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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First-rate period drama with outstanding performance from Rupert Graves
From the known facts of Shakespeare's life, scholarly theories and his own imagination, screenwriter and novelist William Boyd has fashioned a fine speculative drama about the creation of the Sonnets. He does this by projecting the poems' subject matter back onto the lives of two historical figures - William Shakespeare ("Will S.") and William Herbert, future Earl of...
Published on 1 Aug 2009 by Nicholas A. Deutsch

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3.0 out of 5 stars WASTE OF TIME
Impossible to rate this as it was a faulty disc and has been returned. Was a bit disappointed as far as it went before it froze, even though Rupert Graves is one of my favourite actors. Sorry.
Published 12 months ago by M. Kraus


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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First-rate period drama with outstanding performance from Rupert Graves, 1 Aug 2009
By 
Nicholas A. Deutsch (Tarrytown, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Waste of Shame: The Mystery of Shakespeare and His Sonnets [DVD] (DVD)
From the known facts of Shakespeare's life, scholarly theories and his own imagination, screenwriter and novelist William Boyd has fashioned a fine speculative drama about the creation of the Sonnets. He does this by projecting the poems' subject matter back onto the lives of two historical figures - William Shakespeare ("Will S.") and William Herbert, future Earl of Pembroke ("Will H.") - and an invented one, a Frenchwoman named Lucie (the "Dark Lady"). Yet the film is best viewed not as a "solution" to "The Mystery of Shakespeare and his Sonnets" (as the subtitle puts it) but as a fictional story focused on universal themes of love, lust, disease and mortality, and on the relationship between personal experience and artistic creativity. And while there is plenty of wit and humor, the choice of title - from Sonnet 129: "Th'expense of spirit in a waste of shame / Is lust in action..." - underlines the fundamental moral seriousness of the project.
"A Waste of Shame" is more an intimate chamber piece for three actors than a period spectacle or costume drama like "Shakespeare in Love." Fortunately, it's been cast from strength. Rupert Graves is a wonderful Will S., suggesting in many subtle ways the complex character of the "country boy" who has learned the proper way to act (in all senses of the word) in order to further his career in London. He reads (in voiceover) the fragments from the Sonnets that punctuate the film's progress beautifully, yet several of the most memorable moments are silent, allowing us to sense Will's emotions from Graves's highly expressive face. Even among his many excellent performances of the past few years - including "God on Trial," "The Waiting Room," "To Be First" and "Clapham Junction" - this is a stand-out. Tom Sturridge as Will H. projects the perfect air of adolescent androgyny in the early scenes, and finds a satisfying balance of aristocratic arrogance, seductive charm and deference to artistic talent. Indira Varma has the hardest task, since her character must be created out of whole cloth, but she manages to convey both Lucie's sexual allure and her hardheaded practicality convincingly.
The supporting cast, with roughly a dozen named roles, is also splendid, with Zoe Wanamaker a warm Countess of Pembroke and Anna Chancellor an embittered Anne Hathaway. My personal favorites, however, are Andrew Tiernan as a fiercely competitive Ben Jonson and Ian Hughes as publisher Thomas Thorpe, whose palpable dismay when Will S. brings him poems instead of a play is delightful.
John McKay has done a fine job of directing, the production is handsomely designed and shot (the DVD transfer appears first-rate), and there's an exceptional musical score by Kevin Sargeant. Way down in the credits, you will see listed as "Academic Advisor" Katherine Duncan-Jones; as editor of the current Arden Shakespeare edition of the Sonnets, she has written the best introduction to them that you could wish for. One of the many virtues of this modest but moving film is that it led me back to read these extraordinary poems again after many decades.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The expense of spirit ...", 15 May 2010
By 
Nicholas Casley (Plymouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Waste of Shame: The Mystery of Shakespeare and His Sonnets [DVD] (DVD)
"The expense of spirit in a waste of shame is lust in action; and till action lust is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame." The quote is from sonnet 129.

This 2005 BBC production was made in association with the Open University. It was a TV film that attempted to solve the mysteries of the identities of those referred to by Shakespeare in his sonnets: the fair youth and the dark lady. Despite being made for TV, it has high production values and could well have had a cinema release. (The only faux pas that I could discern was the neat and tidy brickwork of some of the houses.)

The story begins in 1596 with the death in Stratford of Shakespeare's only son, Hamnet, and ends in 1609 when the playwright hands over his manuscript of sonnets to his publisher and discusses the dedication. The story considers that the fair youth is William Herbert, "a very Adonis himself" according to his mother (played by Zoe Wanamaker), and "the master-mistress of my passion" according to Shakespeare, played convincingly by Rupert Graves. Herbert is played well by the long-legged and beautiful Tom Sturridge with a knowing smile; the dark lady is supposed to be Lucie, "a Moorish half-breed" who is French and a doxey. She is played by Indira Varma. The twist is that both of Shakespeare's loves - the fair youth and the dark lady - are themselves emotionally entwined.

I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the proposed identifications - the screenwriter is written by William Boyd - but the production is very down-to-earth compared with Hollywood's rendering of Shakespeare's life, and the film is all the better for that. (Fancy a mercury bath to cure your pox?) Much of the filming was done at Knole in Kent, which can be confusing for those who know it as the house stands in for a number of different settings. The film has a very good soundtrack by Kevin Sargent.

Alas, there are no extras.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Bard as Leopold Bloom, 8 Nov 2011
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This review is from: A Waste of Shame: The Mystery of Shakespeare and His Sonnets [DVD] (DVD)
William Boyd has written some wonderful books and screenplays. I am a bit confused about his intention here. Is he trying to say that the Bard was so disturbed by the death of his son Hamnet that he transferred his affections to William Herbert? In a purely platonic way? Does he see something of the delicate Hamnet in Herbert's feminine good looks? Boyd is walking on eggshells here. He has to play around with the traditional chronology and compress events considerably to have both the young man and the dark lady of the sonnets arrive in Shakespeare's life on practically the same day. Of course, nobody knows for sure what happened, or even if the story told in the sonnets is autobiographical, so Boyd has a perfect right to postulate what he will. But I am disappointed with his treatment. He seems to have thought he was rewriting "Ulysses," with Shakespeare as Leopold Bloom. Here was an opportunity to speculate about the great loves of Shakespeare's life, and Boyd reduces one to a son-surrogate and the other to a working mom. And poor Anne Hathaway is a henpecking shrew. The daughters play no role in this drama. It's also interesting that Boyd exalts Shakespeare to the position of poet-in-residence with the King's Men, without explaining that he also took a hand in the troop's business and acted important roles in his own and others' plays, all the while he was becoming a wealthy landowner in Stratford. This might go a ways toward explaining why the playwright didn't return to live with his family until he was ready to retire. In the film, Boyd would have you believe that everybody he knew was trying to get their favorite cash cow to leave London and effectively retire from the stage.

I also liked a lot of things about "A Waste of Shame," not the least of which was Rupert Graves' dead-on impersonation of the Bard. I also liked seeing the criminally underused Nicholas Rowe as Richard Burbage and Zoe Wanamaker as the Duchesss of Pembroke. It was Wanamaker's father, Sam, who fought to rebuild the Globe Theatre on the south bank of the Thames, where it stands today, as evidenced by its inclusion in this production. The scenes with Ben Jonson and of Shakespeare at the book stalls were also inspired. But Tom Sturridge (as Herbert) looked like a clueless generation X-er in a bad wig, and Shakespeare's attraction to Lucy (the dark Lady) was underdeveloped--what did he see in her, apart from the fact that she was working, as he was, in London in order to support a family in France? I am rating this film as high as I am because William Boyd cannot help but write a literate script, and the acting in this production (with the possible exception of Sturridge) is first-rate. I also like Boyd's use of lines from the sonnets to introduce scenes. But I remain unconvinced by the scriptwriter's major premise, that, rather than take Herbert to bed, Shakespeare only wanted to be his father.
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3.0 out of 5 stars WASTE OF TIME, 7 Dec 2013
By 
M. Kraus "Lizz" (N. Yorks England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Waste of Shame: The Mystery of Shakespeare and His Sonnets [DVD] (DVD)
Impossible to rate this as it was a faulty disc and has been returned. Was a bit disappointed as far as it went before it froze, even though Rupert Graves is one of my favourite actors. Sorry.
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19 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shame about the lead..., 18 Aug 2009
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This review is from: A Waste of Shame: The Mystery of Shakespeare and His Sonnets [DVD] (DVD)
[WARNING: CONTAINS PLOT SPOILERS]

I wish I could give this a higher mark, I really do. So why do I want to, and why can't I?

Reasons I want to give this 10/10:

- Tom Sturridge as Willian Herbert of Pembroke. A pre-Wildean Dorian Gray mixture of charm, innocence and debauchery, Sturridge carried a beam of light with him the first time he stepped into the frame. Androginously attractive and rather endearing, he made for a believable begetter of the sonnets.

- Zoe Wanamaker as the Countess of Pembroke - Sam Wanamaker, responsible for the recreation of a third Globe Theatre on the London South Bank, would be proud. Her few minutes on screen are glorious.

- Anna Chancellor as Anne Shakespeare: ex-baddie Miss Bingley from the BBC Pride and Prejudice is brilliant as the forgotten and embittered wife of a man who's a father only when it suits him, and no husband at all.

- The lavish sets, costumes and photography make for truly stunning viewing.

Reasons I want to give this a 4/10:

- Rupert Graves as William Shakespeare. I found his performance as flat, stale and unprofitable as were for Hamlet all the uses of this world. Most unsympathetic. I am aware that Shakespeare was no saint; but when you feel more sorry for the physician who has to tell Shakespeare he's got the pox than for the genius who's actually got the pox, there's a problem. The miscasting was even more glaringly obvious seeing this in the wake of an episode of the series "Will Shakespeare": Tim Curry, who with the sarky sparkle in his eye seems born to play Cristopher Marlowe, is as OTT a Shakespeare as I've ever seen - but he works. Aggrandised as his emotions might be, they feel real, unlike Graves's wooden Bard. Though I'm quite the bardolater (I'm a student of Shakespeare for crying out loud!), all I felt for the protagonist of a waste of shame was that he was a nasty little so and so; the immortal lines from the sonnets which were continually voice-overed did not manage to redeem him in the slightest.

- The tacky device of actually writing down the occasional pithy quote for us meditate upon. Patronising, and detrimental to the dramatic illusion.

In conclusion, this is a worthy addition to the neverending Mr W.H./Dark Lady debate, and a production for the most part up there with the standards one has come to expect of the BBC - shame about the wasted potential.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare from another point of view, 19 July 2009
This review is from: A Waste of Shame: The Mystery of Shakespeare and His Sonnets [DVD] (DVD)
I liked it. We don't know how much is true in the lives of past geniuses. The current account is quite convincing, though. As I said before, I liked it.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars, 15 Dec 2014
By 
Mr. Peter Dubois "duboispedro" (Pedz Essex) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Waste of Shame: The Mystery of Shakespeare and His Sonnets [DVD] (DVD)
oh lordy
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting.Well Done., 27 Nov 2012
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This review is from: A Waste of Shame: The Mystery of Shakespeare and His Sonnets [DVD] (DVD)
Collect Shakespeare in multi-media. Have, must have the largest collection of the Bard of Earth. Many great universities list this and that William Shakespeare. And they have nothing in their coffers other than a listing.

My collection is greater than Montreal, Quebec, Toronto, Ontario, Boston, Massachusetts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Chicago, Illinois, Los Angeles, California public libraries combined. And I have without a doubt more than, much more than the New York City, New York public library.

So there!
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