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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Why Be Anonymous?

I stare at my diploma, that granted me full rights and responsibilities as any "Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, daily. It hangs on the wall in my study.  Best I can tell it allows me to say this:

Shakespeare wrote his own plays and sonnets.

Now, I've always maintained this opinion and I realize that the fact that I have merely read all of them, and even performed in a few of them gives me no license as literary historian.  So it was with much ingrained propensity to scoff that I bought a ticket and settled in to watch the latest version of the Shakespeare Fraud theories:  Anonymous.

I don't like to read movie reviews before I go.  If I had, I would have been in total agreement on the wonky timelines (I'm PRETTY sure Ben Johnson was NOT a direct contemporary of Will's and no self respecting acquisitions editor that I know would have allowed the massive amount of very muddled time travel we did to get our hands around the story). But...


I'm a stone cold sucker for a costume drama and have been known to watch Shakespeare In Love, Elizabeth (1 and 2), The Other Boleyn Girl in that order, again, on a snowy Sunday.  I love the Tudor period of English history, literary and otherwise.  When I lived near London I spent HOURS poking around the Tower of London, staring at the entrance gate where Elizabeth and so many others were brought, soaking it up like a sap.

This movie had it all. Sex. The muddy, gritty reality of the Bankside area where the "playwrights" (at that time synonymous with "moldy pond scum") all huddled in ale houses, drinking, whoring and trying to make a living. A horny queen. Well-documented Cecil intrigue. Sex. Less than perfect looking yet utterly sexy Englishmen.

And a premise that is the most preposterous baloney I've ever heard.  But I love the movie!  Really got me thinking about that whole paradox:  writers as a pox on civilized society? or as purveyors of entertainment to take our minds of the reality (plagues, wars, pestilence, abject poverty--or social networking)?  Why would the 17th Earl of Oxford have to bankrupt himself by writing ALL THE TIME, neglecting his family's "titled businesses" whatever the heck THOSE were only to remain: Anonymous?  

Without spoiling it for you, I'll just say that while incest may be best, it yielded nothing but tragedy here. And....if the 17th Earl of Oxford (one of the oldest known titles in the country) truly did write all of Shakespeare's plays, bankrupting his family and nearly getting himself killed in the process...well, he really ought to have penned a revisionist "Oedipus Rex" right after that little chat with William Cecil.  

Amazing. Creative. Entertaining. and Utter claptrap.
But tied up in an fabulous and sparkly package of acting, costumes, sets and angst.

If you love The Bard like I do you will be incensed but have a great time getting there!

Have a great week!


Tina Donahue said...

I'm not a big fan of costume dramas, but I did love Amadeus and I'm really looking forward to seeing Anonymous. Great blog, Liz!

Sandy said...

Interesting blog, Liz. I learned something new.

Liz said...

It is VERY MUCH revisionist as Amadeus was and just as "costumey" and cool.

Katalina Leon said...

I have to admit I have not yet seen this movie even though I was recommending it a month ago, but I will!
What I think is happening here with this somewhat outlandish accusation that Shakespeare was illiterate, is a door is being opened for us to consider that not all familiar history is 'fact".
Better forensics and archeological finds have radically changed the face of many historic events and told us something other took place.
I view "Anonymous" as something of a pleasant, costumed exercise in looking at the history surrounding some of our favorite bits of history and looking closer for details we might have missed.
There are mysteries within the mystery...

Molly Daniels said...

I also love costume dramas, and yes, this is on my list for when it arrives on DVD:)

Adele Dubois said...

Good post, Liz. I have to say that I'm not fond of conspiracy theory movies or books that ask "what if" and then distort history. Sadly, we may never know the truth about Shakespeare.


Casea Major said...

I have a theater background so I automatically have to love Shakespeare and Tennesee Williams. The movie looks great but like most movies will have to wait for DVD due to kids.
(although as an aside I do already have tickets to see Breaking Dawn next week - I know, its sick)

Janice Seagraves said...

I read someone else's post about the Bard being several different writers who all wrote under the name William Shakespeare.

Maybe we'll never know who actually wrote all those plays. But I think the plays defined a time and a place and help us understand the Elisebethian age a little bit better.

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