In director John Madden's film Shakespeare in Love, what does Shakespeare first do to try to help himself with his failure to find inspiration? Where or with whom does he find inspiration?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In director John Madden's film Shakespeare in Love, Shakespeare at first fails miserably to relieve the writer's block he encounters while writing his fictional comedy Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter. The only help he seems to seek to try and relieve the writer's block is talking to a therapist and declaring, "It's as if my quill has broken" (as cited in Maslin, "Shakespeare Saw a Therapist?"). However, things change when wealthy Viola De Lesseps, a huge fan of Shakespeare's, disguises herself as a youth named Thomas Kent to audition for the incomplete play but then immediately runs away. Shakespeare pursues Kent to Viola De Lesseps' house where a ball is being given so that Viola's parents can arrange her betrothal to Lord Wessex. Shakespeare sneaks into the house and, while dancing with Viola, falls in love at first sight, much like the famous character Romeo falls in love with Juliet, showing us the hypothetical source of Shakespeare's inspiration for Romeo and Juliet. When Viola learns that Shakespeare is married though separated from his wife, and Shakespeare learns Viola is betrothed to Lord Wessex, they start an affair. At the start of the affair, Shakespeare works furiously with his friend and fellow playwright Christopher Marlowe to rewrite the comedy Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter into what we know as the famous tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Hence, based on the fictional movie, it is Viola who becomes Shakespeare's inspiration to write Romeo and Juliet.

By the end of the play, it's clear that Viola will continue to inspire Shakespeare throughout his life due to her strength of character and willingness to be different from the rest of society. Immediately after her wedding, Viola runs away to see the opening night of Romeo and Juliet expecting to merely sneak in as an audience member; however, when she learns that the boy who is playing Juliet is indisposed, Viola presents herself as being able to take his place, despite Edmund Tilney's threat to close the theater due to breaking the ban prohibiting women from performing in theater. Viola's performance as Juliet is a smash success until Tilney comes to arrest Shakespeare's whole company for "indecency" ("Shakespeare in Love"). However, Queen Elizabeth I is in the audience and, also recognizing Viola's strength of character and independent spirit and how they match her own, restrains Tilney from making arrests, then orders Viola as Thomas Kent to go and find Viola and get her ready to set sail with her husband Lord Wessex to the Colony of Virgnia ("Shakespeare in Love"). Hence, in the end, Shakespeare must say goodbye to Viola; however, she continues to inspire him, as we see in his final line, "For she will be my heroine for all time, and her name will be ... Viola," which happens to be the name of the equally independent and spirited heroine in Twelfth Night, Or What You Will.

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