People are often surprised to learn how little historians know about the most celebrated playwright of the English language, William Shakespeare. Frustrated by the lack of information, some writers have chosen to indulge in conjecture by weaving tales of historical fiction into the knowledge gaps.
One example of such conjecture is the movie "Shakespeare in Love" (1998). In this steamy romance, Shakespeare finds his inspiration for the play "Romeo and Juliet" after falling in love with a young lady who aspires to be an actress. But historians have no reason to think that such a romance inspired Shakespeare's well-known tragedy. In fact, Shakespeare adapted the play's plot from other sources, so the idea that he developed the story gradually and hadn't figured out the tragic ending by the time he was writing the middle (as the film depicts) is highly unlikely.
There is the respected suspicion, however, that a woman of dark complexion -- known to scholars as the Dark Lady -- inspired many of his sonnets. Hence, critics question why the filmmakers didn't instead focus on this more likely romance. On a related note of inaccuracy, some take issue that the movie features no black characters in a time when London had a significant black population [source: Monk].
Others are quicker to forgive the inaccuracy of this film because it's also replete with winking anachronisms. If viewers catch on to these subtle in-jokes, they're probably less likely to take the rest of it seriously and walk away with mistaken ideas about Shakespeare.