Who is the real Shakespeare?

This post was originally published on trend & chic on October 1, 2011.

I’ve previously covered Shakespeare in this space, making mention of my interest in the Oxfordian theory. (See: In Defense of Shakespeare, or Is Shakespeare Still Relevant?) The theory proposes that Shakespeare was really Edward de Vere, the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford. You may imagine my interest, then, when I saw an article about an upcoming movie, called Anonymous, about Shakespeare, based on this theory. (And also surprise, as I had done a similar idea for one of my English assignments.)

There is already a lot of buzz on the Internet about it – dating back to April 2010 with this LA Times article by Columbia University professor James Shapiro – and it will be interesting to see how it pans out. There’s already talk that this movie will ruin Shakespeare in the way that it will make people believe, or at least entertain the idea, that Shakespeare did not really write his own work and providing arsenal for students who do not see the point of Shakespeare. (On a lighter note, imagine how much funnier the Lauren Cooper sketch that Catherine Tate and David Tennant did for Comic Relief could have been, if they had incorporated a Shakespeare authorship theory.)

In actuality, I think that this movie will inspire a new wave of interest in William Shakespeare and his work, even for those who may not have a particular interest in Shakespeare. It will entertain the idea that what is conventionally believed about Shakespeare may not be true, but there are authorship theories that have been doing this for years. Movies are meant to entertain. Anonymous will not prove anything whether Shakespeare did really write his own work or if he, more so his name, was simply a nobleman’s vehicle to get published.

Described as a political thriller, the bigger picture of Anonymous also involves Queen Elizabeth I and the Essex Rebellion, plus Edward de Vere’s heritage via the Prince Tudor theory that is a variant of the Oxfordian theory and one that has divided Oxfordian theorists. Those that subscribe to the Price Tudor theory believe that it better explains why Oxford would write under a pen name, which is explored, and eventually realized by the characters, in Anonymous. (Orthodox Oxfordians believe that the Price Tudor theory impede Oxford’s recognition as Shakespeare, as it is theorizes that Oxford was Queen Elizabeth I’s lover.)

Lastly, it is interesting to note that the director, Roland Emmerich, is German. One can only wonder what would Leo Tolstoy have had to say about this? (Tolstoy argued that Shakespeare only rose in popularity due to German promotion, see this post for more info.)

Anonymous is set to be released October 28, 2011.

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