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A Groats-worth of research, sold for with a million of production
The tiny amount of commonly accepted speculation on the glorious Sonnets of William Shakespeare (given dubious structure in their initial collected published form leading to centuries of speculation as to what they may or may not have revealed about Shakespeare's own life) are thrown at the viewer in the first 15 minutes of this unfunny 85 minute TV fantasy from "The Open University/BBC" and shown in one of their less demanding time slots on BBC America in 2005.
It certainly is not essential that an actor portraying a famous personage actually resemble that personage, and Rupert Graves certainly bears little resemblance to William Shakespeare, so we don't have to worry over long as to whether or not the glorious Zoe Wanamaker (in her tiny role as the mother of the beautiful but unwed young Earl whose estates are in fee-tail, making his producing a male heir essential for the family) also resembles her original. In fact, almost none of the historical characters portrayed bear any resemblance to their known portraits which, in turn, leads one to question everything ELSE stated in the film, and indeed, such skepticism is warranted. Shakespeare is shown as an established playwrite and poet, yet he says his "current" play is his early collaboration, the COMEDY OF ERRORS! Out the Bard's window, the carts are calling for families to "bring out their dead" (which they certainly *did* for mass burials a century earlier at the height of the "black death," but if the plague were raging in London at the time shown, Shakespeare would have HAD no "current play" for the playhouses would have been closed down and his company touring the still plague-free provinces! In such circumstances, Shakespeare might actually have been able to see his dying son in his last days - which most historians say he did not, but then Shakespeare's contemporaries and virtually all writers who followed would have been astounded at the depiction of W.S. as the London whore-monger depicted here! The bits of production from Shakespeare's actual plays (especially the "Clowns'" Gravediggers' scene from HAMLET) are so scrimped on as to bear NO relationship to any conceivable actual performance.
Take it for what it's worth (I paid $1.99 for a DVD in a second-hand shop which was about right) and there is enough to find one can enjoy, but don't take ANY of it at face value and expect to learn anything about the Bard or Tudor/Stewart England.
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