In Shakespeare in Love, Judi Dench famously gives one of the shortest performances ever to win the Oscar – as the legendary monarch Elizabeth I, she has only three short appearances. But, as the saying goes, there are no small parts – and Judi Dench proved that even only a couple of minutes on the screen can be turned into cinema gold.Judi Dench is one of those British actresses that can command the screen with the greatest ease, make everything look both natural and impressive and can do more with one look than others with tons of dialogue. Especially in the small role of Elizabeth I, all these qualities are a big advantage for her. Not a single second is there a doubt that Elizabeth I is indeed one of the most powerful monarchs in the world. And also not a single second is there a doubt that this woman is much, much, much more than visible in the few moments on the screen.
Judi Dench’s appearance in Shakespeare in Love benefits from the fact that her three scenes are strategically very well placed – at the beginning, in the middle and at the end. This way, her presence, even though never of importance in all the scenes without her, is never completely forgotten.
While her first scene is rather meaningless it still establishes the character of Elizabeth I and helps Judi Dench to build the foundation on which her later scenes are based. Her second scene only strengthens the impressions the audience has gotten earlier – that this woman possess strength and power like nobody else. With only a few looks, she is able to command a room full of people and make Viola look like the biggest fool. Judi Dench wonderful line delivery helps her to achieve maximum results in this scene. And who can forget her delivery of the line ‘She’s been plugged since I saw her last and not by you. Takes a woman to know it’?
Her best moments are in the end, when her character basically solves all the problems (not necessarily to the happiness of all) and brings everything to an end. And again she shows her talents for filling every bit of dialogue with life and energy when she says ‘But I know something of a woman in a man’s profession. Yes, by God, I do know about that.’
Judi Dench took a true supporting role and used it to steal every scene she is in.