Despite the volumes of his writing available to modern scholars, William Shakespeare still remains something of a mystery. Who was he? Why did he devote so much of his life to writing so much of what he did? Even though he’s best known for the comedies, tragedies, and histories he’s left behind, quite a bit of speculation has plumbed what love (or is that ‘loves’?) was behind Shakespeare’s sonnets, and A WASTE OF SHAME tries to put a face and an explanation to that puzzle.
Does it do so effectively? Well, you’ll have to read on for that.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
126 of the Shakespearean sonnets are addressed to a “Fair Youth,” while 26 are directed at a “Dark Lady.” Just who were these influences on perhaps the greatest playwright in history? A WASTE OF SHAME posits that Will (played by the reliable Rubert Graves) was consumed with a forbidden passion for another man – William Herbert, a nobleman – while being sexually obsessed with Lucie (Indira Varma), a tavern harlot who resembled the man. The bard’s heart is understandably broken when he finds that these two driven into one another’s arms instead of his, but, sadly, that’s otherwise about all there is to this tale of two prissies.
SHAME’s highpoints involve the period detail, which is exquisite. The 16th Century looks as raw here as it undoubtedly was for those who lived it. In between the filth, the plagues, and the general debauchery, there’s two jilted love stories – three, if you count Shakespeare’s own tragic marriage with the rest – that are used to make some of the finer points the man made about love with this sonnets. Sadly, the scenes don’t play out with much depth – Shakespeare looks enraptured, Shakespeare looks glum, Shakespeare looks conflicted – and I honestly expected a bit more from something exploring the words of such a renowned writer.
About the best that can be said is that WASTE isn’t entirely a waste; it’s a reasonably entertainment way to spend 90 minutes being transported back to the 16th century. About the worst? Well, am I the only one who found it entirely creepy that Lucie and Will (Herbert) looked so much alike? Besides Shakespeare, I mean?
A WASTE OF SHAME (2005) is produced by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC). DVD distribution for this release is being handled through BFS Entertainment & Multimedia Ltd. As for the technical specifications? Well, it all looks and sounds very solid throughout. As for the special features? Well, there weren’t any, and I would’ve liked something – even a cursory ‘making of’ – that explored the production’s technical details, but, alas, this “to be or not to be” was a not to be.
RECOMMENDED. Lush production values and convincing performances are really the best reasons to enjoy this twist of William Shakespeare and his sonnets, though I didn’t find what A WASTE OF SHAME postulates all that intriguing. In the end, it’s the story of people not finding love (or finding it too late or decidedly in the wrong places), and it’s given the usual poetic narrative that could be found in any one of the bard’s great romantic works. Still, it’s lack of insight into the man – most of the focus is here on the deeds of others that he finds himself caught up in – hamstrings the story from finding greater glory … or maybe that’s just what it intended.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at BFS Entertainment & Multimedia Ltd. provided me with a DVD copy of A WASTE OF SHAME by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.