“Shakespeare In Love” is a completely made up story: a rollicking, laugh-filled fantasy. But the depiction of the Elizabethan theater world has a ring of truth; it was a very competitive market with plays being performed 7 days a week at 2pm, rain or shine. Theaters were competing for audiences and play-goers who expected novelty and knockout stories. People from all walks of life poured through the theatre gates craving the rich language of puns, snappy dialogue and divine poetry. And since 80% of Elizabethans couldn’t read, they really valued the sounds and feelings of spoken words. In fact, these audiences were so sophisticated in spoken language that in everyday conversation people were trying to outdo each other with puns, oddball phrasing, dialects, curses and witticisms. Working class people and the educated all had a lively respect for the well-spoken. Since so few could read, plays needed to be saturated with surprising dialogue and kick-in the-pants wit. Playgoers in those days actually said, “We’re going to hear a play by Master Shakespeare.” Today, we would say “see a play”.
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