At the end of the film, Shakespeare finds his muse for all time? Who, or what, is it/him/her?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To a great extent, the reclamation of Shakespeare's muse at the end of Shakespeare in Love is of vital importance.  The narrative opens with Shakespeare suffering from an intense case of writer's block.  He struggles to find anything to hold on to both in his life and in his work.  He resembles his meandering character- to- be in Romeo.  Shakespeare is honest enough to admit to his colleague/ rival Marlowe that he struggles with writer's block: "Well, there's this pirate. - In truth I have not written a word."  He considers himself a "lowly player" primarily because in both his life and his work, Shakespeare is shown to be lost.  Shakespeare's despondency has resulted in the lack of a muse, or inspirational figure, in both life and art.

Through his relationship with Viola, there is redemption and restoration in both art and life.  Shakespeare is shown to possess regenerative powers in terms of his art when he falls in love with Viola.  He experiences spiritual rebirth as well as creative development in terms of his play, one in which he is able to shed the notion of the pirate.  He recognizes clearly that his play becomes one in which there is an exploration of "the very truth and nature of love."  It comes as no accident that Shakespeare is able to offer this declaration to Wessex, who is intended to wed Viola.  As the story reaches its end, Shakespeare finds unity in the premiere of his work.  He plays Romeo and Juliet is portrayed by Viola. This represents an instant of unity between life and art.  The kiss and love shared by both on stage is reflective of the feelings that each have for one another in their own hearts.  Shakespeare has found his muse, his reason for writing, and the source of his inspiration.

This unity where artist and human being are both fulfilled is the reason why Viola becomes his muse.  Broken by their separation, Shakespeare suggests clearly that Viola has become his muse, one that he will immortalize in his art:

My story starts at sea, a perilous voyage to an unknown land. A shipwreck. The wild waters roar and heave. The brave vessel is dashed all to pieces. And all the helpless souls within her drowned. All save one. A lady. Whose soul is greater than the ocean, and her spirit stronger than the sea's embrace. Not for her a watery end, but a new life beginning on a stranger shore. It will be a love story. For she will be my heroine for all time. And her name will be Viola.

The "perilous voyage to an unknown land" is representative of the journey that Viola must make without him and the life he must lead without her.  It becomes clear that Viola is his muse because Shakespeare's writer's block is gone. As Shakespeare has found what it means to love, he also recognizes that immortalizing her through his art will make both his love and his muse eternal.  As "she will be my heroine for all time," it becomes clear that Shakespeare has found his muse in Viola.

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