Much Ado About Shakespeare

Full disclosure: I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, with a concentration in Shakespeare, a fact intended, not as conceit, but rather quite the opposite, to perhaps explain the obvious, that what you are about to read is decidedly NOT the product of a master’s or doctoral degree.

I just happen to love Shakespeare, purely as a consumer and appreciator of drama, comedy, poetry and theater.

Now, there’s this new movie coming out, Anonymous, and it has fixed a spotlight on a debate that has been raging since the middle of the 19th century, as to whether or not a man named William Shakespeare from Stratford-upon-Avon actually wrote the legendary plays and poems attributed to him.

The film is based on the Oxfordian Theory, which holds that the actual author of the Shakespeare canon was Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. It’s a pretty audacious claim, strenuously refuted as having no basis in any actual evidence.

So, I poked around, read arguments for and against, watched an enjoyable if too brief debate between two scholars with opposing opinions, watched a video by the director of Anonymous, Roland Emmerich, who lists his 10 Reasons Why Shakespeare Was A Fraud

…and then I watched this:

…and I knew instantly that I had to see it.

Sure it’s sensationalist. But, it seems to me that that is exactly what Emmerich unapologetically intended it to be. His 10 Reasons video starts off with titles and voiceover that state, “The director who brought you Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla, and 2012, now brings you…Shakespeare!”

Then there’s a quick cut to a cartoon of a Shakespeare monument, with birds chirping, and lute music, and it’s pretty obvious that Emmerich is coming right out and admitting that it’s a bit odd that someone known for making blockbuster action adventure movies, drenched in special effects, would be making an historical drama period piece.

Sure it’s sensationalist, but it also looks like great, great fun!

The scholars will go on debating this for eternity, or until long-lost and conclusive evidence is discovered that definitively proves one side or the other, whichever comes first. In that context, claims that Emmerich & Co. are dangerously trying to re-write history ring hallow to me.

On the contrary, the very controversy contributes to the making of a great story loaded with juicy dramatic potential.

With all it’s royal court intrigue, swapping of identities, and violent consequences at every turn…

…why, it’s downright Shakespearean!

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