Home Movies New Shakespeare Film: The Really Bad News, and A Little Good News

Roland Emmerich’s “Anonymous” opens this week. It should be called “Preposterous.” The film makes a case that William Shakespeare didn’t write his plays. Instead, the Earl of Oxford, aka Edward DeVere, is put forth as the playwright. Shakespeare is merely a stooge, who fronts for someone else. Yes, it convoluted. It makes no sense. And in “Anonymous,” DeVere is also the bastard son of Queen Elizabeth I. This is the very bad news.

Shakespeare’s scholarly defenders are on the rampage about the movie, weighing in everywhere, especially the New York Times. I will give you two excellent links that discuss this mess. One was from yesterday’s Times Magazine, which rightly lays out a time line that makes the whole thing impossible. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/magazine/wouldnt-it-be-cool-if-shakespeare-wasnt-shakespeare.html?src=me&ref=magazine. The other is from the paper itself. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/17/opinion/hollywood-dishonors-the-bard.html?_r=1&scp=3&sq=shakespeare&st=cse

Honestly, “Anonymous” would seem like a total waste of time except for the actors. Rhys Ifans plays DeVere, and it’s hist first real stab at playing an adult, a person of substance, and nobility. He’s quite wonderful. So are Vanessa Redgrave and her real life actress daughter Joely Richardson playing Elizabeth as an older and younger ruler, respectively. I was especially impressed with Richardson, who has for too laboted in the shadows of her famous family. She’s just great.

And there’s more: Edward Hogg is a real find as Robert Cecil, scowling and scheming around the court. Rafe Spall, son of Timothy Spall, is a fun young Shakespeare. Most especially, there are two major cameos by the Tony Award winning Mark Rylance that make up for all the movie’s crazy historical deficiencies.

But holy moley: what a mess is “Anonymous.” It’s absolutely useless as a historic artifact, taking liberties in every scene. Then there’s the script, which is not possible to follow without GPS. When Ifans, the Redgraves, or Rylance turn up you want to ask them for directions. Listen, kids, Shakespeare wrote his plays and sonnets. Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK. And Roland Emmerich, a nice man, should stick to disaster movies. Even the aliens from “Independence Day,” his best film, knew “Romeo and Juliet” and “Macbeth” were not written in one week.

4 replies to this post
  1. I don’t take Oxfordianism seriously, but the fact is this film doesn’t make any case for Oxford’s authorship, it just assumes it and spins a tale form there. The storyline front Shakespeare In Love was no more historical, and nobody complained about that. Taken as fiction (or wild speculation) it’s a watchable movie.

  2. Sorry brother, you are the wrongo, and in crowded company at that. I can see the Shakespeare establishment is trying propaganda overkill, and the major media is playing along. James Shapiro’s and Stephen Marche’s op-ed’s in the New York Times were atrocities of disinformation. Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford at age twelve wrote Romeus and Juliet, a child’s version of what later became Romeo and Juliet. At sixteen he wrote The Tragedie of the Kinge of Scottes, which much later in his writing career became Macbeth. While at University at sixteen he wrote Palomon and Arcite, from Chaucer. It languished until Fletcher added a subplot after Oxford died and it was published in 1634 as Two Noble Kinsmen. He went to Venice in 1575 and when he returned produced Portio or The Jew at Court. In 1600 this was The Merchant of Venice. He wrote three dozen others, tracable to his biography today. if any were committed to the truth of finding the connections. You say the movie is ‘useless as an historical artifact.’ NO sir. The Stratford fable is the historical travesty but so politically convenient then and now. I can only scratch the surface sound-byte fashion in a comment blog. But you have no right to pontificate from ignorance, just to be on the side you mistakedly think is ‘right’.

  3. Albert Einstein did not come from a family of physicists. His early educational record was at most unremarkable. His major early work on the special theory of relativity was done while he was employed as a junior clerk at the Swiss patent office in 1905. How could someone of such humble origins produce the genius that is the root of modern Physics. Yet no one has suggested conspiracy theories of the originality of his works. Oh just a minute. About ten years ago there was “compelling” evidence that Mrs. Einstein was Einstein. Maybe Hollywood will produce a film about Mileva Maric Einstein.
    These conspiracy theories will never stop.

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