Anonymous speculates that William Shakespeare didn’t write his plays and offers a theory that the 17th Earl of Oxford did. Though I don’t buy this idea because I do think genius springs up in all classes, I do love historical and even speculative historical fiction enough to enjoy a film that has an interesting theory.
For a couple hours it was worth it to put aside my beliefs and enjoy rich costumes, romantic landscapes of yore, even the muddy ones and bold dialog (though it wasn’t as Shakespearean as Elizabeth Rex‘s dialog). The thesis put forth is that the Earl of Oxford had the education and background that William Shakespeare lacked and he wrote plays to influence Elizabeth as she ruled the British empire. The implication is that a woman wouldn’t have been wise enough to rule as successful on her own. Well, I don’t buy that, but I did find it interesting to see what this screenwriter believed as the story takes a lot of interesting twists.
I will quibble with the portrayal of William Shakespeare. Here he’s a buffoon and one that’s a far cry from say the jester in King Lear. In fact, we’re told that although he can read, he can’t write. Poppycock. Writing isn’t hard and in a week Asian students have the alphabet down. We know Shakespeare went to grammar school and unless his hand was injured during that entire period, someone would have taught him how to actually write letter.
The film proposes that the 17th Earl of Oxford was the real Bard. In the film this earl was very stately, but for the life of me I can’t recall a line of dialog he said. Now if a film wants to depict the real Shakespeare, shouldn’t that character be eloquent, someone who’s conversation is memorable? That’s why the film failed. I wasn’t convinced that because this man was well dressed and was given a good education, that he was a genius. Genius isn’t that well hidden.
The political intrigue gets complicated, but not impossible to follow. But then I’d seen Elizabeth Rex recently so I knew about the intrigue and the Earl of Essex‘s execution. I do wish someone, perhaps a woman, would write a play about Elizabeth that isn’t so skeptical of her ability to lead.
- William Shakespeare (integrated4.wordpress.com)
- Anonymous: Roger Ebert’s review
- 10 Things I Hate about Anonymous
- Macbeth by William Shakespeare : A Character Review! (vikramroyblog.wordpress.com)
- Anonymous 2: This Time It’s Anonymous (skepticalhumanities.com)
- Fr. Joseph Fessio and Joseph Pearce discuss, “Who really was William Shakespeare?” (insightscoop.typepad.com)
- The Real Bard (ourtownbooks.com)
- The Shakespearian Authorship Question (abbieprescott.wordpress.com)
- Juliet’s Soliloquy (by William Shakespeare) (tranceworldnow.wordpress.com)
- Review: Anonymous (2011) (thefilmoracle.wordpress.com)
- Anonymous and Oxfordianism (biancasteele.typepad.com)
I saw this movie last fall, before it was in general release. I liked the movie, but I thought the theory was ridiculous. At the screening I attended, there was a discussion between a Shakespearean expert (I really should remember who, since he’s written several books) and Roland Emmerich. Emmerich was laughable in his insistence the Edward de Vere was the author of the plays, but then he kept saying how they had to change things in the movie — items that made his theory fall apart. I was a bit glad that this fizzled at the box office so that there aren’t thousands of people who now accept this hogwash about the Earl of Oxford.
I did like the costumes and scenery though. And there were a few witty lines, although I forgot them before I arrived home that evening.
I’m with you. I envisioned thousands of high school students gobbling up this theory without examining the evidence. Not just high school students, but I can see the film having an allure to the those who like an idea just because it’s new and refutes what’s generally accepted.
Nice post, I recently wrote a post on the subject:
Some bright people give the De vere theory some credit…… but I can only ever come back to the fact that the “evidence” is all speculative and thus not evidence at all.
Thanks for your opinion on this movie as I haven’t seen it yet but plan to do so. I don’t go along with the conspiracy theory either but I knew I would enjoy the costumes and setting. I am reading “A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare (1599) “by James Shapiro. He interweaves history, biography and literary criticism.
Shapiro’s book sounds fascinating. I’m adding it to my reading list.