Shakespeare in Love (1998) Screenplay Analysis

Shakespeare in Love (1998), written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, racked up the awards 25 years ago. Let’s analyze the screenplay.

Script Formatting Notes

  • Draft Read: Undated
  • Type: Spec
  • Page Count: 120
  • Reading Speed: Medium
  • Setting(s): London, England
  • Plot Structure: Linear, Spanning multiple weeks
  • Genre(s): Love, Comedy
  • Theme(s): Biopic, Socioeconomic differences, The Monarchy, Satire
  • Protagonist Change: Moderate

Overall Thoughts

The Story of the most famous writer in the English language William Shakespeare. Well, not exactly. A dramatic play about Shakespeare writing his most famous play, Romeo and Juliet? Meta.

Script Strengths

There are countless plot devices taken from past Shakespearian plays; such as ghosts, cross-dressing and adultery. Most of them work well.

The dialogue is strong (see Dialogue section below).

Script Neutrals

None to note.

Script Weaknesses

Would it be wrong to say this just isn’t that fun of a read? It’s simply not that interesting. A period romantic comedy? Whoof.


A lighthearted biopic of a play about the greatest playwright history is certainly unique. There are some fun scenes as well, such as Shakespeare chasing Viola on his boat. Most of the story is spent in the theatre, either on stage or in the rafters. The climax isn’t as tragic or intense as one might expect, but it is certainly entertaining.


Some of the best characters in this screenplay are the supporting ones. Fennyman, the loan shark turned actor, is hilarious. The Queen, perhaps given more respect than any monarch should be given, always has good insight. The relationship between Shakespeare and Viola is of course shown through near perfect writing.

Dialogue & Pacing

There’s a decent amount of witty dialogue. See this scene (Page 23), when an actor inquires on his pay:


Ned Alleyn and the Admiral’s Men are out on tour. I need actors. Those here who are unknown will have a chance to be known.


What about the money, Mr. Henslow?


It won’t cost you a penny! Auditions in half-an-hour!

Pacing was standard; everything was built to the final performance, or climax.

Emotional Impact

Shakespeare wrote great plays, so a screenplay that uses many of his iconic elements and follows his life will surely have some level of impact. However, assessing how much of an effect this script had is a little tricky. It was a successful movie, but it is hardly mentioned these days.

Best Part of The Script

The fight scene on Page 77 is entertaining, mostly due to its farcical setup.