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Thread: ANONYMOUS (Roland Emmerich 2011)

  1. #1
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    ANONYMOUS (Roland Emmerich 2011)

    Roland Emmerich: ANONYMOUS (2011)
    Review by Chris Knipp


    JOELY RICHARDSON AND JAMIE CAMPBELL BOWER IN ANONYMOUS

    A folly

    Anonymous is the German-born blockbuster director Roland Emmericah's movie, penned by John Orloff, promoting the theory that Shakespeare's works were actually written by Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford. You can't blame the Oxfordians, in a way. Little is known about Shakespeare, and those details that are known seem odd or anomalous. And who would not like to know more? But the Oxfordians begin with a distasteful and undemocratic prejudice, the notion that a commoner could not have been a great writer, or known about the thoughts of kings (but then how could an earl know about the thoughts of gravediggers and clowns?). Furthermore, this movie is an alarming hodgepodge that throws in lots more far-fetched fantasies. It wants us to believe that Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen, the canny mistress of statecraft, was a lusty and imprudent young woman who produced a number of bastards, including one by the Earl of Oxford. It invents political intrigues that never occurred.

    Worse yet, Emmerich has elicited the services of famous actors like Derek Jacobi and Vanessa Redgrave, as well as David Thewlis and Rhys Ifans, in the service of this spurious theory, and they're good, so they can add credibility and life to most anything. Should we blame him or them for their contribution to this claptrap? Joely Richardson, who plays the young Elizabeth I, bears little resemblance to the haughty and elegant Redgrave, cast as the aging Queen, even though she's her daughter. Still less does the wild, sexy-looking Jamie Campbell Bower, who plays the young Oxford, resemble Rhys Ifans, who plays the middle-aged Earl as a forlorn, droopy soul and doesn't at all look like Bower.

    But worst of all, this movie builds up the works of Shakespeare by undercutting Will Shakespeare the person, all the other Elizabethan playwrights, and the English Renaissance itself. Shakespeare the man (played by Rafe Spall) is depicted as a drunken, illiterate dodo, and a greedy manipulator when Essex was forced to pay him to "pretend" to have written Shakespeare's works. Shakespeare's fellow playwrights Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe are undercut. Viewers who haven't studied the period might be forgiven for thinking these two very great writers to have been at least while Oxford was writing nothing but harmless drudges. One of them is made to declare that the age itself, even Queen Elizabeth, will only be remembered because Shakespeare, that is Oxford, put ink to paper. Yes, the works of Shakespeare are the triumph of the age, but there would not have been a Shakespeare if this hadn't been a brilliant moment of intellectual and artistic flowering, a time when the English language was incridibly rich and fertile, and many were penning wonderful poetry. But that is forgotten. It would seem the Oxfordians are not very familiar with Elizabethan literature. Anyway in its tunnel-vision pursuit of the Oxfordian theory, Anonymous perpetrates a depressingly false and misleading picture of the Elizabethan age. The idea that, whether this movie promotes a spurious theory or not, it will draw new readers to Shakespeare and new enthusiasts to the period seems very naive. It's not good to draw people to a subject with false and misleading stuff.

    Anonymous weaves scenes of Elizabethan Shakespeare play productions in with back-and-forth scenes of the young and older Oxrord the young and older Elizabeth, and various plots and power plays, and so forth, and along with these scenes are various pet ideas of the Oxfordians, like the notion that Polonius, in Hamlet, was based on Lord Burghley (or Burleigh), Elizabeth's Lord Chancellor, and that therefore Hamlet must be a self-portrait of the Earl, who knew and had resented Burghley.

    So much here won't survive scrutiny, which is true of the Oxfordian thesis in general. The young earl is depicted as writing, putting on, performing in, and acknowledging his authorship of A Midsummer Night's Dream as a teenager -- to Elizabeth, in front of the court. In that case, how could he later on under Puritan family pressure mange to hide his authorship of plays? The court had already seen signs of his literary and specifically dramatic genius. But this is used as a lead-in to later scenes of young Oxford squabbling and having sex with the Queen. This isn't a better picture of Elizabeth than it is of her age. She's either a slut, when young, or an itchy, sickly old lady when older: Vanessa Redgrave always has a certain elderly glamor, but she sacrifices much of her usual dignity in the service of a theory that she evidently espouses herself.

    Indeed a number of famous people, including Mark Twain, Helen Keller, Henry James, Sigmund Freud, Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles according to a Wikipedia article, have taken the "anti-Stratfordian" stand, that is, the idea that Shakespeare didn't really write Shakespeare. And this has lent undeserved luster to the Oxfordians. But the folly of the famous does not really grant credibility to an unproven and unprovable theory.

    Emmerich is, furthermore, hardly a convincing source of advocacy on anything. The Day After Tomorrow, which used a pop global warming theme, suggested the director's involvement in causes is just another promotional device. Oxfordian theory is pretty shallow in itself, but his support of it in this clumsy and far-fetched "historical" film makes it look even more so. There is in fact no end to the follies of Anonymous. That might be all very well if it added up to an enjoyable film, but this is really a mess, with the unfortunate involvement of some good actors.

    Anonymous began theatrical distribution in the US and UK on October 28, 2011.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 11-05-2011 at 01:03 AM.

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    Anonymous is the German-born blockbuster director Roland Emmerich's movie, penned by John Orloff, promoting the theory that Shakespeare's works were actually written by Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford. You can't blame the Oxfordians, in a way. Little is known about Shakespeare, and those details that are known seem odd or anomalous. And who would not like to know more? But the Oxfordians begin with a distasteful and undemocratic prejudice, the notion that a commoner could not have been a great writer, or known about the thoughts of kings (but then how could an earl know about the thoughts of gravediggers and clowns?).
    No one ever said that “a commoner could not have been a great writer.” Who did you ever hear say that? Genius can spring from every walk of life and every layer of society. The debate is not, however, about who could have written the works, it’s about the evidence of who did and here the evidence clearly points to Edward de Vere.
    Furthermore, this movie is an alarming hodgepodge that throws in lots more far-fetched fantasies. It wants us to believe that Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen, the canny mistress of statecraft, was a lusty and imprudent young woman who produced a number of bastards, including one by the Earl of Oxford. It invents political intrigues that never occurred.
    I don’t fully buy into the Prince Tudor theory, but it is definitely more than a fantasy. There were many rumors during the period that Elizabeth had as many as five children. This is not unusual. She was a healthy, sensuous woman who lived life to the fullest. The image of the Virgin Queen was carefully nurtured by William and Robert Cecil who urged her to marry and produce an heir.

    There are many anomalies with the son alleged to have been born to Elizabeth and Edward, the Earl of Southampton. There are some very unusual circumstances as relate to Southampton. After he and Essex were sentenced to be executed, the Queen rescinded his execution and he remained in the Tower until after Elizabeth’s death. No explanation has ever been given as to why he received such special treatment, because the monarchy almost never reversed a decision of the court.

    Also, the first 17 Sonnets by Shakespeare are written to the “Fair Youth” which most scholars agree was Southampton. The dates of these early Sonnets are agreed upon as most likely between 1590 and 1592, the time when Southampton was contemplating marriage to Elizabeth Vere, Edward’s daughter. No commoner would ever be allowed to urge a nobleman to marry.

    In another strange situation, Southampton was arrested by King James the day after Oxford died and was released the next day. No explanation has ever been given but it is speculated that with Oxford’s death, James feared Southampton might make a claim for the throne.

    Worse yet, Emmerich has elicited the services of famous actors like Derek Jacobi and Vanessa Redgrave, as well as David Thewlis and Rhys Ifans, in the service of this spurious theory, and they're good, so they can add credibility and life to most anything. Should we blame him or them for their contribution to this claptrap? Joely Richardson, who plays the young Elizabeth I, bears little resemblance to the haughty and elegant Redgrave, cast as the aging Queen, even though she's her daughter. Still less does the wild, sexy-looking Jamie Campbell Bower, who plays the young Oxford, resemble Rhys Ifans, who plays the middle-aged Earl as a forlorn, droopy soul and doesn't at all look like Bower.
    These are nitpicky things that in no way affect the quality and enjoyment of the film. Joely Richardson just happens to be Vanessa Redgrave’s daughter in real life.
    But worst of all, this movie builds up the works of Shakespeare by undercutting Will Shakespeare the person, all the other Elizabethan playwrights, and the English Renaissance itself. Shakespeare the man (played by Rafe Spall) is depicted as a drunken, illiterate dodo, and a greedy manipulator when Essex was forced to pay him to "pretend" to have written Shakespeare's works. Shakespeare's fellow playwrights Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe are undercut. Viewers who haven't studied the period might be forgiven for thinking these two very great writers to have been at least while Oxford was writing nothing but harmless drudges. One of them is made to declare that the age itself, even Queen Elizabeth, will only be remembered because Shakespeare, that is Oxford, put ink to paper.
    This is a drama, not a documentary but I fail to see how Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe were “undercut.” It is a fact that Jonson was thrown into the Tower for his play “The Isle of Dogs” and that Christopher Marlowe was murdered, most likely by court insiders who thought his plays to be too controversial. If Oxford was indeed William Shakespeare, then he was indeed the greatest writer in the English language, not a “harmless drudge.”
    Yes, the works of Shakespeare are the triumph of the age, but there would not have been a Shakespeare if this hadn't been a brilliant moment of intellectual and artistic flowering, a time when the English language was incridibly rich and fertile, and many were penning wonderful poetry. But that is forgotten. It would seem the Oxfordians are not very familiar with Elizabethan literature. Anyway in its tunnel-vision pursuit of the Oxfordian theory, Anonymous perpetrates a depressingly false and misleading picture of the Elizabethan age. The idea that, whether this movie promotes a spurious theory or not, it will draw new readers to Shakespeare and new enthusiasts to the period seems very naive. It's not good to draw people to a subject with false and misleading stuff.
    No one can deny that it was a time of Renaissance of the arts, yet equally true is that there was a reaction against the arts by the Puritanical and totalitarian monarchy. Theaters were routinely closed, writers arrested, even murdered. If you have read Tudor history, it is one of constant intrigue, rivalries, betrayal, incest, suppression, yes, even murder. It is not in any way a false and misleading impression. That’s the way it was.
    Anonymous weaves scenes of Elizabethan Shakespeare play productions in with back-and-forth scenes of the young and older Oxrord the young and older Elizabeth, and various plots and power plays, and so forth, and along with these scenes are various pet ideas of the Oxfordians, like the notion that Polonius, in Hamlet, was based on Lord Burghley (or Burleigh), Elizabeth's Lord Chancellor, and that therefore Hamlet must be a self-portrait of the Earl, who knew and had resented Burghley.
    The idea that Hamlet’s Polonius is a not too pleasant attack on Lord Burghley is not a pet idea of the Oxfordians. It is widely accepted by both Stratfordians and Oxfordians.
    So much here won't survive scrutiny, which is true of the Oxfordian thesis in general. The young earl is depicted as writing, putting on, performing in, and acknowledging his authorship of A Midsummer Night's Dream as a teenager -- to Elizabeth, in front of the court. In that case, how could he later on under Puritan family pressure mange to hide his authorship of plays?
    His later plays were political products of a court insider and many people of the court such as Raleigh, Hatton, the Cecils, and even the Queen were satirized. Given the repressive climate of the times, he Oxford was forced to protect himself from arrest and even murder. Likewise, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men participated in the ruse to protect the source of their plays.
    The court had already seen signs of his literary and specifically dramatic genius. But this is used as a lead-in to later scenes of young Oxford squabbling and having sex with the Queen. This isn't a better picture of Elizabeth than it is of her age. She's either a slut, when young, or an itchy, sickly old lady when older: Vanessa Redgrave always has a certain elderly glamor, but she sacrifices much of her usual dignity in the service of a theory that she evidently espouses herself.
    Elizabeth was a brave woman of great dignity and that is how she is depicted in the film. The film shows, however, that she could be controlled by the powerful William Cecil and his son Robert. Because she had sex with a nobleman does not make her a slut.
    Indeed a number of famous people, including Mark Twain, Helen Keller, Henry James, Sigmund Freud, Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles according to a Wikipedia article, have taken the "anti-Stratfordian" stand, that is, the idea that Shakespeare didn't really write Shakespeare. And this has lent undeserved luster to the Oxfordians. But the folly of the famous does not really grant credibility to an unproven and unprovable theory.
    You can tear down great writers and thinkers all you want and call it folly because they were independent thinkers of great talent who could see through the empty vessel of the Shake-speare mythology, but that doesn’t buy you any tokens. Perhaps it takes other writers to be able to recognize one of their own. The list of prominent people who do not buy the lazily accepted ideas of the status quo does not stop with them. There are hundreds of others. Check out doubtaboutwill.org. But, as you say, this does not prove anything. In the same way, the campaign by the entrenched academic establishment and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust only indicates that they feel that their reputations and even their livelihood is threatened. The evidence on both sides is purely circumstantial. There is no direct evidence and therefore no proof as to who the author was. If there was, there would be no authorship debate.
    Emmerich is, furthermore, hardly a convincing source of advocacy on anything. The Day After Tomorrow, which used a pop global warming theme, suggested the director's involvement in causes is just another promotional device. Oxfoddian theory is pretty shallow in itself, but his support of it in this clumsy and far-fetched "historical" film makes it look even more so. There is in fact no end to the follies of Anonymous. That might be all very well if it added up to an enjoyable film, but this is really a mess, with the unfortunate involvement of some good actors.
    Launching ad hominem attacks on the director because of previous films is not worthy of you and using pejorative language such as “claptrap”, “spurious”, and so forth only reflects on the fact that the reviewer has not done any research to discover the strong evidence for Oxford’s authorship. Can you name one book that you have read on the life of Edward de Vere and the case for his authorship?

    You want people to believe that a man who had little or no education, whose children were illiterate, who never left any writing other than six unreadable signatures with his name spelled differently in each one, who never traveled outside of London, who spent much time and effort engaging in petty lawsuits, who could not read books in French, Italian, or Spanish yet used untranslated material as his source material, who never left any books in his will, who left no letters, no correspondence, who did not elicit a single eulogy at his death was the greatest writer in the English language.

    I have not heard anything more full of “claptrap” than that?
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

  3. #3
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    Thanks for your comments, Howard, and welcome back. I know, from our correspondence, that you are a strong advocate of the Oxfordian position and have been involved in Oxrordian activities for some years. Readers can find the issues discussed online and in various places. A basic discussion can be found here on Wikipedia:

    Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship

    In its first paragraph this article notes, "The Shakespeare authorship question is the argument over whether someone other than William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon wrote the works attributed to him. Anti-Stratfordians—a collective term for adherents of the various alternative-authorship theories—say that Shakespeare of Stratford was a front to shield the identity of the real author or authors, who for some reason did not want or could not accept public credit. Although the idea has attracted much public interest, all but a few Shakespeare scholars and literary historians consider it a fringe belief and for the most part disregard it except to rebut or disparage the claims."

    Many more learned and authoritative than I have replied to your arguments. I might add that my ownt father, a professor of English and specialist in drama who taught Shakespeare for many years, was one of those "all but a few." My purpose is only to review the matters in relation to Emmerich's film. I cannot be one to enter the fray further to "rebut or disparage the claims." I've said what I needed to say to evaluate the film. People can study the debates, read other reviews, and see the film, and judge what they think of it and the positions it advocates. I've only read two reviews, Denby's in The New Yorker and Scott's in The New York Times, but my general impression is that the reviews have not been favorable. The Metacritic reating now stands at 51, up one from yesterday, but the consensus isn't very favorable, and I'd agree with that rating. On another site a contributor asked me why I gave the film 5/10 and not 1/10. But obviously 1/10 would be punitive. I don't think it's a good film in any way, in some ways I consider it reprehensible (for its false and misleading picture of Elizabethan drama in general and the Elizabethan age), but there are good actors who turn in convincing and lively performances, and the writing (though the mimicry of Elizabethan English seems pretty feeble) does what it's apparently meant to do.

    Just got back from a long time away from home, in NYC for the NYFF, and in Paris, where you'll see I saw and commented on some new films not (yet anyway) available in US release.

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    In its first paragraph this article notes, "The Shakespeare authorship question is the argument over whether someone other than William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon wrote the works attributed to him. Anti-Stratfordians—a collective term for adherents of the various alternative-authorship theories—say that Shakespeare of Stratford was a front to shield the identity of the real author or authors, who for some reason did not want or could not accept public credit. Although the idea has attracted much public interest, all but a few Shakespeare scholars and literary historians consider it a fringe belief and for the most part disregard it except to rebut or disparage the claims."
    Surprise, surprise! Shakespeare “scholar” James Shapiro has stated publicly that his recent book was designed to quash the Oxfordians once and for all. The academic establishment are the ones whose reputations and even their livelihoods are at stake if the myth of the warm cuddly uneducated genius from Stratford is ever exposed for what it is. In this campaign to destroy Emmerich and his film, they have joined hands with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust with the sole purpose of stifling debate. Unfortunately, the compliant media chimes in without thinking for themselves, though there have been some notable exceptions.

    I think it ought to be more widely known that there is very little evidence to suggest that the man from Stratford actually wrote the plays or anything else for that matter. In fact, every bit of genuine documentary evidence we have about the man could probably be listed in a three-page Word document. In most Shakespeare biographies, there is one page of fact and 699 pages of conjecture – “he could have”, “he might have”, “it’s probable that”, it’s even likely that,” and so forth. Much of the biography that academics take as established fact will be seen, on closer inspection, to have been largely spun from whole cloth and then transformed in time from supposition to unassailable truth.

    Many more learned and authoritative than I have replied to your arguments. I might add that my own father, a professor of English and specialist in drama who taught Shakespeare for many years, was one of those "all but a few." My purpose is only to review the matters in relation to Emmerich's film. I cannot be one to enter the fray further to "rebut or disparage the claims." I've said what I needed to say to evaluate the film. People can study the debates, read other reviews, and see the film, and judge what they think of it and the positions it advocates. I've only read two reviews, Denby's in The New Yorker and Scott's in The New York Times, but my general impression is that the reviews have not been favorable. The Metacritic reating now stands at 51, up one from yesterday, but the consensus isn't very favorable, and I'd agree with that rating. On another site a contributor asked me why I gave the film 5/10 and not 1/10. But obviously 1/10 would be punitive. I don't think it's a good film in any way, in some ways I consider it reprehensible (for its false and misleading picture of Elizabethan drama in general and the Elizabethan age), but there are good actors who turn in convincing and lively performances, and the writing (though the mimicry of Elizabethan English seems pretty feeble) does what it's apparently meant to do.
    I really have no interest in the Metacritic rating or the largely uninformed critical reviews. I have spent the last week 24/7 responding to ignorant attacks in the media that repeat all the same falsehoods. They must think that if you repeat lies enough times, they'll be accepted as truth.

    I think the important thing here is not to follow someone blindly simply because they have a prestigious title or because they are a well-known reviewer but to do independent research, and that does not mean Wikipedia. There are many excellent books from the Oxfordian point of view, but the sad thing is that most adherents of the accepted theory have never read a book on Edward de Vere and their knowledge of the evidence is nil, confined to bits and pieces they may have learned in school from clueless teachers.

    The books of the so-called experts like James Shapiro and Stanley Wells do not address the evidence but unleash ad hominem attacks on independent thinkers who dare to challenge the status quo. I just want to say that I disagree with you about the film in a range of 200 to 1000 percent. I think the Prince Tudor scenario is very plausible, even though it is currently a minority point of view, even within the Oxfordian camp (I don’t fully buy into it, myself). I do think, however, there is quite a bit of evidence for Oxford’s authorship and I think he will eventually be recognized as the author of the Shakespeare canon, probably not in my lifetime but when the old generation of academics is gone and a new generation is able to look at the issue more objectively.

    I’m used to reading fair and balanced reviews from you, but I think your review of Anonymous is more of an emotional rant than a review. I don’t think that name calling and epithets really are very useful in approaching this film. It is a serious and complex subject that really requires considerable research to discover the evidence. I saw the film again yesterday and I loved it even more. The drama is compelling and the acting uniformly superb, the film effects stunning and the story telling quality of the script wonderful. I recommend this film both for its historic relevance and for its sheer beauty.

    If you are interested in what the other side thinks, I'd like to pass this along. It is from Keir Cutler an author and playwright based in Montreal.

    http://www.montrealgazette.com/opini...387/story.html
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

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    My review

    ANONYMOUS

    Directed by Roland Emmerich, U.K., Germany, (2011), 129 minutes

    “I, once gone, to all the world must die.” – William Shakespeare, Sonnet #81


    Actor George Dillon has said, “The purpose of drama is to challenge people and to make people see things slightly differently.” The challenge is laid down in stunning fashion by German director Roland Emmerich in his latest work, Anonymous, one of the best films of the year. Focusing on two of the most important events of the Elizabethan age: the Essex Rebellion of 1601 and the succession to the throne of Queen Elizabeth I, the film supports the premise that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, a prominent aristocrat and court insider, was the real author of the works attributed to William Shakespeare, plays and poems of romance, tragic political intrigue, and comedy that contain such a compelling beauty and searing intensity that, after 400 years, still reach directly into our hearts and remain there forever.

    Described as a “political thriller”, Anonymous creates an atmosphere of foreboding and intrigue that, like many films of the genre, begins with a jumble of names, images, and flashbacks that challenge us to sort it all out. We are not certain of anything, but Emmerich invites us, in the words of Diane Ackerman “to groom our curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred, climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sunstruck hills.” Steering us through the maze of Tudor history, the film makes credible the startling events of the time, providing an authentic recreation of London in the 16th century with its crowded theaters and raucous audience, cluttered streets, and court royalty decked out in fine jewels.

    Though some may point out historical inaccuracies in the film, Emmerich, citing Shakespeare in Love as an example, says that the film contains an “emotional truth” rather than a literal one because “the drama is the primary concern.” He need not have had concern on that aspect. Through Emmerich’s direction, the writing of John Orloff, the cinematography of Anna Foerster, and the superlative performance of an all British cast including Oscar-worthy performances by Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Elizabeth I and Rhys Ifans as Oxford, Anonymous succeeds both as an authentic drama and a plausible explanation for many of the problems surrounding the authorship question. While the film may lack a certain depth of characterization, it more than makes up for it with style, spectacle, and an involving story.

    To some, the film may be skating on narrative thin ice, Emmerich, however, told an interviewer that “if we provoke, let’s provoke all the way,” and provoke he does. According to Anonymous, de Vere, in addition to being Shakespeare, was also the illegitimate son of the Queen and, in 1573, the father of a son with Elizabeth, Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton (Xavier Samuel). Emmerich handles the subject of incest with great taste, with neither the “Virgin Queen” nor Oxford knowing the truth until close to the end of their lives. After a brief prologue by actor Sir Derek Jacobi, the film begins with the arrest of playwright Ben Jonson (Sebastian Armento) by faceless men in knight’s armor in the middle of a theatrical performance.

    The author of the play is a well-known writer who, though he is soon released, is taken to the Tower and accused of sedition and slandering the State by the mere act of authoring a play, the mark of a totalitarian society reflecting a growing disdain for the arts. The film then flashes back five years, then forty years, as we become acquainted with the young Earl of Oxford (Jamie Campbell Bower), taught by highly educated tutors with access to a vast library in the home of William Cecil (David Thewlis), where he was brought up as a ward of the court after his father’s death. We also witness his marriage to a teenage Anne Cecil (Amy Kwolek), daughter of William, a marriage that never produced any lasting satisfaction for either party.

    As we return to present time, Oxford is forced to hide his identity because of the biting satire of his plays that lampoon some of the more prominent members of the court, and also as a result of a political arrangement that becomes clearer later in the film. His initial choice to front for him is the same Ben Jonson but Jonson refuses, passing the mantle to Will Shakespeare (Rafe Spall), an actor for the Lord Chamberlain’s Men who seizes the opportunity. In a superbly comic performance, Spall portrays Will as an illiterate money-grubber who can barely speak coherently but is willing to sell his name to Oxford at a premium cost. The heart of the plot, however, focuses on the attempt to seize power from Cecil’s son Robert, an episode that is known to history as The Essex Rebellion of 1601.

    This insurrection, led by Robert Devereaux, the Second Earl of Essex (Sam Reid) results in his beheading and the imprisonment of Southampton who is sent to the Tower awaiting certain death. Oxford’s attempt to persuade Elizabeth to save their son results in a political deal that makes us privy to why Oxford was never able to reveal his authorship of the Shakespeare canon. While some critics may proclaim the movie a moment of singularity that indicates the end of the world as we know it (even before 2012), Anonymous may have the opposite effect, opening the subject to a wider audience who may be able to view Shakespeare and his times from a totally new perspective.

    In Robert Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land," Jubal said we're prisoners of our early indoctrinations, "for it is hard, very nearly impossible, to shake off one's earliest training." If my intuition is correct, the prison gates will soon be swinging wide open, and the shaking will begin in earnest. As Victor Hugo said, “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”

    GRADE: A-
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

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    That a man would stay in his home, use his imagination to travel, and write furiously for days on end, scribbling away at his lonely pursuit seems preposterous to me, impossible, adsurd... oh, no wait. That is what many aspiring young writers do. I find it strange that people of higher education should find self-educated individuals capable of accomplishing anything, such as a self-taught person like John Muir or even Sam Walton. Why can't a person use their imagination to write about things they may have only overheard in a pub? To be so judgmental and dismissive is to be a snob. You are too educated and too witty not to realize that, Howard. Don't put yourself too far out on that proverbial limb.
    Colige suspectos semper habitos

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    Limb or not, Howard is out there to stay. I think we can at least respect him for the depth of his commitment even if we think it is unwise.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cinemabon View Post
    That a man would stay in his home, use his imagination to travel, and write furiously for days on end, scribbling away at his lonely pursuit seems preposterous to me, impossible, adsurd... oh, no wait. That is what many aspiring young writers do. I find it strange that people of higher education should find self-educated individuals capable of accomplishing anything, such as a self-taught person like John Muir or even Sam Walton. Why can't a person use their imagination to write about things they may have only overheard in a pub? To be so judgmental and dismissive is to be a snob. You are too educated and too witty not to realize that, Howard. Don't put yourself too far out on that proverbial limb.
    Don't give me judgmental and dismissive or junk about me being "too educated and too witty." I am only interested in one thing - to ascertain the truth and for that I look at evidence and follow it wherever it takes me, whether consoling or disturbing. Do you have any idea of the depth of knowledge in the plays on subjects ranging from falconry to botany to law to geography to music and many other areas that no "homespun genius" of any brilliance could possibly intuit. Read a new book coming out on Tuesday "The Shakespeare Guide to Italy." by Richard Paul Roe. It makes it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that the author had to have traveled to Italy.

    "Hamlet" is based on an actual case in property law, accessible to students at Gray's Inn, where the Earl of Oxford studied law--and the casebooks, not printed until the twentieth century, were written in "law French," a governmental derivative of Norman French.

    We do not know the extent of Shakespeare’s education or even whether he even attended the local grammar school. If he did, did he go until the sixth grade? There are no records. We do know that Oxford studied at Oxford and Cambridge and was a man of profound learning, steeped in the classics, one who could read and speak fluently in four languages.

    Not a single book belonging to William Shakespeare has ever been found. Doesn't it bother you that someone with at best a grammar-school education added more than 3,000 new words to the English language, words created from Latin, Greek, French, Italian and Spanish?

    Have you read any books on the Life of Edward de Vere and the case for his authorship? Shapiro and his ilk whose reputations are threatened can shout the new mantra of imagination as if an author's life experience can be thrown out the window when composing 37+ plays and 154 Sonnets. I wouldn't call it imagination. I would call it fantasy.
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

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    I deny you... nothing.
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    Nothing is "clear beyond a shadow of a doubt" in this question. Such a declaration suggests the true believer rather than the earnest seeker. If Shakespeare had to travel to Italy to have written his works, he would doubtless have had to travel to a lot of other places! This is a most pernicious subject and these are tiresome amateurish speculations that add nothing to my appreciation or anyone else's of Shakespeare's works.

    The Shakespeare Oxrord Society presents an "honor roll of skeptics" online that includes many other tantative or string anti-Stratfordians besides Howard or those I mentioned earlier. http://www.shakespeare-oxford.com/?p=39. It confirms that Mark Rylance, who contributed to the film, as well as Derk Jacobi, ditto, are Oxfordians. Sir John Gielgud claimed to be "extremely sympathetic." A handful of literary scholars are listed. However, the majority of academics in the field reject these speculations, as is well known. Oxrordians must carefully pick and choose their academic supportors among the few who are willing to be identified with what despite its vociferous adherents, one of whom is among us now, remains a somewhat disreputable camp.

    My favorite there in the "honor roll" is a delcaration from Charles Dickens: "It is a great comfort, to my way of thinking, that so little is known concerning the poet. The life of Shakespeare is a fine mystery, and I tremble every day lest something should turn up."

    Yes, and so why not leave it alone? Reading any author's works in the light of his or her real or imagined biography is ultimately a dead end, a way of limiting what should open up to the full scope of the imagination and universal human experience.

    A web page of the English Department of the University of Minnesota on Shakepeare (http://english.umn.edu/faculty/haley/Shakesp.htm#Oxford) discusses alternative authorship arguments and has this paragraph:
    Others have tried to replace Shakespeare with the earl of Oxford, who published courtly lyrics but no plays and who died in 1604, before some of the best plays were written. To have been their author, the earl must have left uncompleted masterpieces like King Lear (rewritten in 1608), must have foreseen the grain riots reported in Coriolanus, must have divined the shipwreck of 1609 on which The Tempest is literally based, and so on. Apart from these absurdities, it's hard to see why the boastful Oxford would have chosen to write incognito. Aristocrats like the earl lived defiantly public lives, scorning to hide their sins or their literary accomplishments beneath a disguise. A nobleman's honor rested on his public integrity, something to which no mere actor dared lay claim.
    This page appears to be the work of a UorM professor of Shakepeare, David Haley. I just give it as one example] Roland Emmerich's film attempts to deal with the fact that the Earl of Oxford died before some of the most important plays were performed or published by having the Earl turn over a pile of manuscripts of them (all sitting just waiting to be used) to Ben Jonson, a far-fetched idea indeed, but one that apparently satisfies the Oxfordians.

    Some responses by others to the movie's theorizing will be found on this pro-Shakespeare-writing-Shakespeare page: http://shakespeareauthorship.com/

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    Stephen Marche -- in an October 21st piece I didn't see in the NYTimes before, notes what I also thought was by far the "craziest idea" in the movie:

    The craziest idea in “Anonymous,” however, is that Edward de Vere wrote a version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” 40 years before its performance at court, putting the composition of the play somewhere around 1560. (That’s what the film implies, anyway: we see a scene from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” performed at court, and then the title “40 Years Earlier,” and then a kid who turns out to be the earl reciting Puck’s final speech.) The idea that a kid wrote “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” isn’t even the crazy part. To put the issue in a contemporary framework, it’s one thing to say that somebody other than Jay-Z wrote “The Blueprint”; it’s another to say that this clandestine Jay-Z wrote “The Blueprint” in 1961. You can’t write a hip-hop masterpiece before hip-hop has been invented. And you can’t write “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” until English secular comedy has come into existence.
    This article, whose title is "Wouldn’t It Be Cool if Shakespeare Wasn’t Shakespeare?", begins here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/ma...l?pagewanted=1. I recommend if for those who feel skeptical about Howard's cause and the contents of this movie.

    Another key point as given by Marche:
    In the movies, a few mistakes don’t matter, but the liberties with facts in “Anonymous” become serious when they enter our conception of real history. In scholarship, chronology does matter. And the fatal weakness of the Oxfordian theory is chronological, a weakness that “Anonymous” never addresses: the brute fact that Edward de Vere died in 1604, while Shakespeare continued to write, several times with partners, until 1613. “Macbeth” and “The Tempest” were inspired by events posthumous to the Earl of Oxford: the gunpowder plot in 1605 and George Somers’s misadventure to Bermuda in 1609. How can anyone be inspired by events that happened after his death?
    Or course the arguments can go on forever, because ultimately the Oxfordians are a cult, and they will dream up an answer for anything, even the simple facts of chronology.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 11-05-2011 at 10:46 PM.

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    I don’t think this is in any way a “pernicious subject. What is pernicious about it? Attempting to bring light to a subject long clouded in mystery and mythology is an enormously enlightening task.

    As far as being “disreputable,” I think the “camp” is only disreputable to those in authority whose reputations and careers are at stake and those who need authority figures to do their thinking for them. Oxfordians are hardly disreputable to those who are willing to seek out the evidence and look at it with an open mind and a passion for the truth.

    I disagree with you completely about “leaving it alone.” Author Sarah Smith said it best, “Biography means a man’s life matters. It matters who Shakespeare was because it matters who we are. Every moment.” We can enjoy Shakespeare as a disembodied spirit, but I think knowing who the true author is and knowing how his life is reflected in his work will enhance our understanding and enjoyment of the works one hundred fold.

    I fail to understand why you are quoting Stratfordians to me. You seem to want to convince me by bowing to authority figures. Am I supposed to be impressed? I have dealt with the Stratfordian arguments for the last fifteen years. I’ve been responding to reviews, articles, and blogs that repeat the same tired old stuff. 90% of what they offer is ad hominem arguments, put downs, epithets, and name-calling to support their flimsy evidence. Nothing new has been discovered in the last 400 years that provides any evidence that William of Stratford was a writer. A name on a title page, given the climate of Elizabethan England at the time, is more likely than not to be a pseudonym. The name “Shakespeare” was printed on the narrative poems and plays, but never during the Stratford man’s lifetime was he ever connected to that name or was that name ever connected to him. Up to his death in 1616 (and for years afterward) he can be identified only as a businessman — money lender, grain dealer, property buyer — and never, not once, identified as a writer

    They have no arguments except the same tired, oft-repeated falsehoods about snobbery, the so-called “massive” evidence to support their case, and the false assumption that dates of performance or dates of publication tell us anything about the date of composition. No source for any Shakespearean play is dated after 1604. No sonnets were written after 1604. Between the years 1593 to 1604, seventeen plays attributed to Shakespeare were published. From 1605 to 1623 there were only five, said to be collaborations.

    Neither date of performance nor date of publication tells us the date of composition, except obviously it could not have been later than either of those. Even Shakespeare scholars cannot by style alone determine which are older or newer plays. Recent scholarship has shown that no conclusive proof exists that any play was written after 1604. Although the film shows Oxford giving the manuscripts to Jonson, it is more likely that some of the works were edited and updated by his son-in-law, William Stanley, The Earl of Derby.

    In this debate, there is no substitute for reading books about the life of Edward de Vere and the case for his authorship. If you wish, I can recommend some to you. There really is no point in debating this issue with people who are uninformed about the evidence and get their only information from the academic establishment and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust who have a stake in maintaining their reputation and livelihood based on the Stratford mythology.

    .
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

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    "Ignorance makes me forlorn." - Allen Ginsberg

    “Condemnation without investigation is the height of ignorance” - Albert Einstein
    Last edited by Howard Schumann; 11-06-2011 at 01:40 AM.
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

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    "There really is no point in debating this issue with people who are uninformed..."

    Ouch. I've been reading with an open mind and cannot comment other than I am aware of the controversy. Is either case conclusive? I believe we were discussing the merits of a film that has shed light on the authorship of Shakespeares works. I've heard this debate since I first studied in college under the esteemed Dr. Lake of Tulane, a Shakespeare scholar who on day one of his class, slammed a huge book on his desk and said to us with aplomb, "This is the bard!" Even then, Dr. Lake questioned whether one man could possibly write with such volume and such a level of expertise in one lifetime. However, when one looks at the world of music and finds a person like Mozart, who wrote an enormous volume of work and died before he turned 40 seems practically impossible. But, there it is.

    I would not presume you have studied the subject to great depth, Howard. Let us keep this discussion civil. You make valid statements and a strong argument. So does, Chris.

    I have listened to both sides. I know that both of you are men of great intelligence. I respect both of you. Let us say, for now at least, that the possibility that William Shakespeare had help writing his plays might be true. That said, that he may have been a genius, capable of transforming the human language because he was supremely gifted may also be a possibility, too. Until there is conclusive proof otherwise, this debate should be considered a draw.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cinemabon View Post
    "There really is no point in debating this issue with people who are uninformed..."
    That was not directed to you but to the scholar who thinks the Oxfordians are a cult.

    Yes, I have studied the issue for 15 years but that doesn't mean I consider myself in possession of the truth. It is a very complex issue and there are many unanswered questions. I've been trying to keep up with all the reviews, articles, and blogs that have been piling up since the film came out and it is hard not to feel a sense of despair how people just parrot what they've heard from the vocal and obnoxious professors like James Shapiro.

    I never thought a Jew could be so dogmatic and intolerant. The hardest part is for people to be willing to let go of their safe and comfortable beliefs and look at the issue with fresh eyes. Marcel Proust said it like this, "The real voyage of discovery lies in not seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes." I say to people who are stuck in their Stratfordian fantasy land, that it takes research and an open mind. But an open mind is a rare commodity these days. People are so conditioned to accept whatever an authority figure says without questioning.

    Clarity cannot be brought to the issue by looking at websites like Wikepedia and think you know something about it. Wikipedia is open to anyone to edit it and the one on the Oxfordian theory has been the victim of a campaign by Stratfordians to modify so it comes out looking as if the theory has no merit.

    I admit there is a lot of appeal in the idea of the egalitarian uneducated genius from Stratford who was able to overcome his class limitations and become the greatest writer in the English language. The only question to ask is not whether he could have written the plays and poems, not whether he might have, or should have. The question to ask is - did he? The issue has to be looked at without attachment to what you always believed and what you so much want to be true. It might take you to places you do not want to go - to places where there is darkness and betrayal, and incest, and even murder. It isn't important to me, however, if I like what I discover. The only question must be - is it the truth?

    If people can let go of their attachment to the mythology and look at the evidence, it is clear to me that Edward de Vere is the true author behind the works of Shakespeare. It simply makes no sense to me whatsoever that the greatest writer in the English language would have left no paper trail to show the world how he was able to accomplish the great work that he did. Genius can come from all walks of life, from the rich as well as the poor but in every case of genius like Mozart we are able to trace the path of how they came to achieve the level they did. There are always information about how they obtained their talent, their education, their tutors, the people they met who influenced them, their early works, their trial and error.

    For most writers in Shakespeare's time, even lesser writers that no one has heard of, we have documents that show that they were writers. With Shakespeare we have none. I have never seen anyone from that period during his lifetime who identified William Shakespeare and William of Stratford. When they talked about Shakespeare, they were referring to a name only. There are no physical descriptions. No one ever claimed to have met or talked with him. Ask yourself, just coming from logic and common sense, would the greatest writer in the English language be content to have his daughters remain illiterate?

    Edward de Vere does not fit the picture of the haughty aristocrat. He was a man who had enormous literary ability, who was a patron of the arts, who wrote poetry and ran two theater companies and suffered a great deal in his life. His pain and his suffering is written all over the plays and Sonnets. When he says in Sonnet 81, "that I, once gone, to all the world must die' comes from the type of agony that few people have experienced, to know that your name will be lost to history and will never be given credit for the genius of his works.

    I can't really say any more right now. There is no substitute here for reading books about his life and how it affected his art. If you want, I can recommend some.
    Last edited by Howard Schumann; 11-06-2011 at 08:00 PM.
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

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