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A young Shakespeare, out of ideas and short of cash, meets his ideal woman and is inspired to write one of his most famous plays.
[Saying their goodbyes] William Shakespeare: You will never age for me, nor fade, nor die.
[last lines] William Shakespeare: 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.
Philip Henslowe: Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster. Hugh Fennyman: So what do we do? Philip Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well. Hugh Fennyman: How? Philip Henslowe: I don't know. It's a mystery.
Viola de Lesseps: [as Thomas Kent] Tell me how you love her, Will. William Shakespeare: Like a sickness and its cure together.
Viola De Lesseps: I have never undressed a man before. William Shakespeare: It is strange to me, too.
Queen Elizabeth: I know something of a woman in a man's profession. Yes, by God, I do know about that.
William Shakespeare: Can you love a fool? Viola De Lesseps: Can you love a player?
Viola De Lesseps: You have never spoken so well of him before. William Shakespeare: He was not dead before.
Nurse: Lord Wessex was looking at you tonight. Viola De Lesseps: All the men at court are without poetry. If they see me, they see my father's fortune, I - will have poetry in my life. And adventure. And love. Love above all. Nurse: Not Valentine and Sylvia. Viola De Lesseps: No! Not the artful postures of love, but love that overthrows life. Unbiddable, ungovernable, like a riot in the heart, and nothing to be done, come ruin or rapture. Love as there has never been in a play. I will have love. Or I will end my days as a... Nurse: As a nurse? Viola De Lesseps: Oh, but I will be Valentine and Sylvia too. Oh, good nurse, God save you and good night.
Viola De Lesseps: Master Shakespeare? William Shakespeare: The same, alas. Viola De Lesseps: Oh, but why "alas"? William Shakespeare: A lowly player. Viola De Lesseps: Alas indeed, for I thought you the highest poet of my esteem and writer of plays that capture my heart. William Shakespeare: Oh - I am him too!
Hugh Fennyman: Uh, one moment, sir. Ned Alleyn: Who are you? Hugh Fennyman: I'm, uh... I'm the money. Ned Alleyn: Then you may remain so long as you remain silent.
Philip Henslowe: [Repeated line] I don't know. It's a mystery.
Queen Elizabeth: You are an eager boy. Did you like the play? John Webster: I liked it when she stabbed herself, Your Majesty.
Viola De Lesseps: [as Juliet] I do remember well where I should be, and there I am - where is my Romeo? Nurse: [shouting from the audience] Dead!
Lord Wessex: I have spoken with your father. Viola De Lesseps: So, my lord? I speak with him every day.
Richard Burbage: The Master of the Revels despises us all for vagrants and peddlers of bombast. But my father, James Burbage, had the first license to make a company of players from Her Majesty, and he drew from poets the literature of the age. We must show them that we are men of parts. Will Shakespeare has a play. I have a theatre. The Curtain is yours.
Philip Henslowe: The show must... you know... William Shakespeare: [prompting him] Go on!
William Shakespeare: I'm done with theater. The playhouse is for dreamers. Look what the dream brought us. Viola De Lesseps: It was we ourselves did that. And for my life to come, I would not have it otherwise.
William Shakespeare: You, sir, are a gentleman. Ned Alleyn: And you, sir, are a Warwickshire shithouse.
Viola De Lesseps: This is not life, Will. It is a stolen season.
Philip Henslowe: Let us have pirates, clowns, and a happy ending, or we shall send you back to Stratford to your wife!
Lord Wessex: Is she obedient? Sir Robert de Lesseps: As any mule in Christendom - but if you are the man to ride her, there are rubies in the saddlebag. Lord Wessex: I like her!
Viola De Lesseps: Good morning, my lord. I see you are open for business - so let's to church.
[first lines] Philip Henslowe: [screams in pain] Hugh Fennyman: Henslowe! Do you know what happens to a man who doesn't pay his debts? His boots catch fire! Philip Henslowe: [screams] Hugh Fennyman: Why do you howl when it is I who am bitten?
Hugh Fennyman: How much is that, Mr Frees? Frees: Twenty pounds to the penny, Mr. Fennyman. Hugh Fennyman: Correct. Philip Henslowe: But I have to pay the actors and the author. Hugh Fennyman: Share of the profits. Philip Henslowe: There's never any. Hugh Fennyman: Of course not. Philip Henslowe: Oh, oh, Mr. Fennyman. I think you might have hit upon something.
William Shakespeare: Follow that boat! First Boatman: Right you are, guv'nor!... I know your face. Are you an actor? William Shakespeare: [oh God, here we go again] Yes. First Boatman: Yes, I've seen you in something. That one about a king. William Shakespeare: Really? First Boatman: I had that Christopher Marlowe in my boat once.
William Shakespeare: You see? The comsumptives plot against me. "Will Shakespeare has a play, let us go and cough through it."
William Shakespeare: Good title. Christopher Marlowe: Yours? William Shakespeare: "Romeo and Ethel the Pirate's Daughter". - Oh, yes, I know, I know. Christopher Marlowe: What is the story? William Shakespeare: Well, there's this pirate. - In truth I have not written a word.
Ned Alleyn: [on learning the fate of his character] He dies?
William Shakespeare: You still owe me for One Gentleman of Verona.
Queen Elizabeth: [to Lord Wessex, about Viola] Have her, then, but you are a lordly fool. She's been plucked since I saw her last, and not by you.
William Shakespeare: My muse, as always, is Aphrodite. Philip Henslowe: Aphrodite Baggett, who does it behind the Dog and Crumpet?
Philip Henslowe: Will! Where is my play? Tell me you have it nearly done! Tell me you have it started. [desperately] Philip Henslowe: You have begun? William Shakespeare: [struggling with his boots] Doubt that the stars are fire, doubt that the sun doth move. Philip Henslowe: No, no, we haven't the time. Talk prose.
[about Marlowe's death in a tavern] Ned Alleyn: A quarrel about the bill. Philip Henslowe: The bill! Ah, vanity, vanity! Ned Alleyn: Not the billing - the BILL!
[on first hearing the tragic ending to Romeo and Juliet] Philip Henslowe: Well, that would have them rolling in the aisles.
Ned Alleyn: [singing the stage directions] Gentlemen upstage; ladies downstage... Are you a lady Mr. Kent?
William Shakespeare: His name is Mercutio. Ned Alleyn: What's the name of the play? William Shakespeare: Mercutio. Philip Henslowe: It is? William Shakespeare: Shh!
Philip Henslowe: You see - comedy. Love, and a bit with a dog. That's what they want.
Viola De Lesseps: Good sir? I heard you were a poet. But a poet of no words?
Ned Alleyn: Pay attention and you will see how genius creates a legend.
Tilney: That woman is a woman!
Queen Elizabeth: Mr. Tilney! Have a care with my name - you will wear it out!
Queen Elizabeth: And tell Master Shakespeare, something more cheerful next time, for Twelfth Night.
Lord Wessex: I cannot shed blood in her house, but I will cut your throat anon. Do you have a name? William Shakespeare: Christopher Marlowe, at your service.
Viola de Lesseps: At sea, then - a voyage to a new world?... she lands upon a vast and empty shore. She is brought to the duke... Orsino. William Shakespeare: Orsino... good name.
[after sex] Viola De Lesseps: I would not have thought it: there IS something better than a play! William Shakespeare: There is. Viola De Lesseps: Even your play. William Shakespeare: Hmm? Viola De Lesseps: And that was only my first try.
Christopher Marlowe: His best friend is killed in a duel by Ethel's brother or something. His name is Mercutio. William Shakespeare: Mercutio... good name.
Viola De Lesseps: I love you, Will, beyond poetry.
Queen Elizabeth: Playwrights teach us nothing about love. They make it pretty, they make it comical, or they make it lust, but they cannot make it true. Viola De Lesseps: Oh, but they can!
Queen Elizabeth: Fifty pounds! A very worthy sum on a very worthy question. Can a play show us the very truth and nature of love? I bear witness to the wager, and will be the judge of it as occasion arises. I have not seen anything to settle it yet.
Philip Henslowe: I'm a dead man and buggered to boot!
Queen Elizabeth: [after inspecting Viola] Have her then, but you're a lordly fool. She's been plucked since I saw her last, and not by you... it takes a woman to know it. Lord Wessex: [angrily] Marlowe!
Viola De Lesseps: It is a house of ill repute! William Shakespeare: It is, Thomas, but of good reputation. Come, there's no harm in a drink!
[first title cards] Title card: London 1593 Title card: In the glory days of the Elizabethan Theatre two playhouses were fighting it out for writers and audiences. Title card: North of the city was the Curtain Theatre, home to England's most famous actor, Richard Burbage. Title card: Across the river was the competition, built by Philip Henslowe, a businessman with a cash flow problem... Title card: ...the Rose...
Tilney: [paying Webster for having tipped him off] You will do well, I fear.
William Shakespeare: Love knows nothing of rank or river bank.
Hugh Fennyman: [In a tavern-brothel, to the acting company] A famous victory! Kegs and legs open, and on the house! Oh, what happy hour.
Viola De Lesseps: I loved a writer and gave up the prize for a sonnet. William Shakespeare: I was the more deceived. Viola De Lesseps: Yes, you were deceived, for I did not know how much I loved you.
[Whispering at Viola's bedroom door] Nurse: My lady, the house is stirring. It is a new day. Viola De Lesseps: It is a new WORLD.
William Shakespeare: A broad river divides my lovers: family, duty, fate. As unchangeable as nature.
Viola de Lesseps: I would stay asleep my whole life, if I could dream myself into a company of players.
Viola De Lesseps: [that she, as Thomas Kent, is actually a woman] Nobody knew. John Webster: [pointing to Will] He did! I saw him kissing her bubbies.
William Shakespeare: It is not a comedy I'm writing now.
Viola de Lesseps: Nurse, as I love you and you love me, you will bind my breast and buy me a boy's wig.
Makepeace, the Preacher: [protesting outside The Rose] Licentiousness is made a show! Vanity and pride are likewise made a show! This is the very business of show!
Lord Wessex: How is this to end? Queen Elizabeth: As stories must when love's denied: with tears and a journey.
Christopher Marlowe: I thought your play was for Burbage. William Shakespeare: This is a different one. Christopher Marlowe: A different one you haven't written?
William Shakespeare: I have a wife, yes, and I cannot marry the daughter of Sir Robert De Lesseps. You needed no wife come from Stratford to tell you that, and yet, you let me come to your bed. Viola De Lesseps: Calf-love. I loved the writer and gave up the prize for a sonnet.
William Shakespeare: Love denied blights the soul we owe to God.
Viola De Lesseps: Write me well.
Lord Wessex: My lady, the tide waits for no man, but I swear it would wait for you.
Third Auditioneer: [after every auditioneer has recited "Faustus"] I would like to give you something from "Faustus." Philip Henslowe: [exasperated] How refreshing!
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