There is a scene in Kenneth Branagh’s British film, All is True, where the earl of Southampton (Ian McKellen) tells William Shakespeare (Branagh) that The Bard has lived ‘a small life’. As the Southampton points out snidely, there have been no scandals in Shakespeare’s backstory, no drunken gallivanting on the Continent or tempers flaring in taverns over misconstrued sonnets. Yet, as uncontroversial as Shakespeare’s life may have been – first as a hard-working actor, playwright, and theatre proprietor in London and later as a retiree in Stratford-upon-Avon – his life after death has been positively eventful. Under Branagh’s direction, Shakespeare’s rather unremarkable domestic set-up – a dutiful wife and two daughters – has been freighted with dramatic tension and subjected to great embellishment on screen.
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