Anonymous: A Movie about the Shakespeare Controversy
Was it really Shakespeare who wrote his famous works?
Within his words, between the lines, lies the truth.
So goes the trailer to the anticipated movie Anonymous in September, 2011. To believe or not to believe? That remains the question as Columbia Pictures is set to spark yet another modern medium for discussions on the authorship issue, or “conspiracy” as many call it, about the works of world-renowned playwright William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon – the big screen.
The controversy that long occupied scholars and experts to dig for evidences to support or dispel claims that the Shakespeare the world has recognized over the centuries was not the real author of all, if any, of his works, is the film’s focus trying to present who had become the most popular alternative to the alleged hidden authorship – the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere.
The film stars Rhys Ifans for the lead cast, who was best recognized for his for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows appearance as Xenophilius Lovegood, The Quibbler editor remembered for his unsuccessful attempt at betraying Harry Potter to the Death Eaters and was locked in Azkaban. It also stars Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Elizabeth I of England, and David Thewlis as William Cecil.
(Teaser-trailer of the movie Anonymous. Credit: You Tube)
Background of the Shakespeare Controversy
As early as the middle of the 19th century, scholars began to argue the propriety of praises to Shakespeare as history’s greatest writer. Since then, theories began springing attracting support and counter-claims that the name of the man in question, was only used as a front or pen name to conceal and/or protect the author’s real identity for some reasons. Believers of the claim questioned Shakespeare’s lack of university education, familiarity with and feel of the royal court which requirements he should meet for him to depict what he clearly portrayed in his works. Also, there was no mention of his books in the will he left as an “owner” would probably include. Despite evidences aimed at falsifying such contentions, supporters furthered the investigations in search for alternative authors. In fact, the controversy has bred over 70 alternative candidates over the years.
The Oxfordian theory, as commonly known today ascended to be the most popular one, and perhaps the most political, yet controversial, which are probably the reasons for the film’s take on Anonymous. Experts pushed that there had been a secret love affair between Edward de Vere and Queen Elizabeth I giving birth to an illegitimate son. The child, who was Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, was believed to be suggested in one of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Moreover, they postulated that the work Hamlet, was closely related to or even paralleled the life of the real author, who was de Vere himself. To protect the Earl’s political status, his writings could not be under the influence of his name. That’s when Shakespeare rescued the scene, proponents claimed.
The movie also scores on Cecil, the Queen’s chief minister. With the figure’s inclusion, it strives to create a battle for succession to the throne between the Tudors (Prince Tudor Theory, also of the Oxfordian authorship theory) and the Cecils.
With the mixture of all these controversies, Anonymous might just present the right recipe of drama, thrill, politics and romance to suit the viewers’ taste this fall - not to mention that it is directed by acclaimed 2012 director Roland Emmerich.
To see or not to see this movie? That must not be a tough question to answer.
(Disclaimer: The writer is not in any form paid by or connected to the production team of the movie. Plainly his own views.)