home, and Will chases her right into the house.
    • In her bedroom, Viola's snooty mother is wondering where she is.
    • She enters calm and composed in her normal clothes.
    • Will knocks on the door and demands to see Master Thomas Kent, the actor.
    • The nurse says Master Kent is her nephew.
    • Will gives the nurse a note to give to Kent, about the role of Romeo.
    • That evening, Viola reads the notes for the role in her bedroom.
    • Conveniently, her parents are leaving town, which gives Viola the freedom to dress as a boy and take the role of her dreams.
    • Will leaves the estate as Lord Wessex gallops in on a horse.
    • There's a party and Will is going to crash it.
  • Scene 7

    Scene 7

    • At the party, Will sneaks in to find Thomas Kent.
    • Meanwhile, Wessex is bargaining with Viola's father for her hand in marriage… and her uterus. "Does she breed?" he asks. Ew.
    • When Viola starts dancing, Will is entranced by her.
    • He joins the dance with the intention of getting closer to her.
    • When he becomes her partner, she sees that it's Master Shakespeare, and she becomes breathless.
    • Then the partners switch, and Viola must join hands with Lord Wessex. She is clearly uninterested in Lord Creepy.
    • She returns to Shakespeare and stops dancing to talk to him. We're surprised no one bumps into them.
    • Wessex pulls Shakespeare from the dance floor and pulls a knife on him, accusing The Bard of coveting his property.
    • Will gives his name as "Christopher Marlowe" and flees the dance. Very sneaky.
  • Scene 8

    Scene 8

    • On her balcony, Viola practices the lines from Shakespeare's new play…
    • …when suddenly Shakespeare shows up below her balcony.
    • They engage in some intense whispering about plays and poetry, and she compliments him as a writer of high esteem, before the nurse calls Viola away.
    • Will climbs the vines (Fiennes on vines!) and bumps into the nurse at the top of the balcony.
    • She screams, and he runs from the estate.
    • Back at his apartment, Will engages in a high-speed writing montage. Act one of the play is complete.
  • Scene 9

    Scene 9

    • The next day, Henslowe is complaining that his new play is too much whining about Rosaline, and not enough comedy.
    • Men are practicing their lines, and a young boy says he is to play Esther, the pirate's daughter.
    • But the play has changed, and Will kicks him out of the theatre.
    • Suddenly, a very dramatic actor named Ned Alleyn shows up and shouts at everyone. "You will see how genius creates a legend."
    • Will convinces the pompous actor to play Mercutio by saying that's the title of the play: Mercutio.
    • Will leaves, and bumps into the kid who was to play Ethel, the pirate's daughter.
    • He's a little creepy, feeding mice to a cat, and he says he loves plays with lots of blood. Sounds like a future serial killer… but actually he's future John Webster, a playwright who would go on to write the Elizabethan stage version of slasher movies.
    • Will returns to the theatre, and Thomas Kent enters (i.e. Gwyneth in a mustache)
    • Will gives her some instruction, and then rushes off to write Act Two. But first, a sonnet: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day…"
  • Scene 10

    Scene 10

    • Back at Viola's house, Lord Wessex is wondering where Viola is.
    • She dashes into the room wearing a gorgeous dress… and her mustache.
    • Before Wessex notices, the nurse rips the fake 'stache from her face.
    • And Wessex wipes the smile from her face when he tells her that her father sold her to him. She is to be his bride, even though she does not love him.
    • Not only that, but he has plantations in Virginia, so they'll ship off there after the wedding. Only for three or four years.
    • He gives her a really awkward kiss and she slaps him.
    • Because Lord Wessex is a Lord, the Queen wants to inspect his new bride, so she will have to meet the Queen.
    • Viola's regretfully writes a letter to Will, telling him to forget her. Her tears are going to run the ink.
  • Scene 11

    Scene 11

    • At the theatre, all the actors dance with one another.
    • A woman is pretending to be a man to play Romeo, and a man is playing Juliet. Crazy.
    • Ned Alleyn yells at Viola, err… "Thomas," that she… err, he is dancing too femininely.
    • Will arrives and Alleyn talks to him about his character, Mercutio.
    • Alleyn likes the speech, but not that he disappears for most of the play.
    • Will delivers Alleyn new scenes for his character, Mercutio. Very dramatic stuff—a speech, a swordfight.
    • But then he dies. Hmm. Alleyn isn't sure how he feels about dying.
    • In the evening, Will joins Thomas on a boat. Thomas delivers the break-up note from Viola (remember: Thomas is Viola)
    • Will asks Thomas for advice, and Thomas tells him to do what she says.
    • He doesn't want to. He loves her, "Like a sickness, and like its cure together."
    • He talks about how gorgeous her eyes and lips are… while looking directly at her eyes and lips and not seeming to realize it.
    • And he talks about her amazing her bosom is, too (guytalk has not changed since the 16th century it seems).
    • Thomas says that Will and Viola can't marry because of class differences.
    • He says that's a load of hooey, and he will defy Wessex to marry her.
    • So Thomas kisses him.
    • He's in shock as the boat docks at Viola's estate, and the dockworker greets Thomas as "my lady."
    • Finally, Will realizes that Thomas is Viola.
  • Scene 12

    Scene 12

    • Will sneaks into Viola's bedroom and they make out hardcore.
    • In the hall, the nurse hears gasps of pleasure coming from Viola's room.
    • So she pulls up a chair and sits and listens.
    • In Viola's bedroom, Will undoes the cloth binding her breasts and takes her to bed.
    • Meanwhile, the nurse fans herself furiously as the bed creaks.
    • In the morning, Viola kicks Will out of her room.
    • He needs to write, and she doesn't want to be without a scene for the day.
  • Scene 13

    Scene 13

    • The actor's practice Will's new scenes.
    • "Thomas" misses a line while gazing lovingly at Will, and Ned yells at him.
    • Then Will gets a little jealous when Romeo kisses Juliet, so he steps in to kiss Romeo himself.
    • As the actors practice, Will and "Thomas" find time to sneak away and make out whenever possible.
    • Inspired, Will returns to his room for more writing. "What light through yonder window breaks…"
    • That night, Viola reads the new text and she loves it.
    • It's time for a montage of acting, writing, and doin' it—not all at the same time. No one wants ink stains on the sheets.
    • Everyone watching (the acting, not the lovemaking) is enraptured.
    • Backstage, Ned confronts Will about his minimized role in the play…
    • He's fine with it, because the play is good. And he suggests a new title: Romeo and Juliet. We guess that as an okay ring to it.
  • Scene 14

    Scene 14

    • It's Sunday, a sunny Sunday.
    • Will says he thought of an ending to the play in his sleep.
    • It's not a comedy, so the lovers won't end up together happily ever after. What could possibly happen to them?
    • Viola sits up with a gasp. Sunday! The day she is to meet to Queen.
    • Wessex is in the halls demanding the nurse to fetch Viola.
    • She has no choice, so she gets dressed to go with Wessex to meet the Queen.
    • Will says he'll go with her, but she says no. Wessex will kill him if he goes.
    • She tells him that, like Romeo and Juliet, they are not meant to be, and she leaves her room to meet Wessex.
    • And Will follows, in a nurse costume, to accompany them to Greenwich for an audience with the queen.
  • Scene 15

    Scene 15

    • The Queen asks for Viola's presence.
    • When she leaves to meet the Queen, Wessex asks Will, who is in disguise as a laundry woman, if Viola is seeing another man.
    • The very masculine laundry woman says yes, Kit Marlowe, the poet, has been hanging around.
    • Meanwhile, Viola takes her audience with the Queen.
    • "Stand up straight, girl," the Queen says when Viola bows. Charming.
    • The Queen recognizes her as the girl who attends all the plays.
    • "Do you love stories of Kings and Queen?" she asks her. "Or is it courtly love?"
    • Viola and the Queen disagree on poetry, and the rest of the audience gasps at Viola's attitude.
    • The question is this: can a play show people the essence of true love? The Queen says no, Viola says yes.
    • The Queen says she'll believe it when she sees it.
    • Then she sidles up to Wessex and tells him that Viola has been "plucked" since she last saw her, and not by Wessex. Uh-oh.
  • Scene 16

    Scene 16

    • Kit Marlowe pays a visit to Burbage, the actor, with his complete play Massacre in Paris.
    • They conduct a conversation while Burbage conducts intimate relations with Rosaline. She sure gets around.
    • Burbage tries to bargain with Marlowe, saying he bought Romeo from Shakespeare, but Marlowe tells Burbage that Will sold it to Henslowe.
    • Burbage is not happy at that "traitor and thief!" He flings Rosaline off the bed.
    • She is wearing the serpent bangle that Will gave her, and it shatters.
    • Burbage picks it up and finds Will's name written on the little scroll inside. That's a lot of traitoring for one scene.
    • At the theatre, as the actors practice their duel, Burbage and his men march across town and storm into the theatre to confront Shakespeare.
    • It's time for a real duel.
    • Swords are drawn, and men fight.
    • Viola, dressed as Thomas, hides under the stage, and Will joins her. They kiss as Fennyman puts an end to the duel by beaning Burbage in the skull with a prop skull.
  • Scene 17

    Scene 17

    • At a bawdy pub, prostitutes flirt with Viola, who is still dressed as Thomas.
    • Fennyman gives the actors a toast, and they celebrate with lots of drinking.
    • When Henslowe asks Will how the play ends, Will says he doesn't know.
    • Henslowe says he better find out, or he'll send him back to Stratford to his wife.
    • His wife. Gasp! Viola glares at him and skedaddles from the pub.
    • Before Will can chase her, a man enters the pub and tells them all that Kit Marlowe is dead. Stabbed to death in a tavern.
    • Will feels like he is responsible for Marlowe's death.
    • He staggers into the street and falls into a puddle. "God, forgive me," he whispers to the puddle.
    • Time for a prayer montage. Didn't think a prayer montage was a thing? It is now.
  • Scene 18

    Scene 18

    • Viola and Wessex pass each other on horseback.
    • She is on her way to church.
    • Wessex tells her that a great playwright is dead.
    • Viola thinks he is talking about Shakespeare, and she cries all over her horse.
    • In shock, she stands in church, supported by her nurse.
    • Will, still beaten and dirty from the duel the day before, goes into the church and points with ferocity at Wessex.
    • "Spare me, dear ghost!" he shouts, and runs from the cathedral.
    • Viola is thrilled Will is alive, and she runs to him.
    • He confesses that he is responsible for Marlowe's death, because he told Wessex his name was Marlowe.
    • Will and Viola lie by a river and chat.
    • Speaking of lying, he says it is true that he has a wife.
    • But what should it matter? Viola would never marry him anyway.
    • She says she loves him. "Beyond poetry."
    • He asks her not to marry Wessex, but she says she must, or the Queen will find out. Oh, that meddling Queen.
  • Scene 19

    Scene 19

    • Will explains the end of the play to the actors. You know how it ends.
    • Later, Will presents Viola with a complete copy of the play, which triggers another montage of line reading and lovemaking, often simultaneously.
    • The kid who was supposed to play Ethel, the pirate's daughter, spies on the two of them, and rats them out to Master Tilney, whose job is to censor plays for the public.
    • The next morning, Wessex stomps into the theatre and draws his sword.
    • A duel begins.
    • We'll summarize: Clash! Clang! Swipe! Ting!
    • Will is victorious, stabbing Wessex in the chest.
    • But, uh-oh, it's a prop sword, and it bends like rubber.
    • Will falls off the stage and staggers away.
    • He recovers and manages to disarm Wessex, declaring him the murderer of Kit Marlowe.
    • But Ned Alleyn says Wessex didn't do it. It was simply a fight over the bill, and Marlowe stabbed himself in the eye. What a way to go.
    • Will feels absolved of his guilt.
    • Wessex, leaves, but he demands to Mr. Tilney that the theatre be torn down.
    • He is aghast—aghast—that a woman is performing on the stage. "Lewdness! And unshamedfacedness!"
    • The rat boy drops a mouse onto Thomas, and he shrieks, revealing himself as Viola.
    • Tilney closes the theatre.
    • Viola leaves, and Alleyn rips up the script in Will's face.
  • Scene 20

    Scene 20

    • In her room, the now-unemployed Viola cries and won't eat.
    • In the tavern, the now-unemployed actors drink and don't eat.
    • Burbage enters the tavern, and he offers his theatre for Shakespeare's play, circumnavigating Tilney's closing of the Rose.
    • Posters are put around town advertising the play.
    • But now they don't have a Romeo. Romeo, Romeo, where art thou?
    • She's getting ready to wed Wessex, that's where Romeo is.
    • After church, Viola finds a flier advertising the play.
    • The nurse distracts Wessex while Viola sneaks away.
    • Will is backstage, dressed to play Romeo, and the play begins.
    • The man playing the narrator as a terrible stutter, but he speaks perfectly when he takes the stage.
    • That's one problem down, but there's another: Juliet's voice has changed.
    • In the balcony, Viola takes a seat. She didn't have time to change out of her fancy clothes, so she really stands out.
    • She overhears Henslowe say there is no Juliet, and she offers to play the role. The show must go on.
  • Scene 21

    Scene 21

    • The nurse calls for Juliet, and Viola takes the stage.
    • Gasp. A woman on the stage. Everyone is in shock.
    • Wessex, too, watches with surprise.
    • And Will admires Viola from backstage, his face beaming with happiness.
    • The play continues. You know how it goes. Mercutio dies in a duel.
    • Will, as Romeo, battles Tybalt and slays him.
    • Will and Viola perform Romeo and Juliet's final scene together before the big double suicide finally.
    • The friar presents the sleeping potion to Juliet.
    • And Romeo visits the apothecary, played by Fennyman, who takes his role very seriously.
    • He presents Romeo with a poison.
    • Cut to Romeo thinking Juliet is dead and drinking his poison.
    • He dies and there isn't a dry eye in the house.
    • Suddenly, Juliet sits up, and the audience gasps.
    • She finds Romeo dead.
    • She takes Romeo's dagger and stabs herself.
    • The narrator closes the play. "For never was a story of more woe" (than fans of Saving Private Ryan when this film won Best Picture instead.)
    • After a pregnant pause, the audience erupts into cheers and applause.
  • Scene 22

    Scene 22

    • The actors take their bows to a happy house.
    • But they're interrupted by Master Tilney, the censor, who plans to arrest them all.
    • But, in a shocking reveal, the Queen stands up in the audience.
    • She approaches the stage, and says this play was not an exhibition of "public lewdness." If it were, the Queen herself wouldn't be there, now would she?
    • She demands to look at Master Kent, and Viola bows like a man in front of the Queen.
    • The Queen says the illusion is remarkable.
    • "If only Lord Wessex were here," the Queen says, and Wessex tries to flee before the rat boy rats him out.
    • The Queen tells him that he lost his wager, and this play shows the very essence of true love.
    • Before she leaves, the Queen welcomes Shakespeare to Greenwich to speak with her again. We think that means she liked the play.
    • Wessex intercepts the Queen as she departs.
    • She taunts him for losing his bride so soon.
    • She tells Wessex to pay the wager of fifty pounds to Master Kent, and the Queen tells Kent to go fetch Wessex's bride from inside the playhouse.
    • Then she boards her carriage to depart.
  • Scene 23

    Scene 23

    • Kent—who is Viola, a.k.a. Lady Wessex, remember?—enters the theatre to talk to Will.
    • She doesn't want Will to stop writing.
    • She informs him that the Queen commands a comedy for Twelfth Night. What might he write?
    • Viola tells him what the plot should be. It sounds like quite the gender bender, like this movie was.
    • But she doesn't know how it will end.
    • They kiss, and she leaves to join her husband.
    • Will takes his quill and writes again. Twelfth Night Act One.
    • He imagines Viola's ship crashes, and everyone dies except her.
    • "It will be a love story," he says. If you say so, Will.
    • The end.