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Lee Jamieson

'Anonymous' and the Shakespeare Authorship Debate

By November 15, 2011

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With the release of Roland Emmerich's Anonymous, a film that Depicts Edward de Vere as the creative genius behind Shakespeare's plays, the press has lapped up the Shakespeare authorship debate.

Although most articles come down on the side of William Shakespeare as the real author of the plays and sonnets, there is a strong sense that the Shakespeare authorship debate is entering the popular consciousness with vigor.

All journalists know that controversy makes for lively copy - and I've never come across a bigger controversy than the Shakespeare authorship debate! For some reason, it really gets people's blood boiling.

Amongst all the din, I found one excellent voice of reason: James Shapiro, author of the brilliant Contested Will.

In The Guardian, he wrote:

The film-makers must have realised at some point that the story they wanted to tell about De Vere couldn't accommodate what is known about Elizabethan theatrical and political culture. They had to choose: scale back claims for De Vere and admit that the film is a fantasy along the lines of Shakespeare in Love, or defy received history and assert that the truth - literary as well as political - has been suppressed through an elaborate conspiracy.

I agree. On screen, it becomes really apparent how preposterous the De Vere case is ... perhaps not Emmerich's desired reaction.

You can read my Anonymous film review here.

Photo © Columbia Pictures


November 17, 2011 at 9:12 am
(1) Linda Theil says:

Dear Lee, most films based on historical events are understood to be fiction. I doubt anyone would deny plate tectonic theory because a movie about earthquakes got the science wrong. Similarly it is a mistake to conflate a fictional film made for entertainment purposes with academic research into the origins of the Shakespeare plays.

November 28, 2011 at 9:32 pm
(2) Howard Schumann says:

The reaction of the academics is hardly surprising. Keep in mind that academics wouldn’t be reacting with such panic unless they really felt that there was merit to the Oxfordian theory and that their reputations and livelihood were at stake.

Shapiro’s book is nothing more that personal attacks on some of our greatest writers and thinkers. Nowhere in his book does he ever tackle the evidence or in fact any real issues in the debate. It is about what’s wrong with them that they could think such strange thoughts.

The issues you raise about Oxford have no merit. There is no accepted timeline for the date of composition of the plays. Because we lack any manuscripts, dating of the plays is conjecture and supposition. Dates of performance and dates of publication do not tell us anything about when the play was written.

There is no smoking gun either for Oxford or for Shaksper of Stratford. All the evidence i circumstantial. The evidence for Oxford’s authorship is cumulative. There are clues all over the place. taken as a whole, the evidence is not only strong but compelling. How many books have you read on the life of Edward de Vere and the case for his authorship?

As fat as his poetry is concerned, there are only a few poems in existence and they are all juvenalia, written in his late teens and early twenties. If you heard an early Beatles song and compared it to their late work, how many people would be able to tell that it came from the same group?

I think that even after this negative barrage about “Anonymous”, the seed has been planted in many people’s minds (at least thinking people) and when the furor dies down, people will begin to take another look at the issue. It will not go away until the truth is told.

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