dirac

Edward de Vere - The Movie

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A new movie, "Anonymous" takes up the cause of the Earl of Oxford as the true author of Shakespeare's plays.

Anonymous is based on the fringe idea that Shakespeare's works weren't actually written by Shakespeare but rather by another famous Elizabethan. The most popular candidate is Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, (it's known as the Oxfordian theory of authorship and has been pretty comfortably discredited) and it's he who will be named as the author of Shakespeare's poems and plays in Emmerich's film. The film is to be set among the Tudors and the Cecils, who are squabbling over who will succeed Queen Elizabeth on the throne of England. The argument regarding succession provides the backdrop for the explanation as to how and why the Earl of Oxford wrote Shakespeare's plays and poems. But lest you think the excitement ends there, not only did de Vere write Shakespeare's work in this undertaking, he was also the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth I. Who then goes on to have an affair with her as an adult. Cer-azy!

The writer of the script responds to an op-ed in The Los Angeles Times.

Shapiro claimed that our film does a disservice to Shakespeare's legacy and devalues his imagination. Now, setting aside the fact that we haven't yet finished shooting our film (and one must therefore assume that Shapiro hasn't seen it), I would say our film aspires to do quite the opposite.

Finally, I would ask Shapiro the following: Does he really think so little of the 37 plays and 154 sonnets -- and the genius who wrote them -- that he believes one film could possibly destroy their 400-year-old legacy?

With Emmerich as the director, this film sounds dangerously entertaining, although Orloff shows signs of seriousness. Thoughts?

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I'm looking forward to hearing what people think. In the meantime, there's a new book by James Shapiro, a Columbia University professor, who has been involved in the debate and has been criticized by those behind the film:

James Shapiro, Contested Will: Who wrote Shakespeare?

So far, I've only read the review in the Times Literary Supplement (April 23, but not available online). According to that, Shapiro -- who thinks that Shakespeare actually did write "Shakespeare" -- is not so much interested in refuting those who believe that the author is Bacon or the Earl of Oxford (de Vere's title) or anyone else, as revealing the history of the debate explaining why they think the way they do.

A summary of Shapiro's position, from the NY Times, is here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/02/books/re...o%22&st=cse

Among the Baconians have been Mark Twain, Helen Keller, and Henry James. Sigmund Freud and Orson Welles favored the Earl of Oxford. (Charlie Chaplin didn't support any one man, but was generically "anti-Stratfordian.")

And now it's a MOVIE! The debate continues on its slightly zany course. :)

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I should note the item to which I linked has a minor boo-boo - it's Robert Cecil's father Lord Burghley who is thought by some to have inspired some aspects of the character of Polonius, not Robert, who was quite a different sort.

Quite a cast, so far. And Oxfordians Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance are lined up for it.

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I definitely want to read Shapiro's book. Among other things, according to the TLS, Shapiro demonstrates just how dodgy the provenance and evidence for Bacon and Oxford are. Forgery and the involvement of a number of rather strange persons are part of the story. Coincidences, faith, and gut feelings get a workout.

Some interesting Shapiro tidbits from the TLS review:

-- Bacon's claims were supported by content comparisons carried out with the aid of a primitive precursor of the computer, the "Cypher Wheel," c. 1890. The man who invented the Cypher Wheel and believed that it proved Bacon to be the author died impoverished and embittered. Shortly before his death, he warned others to stay away from the Baconian quest: "You will only reap disappointment."

-- Oxford's claims did not arise until the 1920s, with the publication of "Shakespeare" Identified by one J.T. Looney. The name rhymes with "Coney" (as in "Coney Island") and not "Loony" (as in "Loony Tunes").

The reviewer writes of Oxford:

[He was] one of the nastiest Elizabethans on record: shrill, violent, unstable and pathologically extravagant. he slapped Sir Philip Sidney on the tennis court and called him a "puppy." He killed an unarmed man, a cook named Brincknell, and got off on a plea that Brincknell had committed suicide by "running upon" the sword. He ditched his wife and daughter for the court beauty Anne Vavasour, then ditched her too when she became pregnant. Among his contemporaries he was a byword for preening vanity, and he was accused of blasphemy and buggery, [allegations which are] not necessarily true but indicative of his reputation. Anyone remotely tempted by the idea he was Shakespearee should read Alan Nelson's trenchant biography, Monstrous Adversary (2003).

Sounds like a great character for a movie. Who should play him?

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Rhys Ifans is already cast. He's a versatile actor and should do fine.

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Bart, there is way to access TLS by signing up for their weekly alerts and you get access to three articles each week (of their choice). By that route here is the link to the article:

Charles Nicholl on new James Shapiro book, "Contested Will"

It is one of the many weaknesses of the anti-Stratfordian case that not a whisper is heard of any such suspicion until the mid-nineteenth century. In the crowded, intimate, gossipy world of the Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre, in the letters and diaries and epigrams of Shakespeare's contemporaries, in the ad personam jibes that were flung about "like hailstones" in the so-called War of the Theatres at the turn of the century, no one makes any allusion to this incredible sleight of hand being perpetrated, year after year, play after play, by the most popular writer of the day.

Interesting that another TLS review, on "Tiepolo Pink, also refers to the heavy-handedness of nineteenth century revisionism:

The nineteenth century, Calasso declares, had "irrevocably lost the knack for dealing with the past" ... Caravaggio not Tiepolo became declared the first modern painter, the precursor of Picasso and Bacon, where half the colour went into the lifestyle.

My Shakespeare is very poor (& unbrushed up) but whenever I read his plays I am always reminded by his references to facts of everyday life -- such as butchers' and bakers' implements, and to the fabrication of ink: "dip your pen in gall" (literally oak gall) -- that some portion of him came from a fairly humble background ... And conversely remember the aristocratic George H W Bush's shock at seeing his first "zebra stripe" scanner.

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My Shakespeare is very poor (& unbrushed up) but whenever I read his plays I am always reminded by his references to facts of everyday life -- such as butchers' and bakers' implements, and to the fabrication of ink: "dip your pen in gall" (literally oak gall) -- that some portion of him came from a fairly humble background ... And conversely remember the aristocratic George H W Bush's shock at seeing his first "zebra stripe" scanner.

That point has been raised by Shakespeare's defenders over the years, in response to the Oxfordians' contention that only an aristocrat would be able to write about the nobility as Shakespeare did. That knife cuts both ways. :wink:

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Among his contemporaries he was a byword for preening vanity, and he was accused of blasphemy and buggery, [allegations which are] not necessarily true but indicative of his reputation. Anyone remotely tempted by the idea he was Shakespeare should read Alan Nelson's trenchant biography, Monstrous Adversary (2003).

There are strong arguments against Oxford, but surely the "character issue" isn't one of them. Many great writers have been men of unsavory reputation. And Tudor courts were malicious places. Haven't read the book, of course.

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[There are strong arguments against Oxford, but surely the "character issue" isn't one of them. Many great writers have been men of unsavory reputation. And Tudor courts were malicious places
All true, of course. But the layers of empathy and sensitivity in Shakespeare are so extensive and so deep. There's also the matter of Shakespeare's knowledge of and caring about a wide range of social classes, as Quiggin says. "Human flaws" are compatible with these qualities and no doubt enrich them. But only to a point, I think.

On the other hand, Oxford was a dashing looking fellow and a snappy dresser -- http://image.ebook30.com/data_images/2009/...51ajfssyy9l.jpg This is a definite plus in movie-making. Oxford (misunderstood, with a secret life of sensitivity and endless scribbling) would provide a wonderful role in the right screenwriter's hands. A younger Johnny Depp, perhaps?

My own theory, one based on the kind of intuitive thinking and evidence drawn from the Works themselves, is that a plausible case can be made for the claim that "Shakespeare" was actually Gwyneth Paltrow. :wink:

Quiggin, thanks very much for:

[T]here is way to access TLS by signing up for their weekly alerts and you get access to three articles each week (of their choice). By that route here is the link to the article:

Charles Nicholl on new James Shapiro book, "Contested Will"

I like the print edition, which I can mark up with underlining and circlings, etc. -- but have often wished to have access to the online version for Linking, etc. What did you think about the article?

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[There are strong arguments against Oxford, but surely the "character issue" isn't one of them. Many great writers have been men of unsavory reputation. And Tudor courts were malicious places
All true, of course. But the layers of empathy and sensitivity in Shakespeare are so extensive and so deep. There's also the matter of Shakespeare's knowledge of and caring about a wide range of social classes, as Quiggin says. "Human flaws" are compatible with these qualities and no doubt enrich them. But only to a point, I think.

Hard to say where the point is, though. It was a very different era. The questions about knowledge of classes and the nature of personality and biography have all been raised by the Oxfordians, so you're playing on their field....

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I like the print edition, which I can mark up with underlining and circlings, etc. -- but have often wished to have access to the online version for Linking, etc. What did you think about the article?

Bart, I like the TLS too, they cover everything, including lots of stuff not in translation, though they can be a bit condescending, as they were to Saramago ("it is easy to mock Saramago"). I liked the "Contested Will" review, it seemed to be thorough and balanced.

What interests me about the whole thing, as with Tiepolo/Caravaggio, is the reordering of the past by the present's needs. Witgenstein said something like the present reinterprets the present in its own small minded way and Borges says -- in the new Penguin book of his sonnets --

"The past is clay shaped by the present's whim" (El pasado es arcilla que el presente labra a su antojo interminablemente.)
A younger Johnny Depp, perhaps?

While Johnny Depp is playing the lead in the Alfred Cortot Story -- silly idea from these photos at this great web resource:

Gallica - Cortot

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The questions about knowledge of classes and the nature of personality and biography have all been raised by the Oxfordians, so you're playing on their field....
Raising and addressing questions are valuable skills, of course. Unfortunately, answering questions accurately is not so easy.

The two sides in this matter have different ideas about what constitutes evidence and different standards for evaluating evidence. Charles Nichol's review in the TLS includes the following:

The call for an "open debate" which echoes through Oxfordian websites is probably pointless; here is no common ground of terminology between "Stratfordians" (as they are reluctantly forced to describe themselves) and anti-Stratfordians. As the director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, Gail Kern Paster, recently put it, "To ask me about the authorship question ... is like asking a paleontologist to debate a creationist's account of the fossil record.
I suspect that the opposing camps -- one vast, one marginal -- are destined to coexist for a long, long time.
What interests me about the whole thing, as with Tiepolo/Caravaggio, is the reordering of the past by the present's needs. Witgenstein said something like the present reinterprets the present in its own small minded way and Borges says -- in the new Penguin book of his sonnets --
"The past is clay shaped by the present's whim" (El pasado es arcilla que el presente labra a su antojo interminablemente.)
There's a lot of truth in both observations. The past is, has, and always will be shaped by the concerns of the present, many of which have been less than laudable. Good scholars know they have to keep this in mind; lesser (or lazier) scholars do not.

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Bart quoted a review that included the following:

"As the director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, Gail Kern Paster, recently put it, 'To ask me about the authorship question ... is like asking a paleontologist to debate a creationist's account of the fossil record.'"

Exactly.

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The questions about knowledge of classes and the nature of personality and biography have all been raised by the Oxfordians, so you're playing on their field....
Raising and addressing questions are valuable skills, of course. Unfortunately, answering questions accurately is not so easy.

My original point, bart, is that saying the Earl of Oxford was such a meanie that he could not have produced great plays, which was the gist of the reviewer's quote, is not the strongest argument to muster, and I still think so. Surely there is enough empirical evidence to marshal. The Oxfordians do and have relied on exactly such ad hominem arguments.

Depp did play an aristocratic literary figure of distinction recently and wasn't quite up to it, but it could have been the material. (He's a perfectly good actor.) He does bear a slight resemblance to Cortot, oddly enough.

Hello, Drew. Good to hear from you in this forum.

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Stanley Wells weighs in with a positive review of Shapiro's book, in New York Review of Books. Only the first section of the review is available online, which means that the discussion of the Oxford claims can only be read in print.

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2...-stratford-man/

From p. 33 of the print edition:

Shapiro's book is a brilliantly researched, highly readable, thoughtful, and wise contribution to the history of Shakespeare's reputation. Anyone reading it ought to realize that the story that lies behind the anti-Stratfordian movement is one of irrationality and obsession, of a refusal to consider evidence in favor of conjecture, prejudice, snobbery, and a vain desire to create a stir. I wish I could believe that their that the arguments rationally and temperately rehearsed in Contested Will would do anything whatever to convert the disbelievers or to discourage potential converts. But I don't.

The very fact that Wells is an eminent Shakespeare scholar -- editor of the Oxford and Penguin editions of Shakespeare's works and Chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust -- will possibly be held against him. If you're have spent your life studying something at the highest levels, and earned some eminence in a traditional discipline, many supporters of alternative realities consider that a strike against you. That's the way of our internet cultlure.

Meanwhile, what about the upcoming movie? That can still be a lot of fun -- and even good art -- whether or not it is based on real events. After all, although few historians have any respect for the hot-house story-line of MacMillan's Mayerling, that probably hasn't stopped many from enjoying the ballet and admiring the dancing. :clapping:

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Thanks to all for their links to these reviews, everyone, but I think we have enough to get the gist. :clapping:

"Irrationality" and "obsession" seems a mite harsh, although it certainly applied/applies in some cases. I don't think it applies to others, however, and blanket accusations of nutjobbery aren't very nice. Anyone who's dipped into academic Shakespearean commentary knows that the good professors aren't exactly immune to the speculative bug.

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I rather enjoyed the critic who opined that the champions of the other contenders, whether Oxford, Bacon, Jonson, Marlowe, Raleigh, Beaumont and Fletcher, Beaumont without Fletcher, Fletcher without Beaumont, or even Elizabeth I herself, had done such a thorough job of destroying everyone else's arguments that the only author left on the field of Shakespeare authorship was, in fact, Shakespeare himself.

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Thanks for that fascinating story, dirac. Now that would make an intriguing film.

Returning to the topic of movies: Whatever we think about the historical debate, movie-making is an exercise of the imagination most of all. It really doesn't matter who is right or wrong. Why, for instance, couldn't one make make a movie about the who-wrote-Shakespeare controversy itself? It's clear that there are people who feel passionately about this issue. Passionate enough to commit crimes? To kill their rivals in order to obtain or suppress evidence?

A great deal of Western cultural identity is tied up with the answer to such questions. I remember how far those medieval monks The Name of the Rose were willing to go to suppress certain manuscripts? Or all the turbulence created by all the factions in the Da Vinci Code?

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Why, for instance, couldn't one make make a movie about the who-wrote-Shakespeare controversy itself?

Because it would be a dead bore, that's why. :clapping: Even Roland Emmerich couldn't do much with that.

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The latest:

German film director Roland Emmerich has admitted courting controversy with his film that questions the authorship of Shakespeare's plays.

Anonymous portrays the Bard as an inarticulate buffoon, making nobleman Edward de Vere the true author. Speaking at a debate, Emmerich said: "I know it is controversial, and I was going for the controversy."

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I have a fiction book at home (trade pbk edition), only skimmed so far, that is about the discovery of a supposed Shakespearean play, and of course the machinations of all involved to find it, keep it, and then maybe release it and reap the royalties forever after. Since I bought the novel at the same time as another book, I don't remember if the title was "Codex" or "Book of Air & Shadows". Whichever, whatever, they had me and my hard earned cash at "Shakespeare".

PS. I have a degree in Med/Renn history but am certainly NOT a scholar/expert. However, I've always hoped Shakespeare wrote the plays because I like to root for "the little people" who never rule or get inordinantly rich, but still aspire to, and often achieve, greatness however anonymously.

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[There are strong arguments against Oxford, but surely the "character issue" isn't one of them. Many great writers have been men of unsavory reputation. And Tudor courts were malicious places
All true, of course. But the layers of empathy and sensitivity in Shakespeare are so extensive and so deep. There's also the matter of Shakespeare's knowledge of and caring about a wide range of social classes, as Quiggin says. "Human flaws" are compatible with these qualities and no doubt enrich them. But only to a point, I think.

Hard to say where the point is, though. It was a very different era. The questions about knowledge of classes and the nature of personality and biography have all been raised by the Oxfordians, so you're playing on their field....

The only people I have ever witnessed who have a particular claim to insight into "...classes and the nature of personality... of the persons and period in question, are the living descendants of notable families who have an encyclopaedic knowledge going back beyond the 16th century. Which in general, they keep to themselves.

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The only people I have ever witnessed who have a particular claim to insight into "...classes and the nature of personality...” of the persons and period in question, are the living descendants of notable families who have an encyclopaedic knowledge going back beyond the 16th century. Which in general, they keep to themselves.

"I do not know why there is all this fuss about education. None of the Paget family can read or write and they do very well."

I have a fiction book at home (trade pbk edition), only skimmed so far, that is about the discovery of a supposed Shakespearean play, and of course the machinations of all involved to find it, keep it, and then maybe release it and reap the royalties forever after. Since I bought the novel at the same time as another book, I don't remember if the title was "Codex" or "Book of Air & Shadows".

Looks like it was "The Book of Air and Shadows."

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"Anonymous" will be out this month.

And so ‘Anonymous’ posits the idea that Oxford was not only the author known as William Shakespeare but the illegitimate son of Elizabeth. Moreover, the pair had an incestuous relationship that produced a son, the Earl of Southampton (Xavier Samuel). ‘When Shakespeare wrote “Henry V”, he made things up and we’re making things up too,’ says Emmerich. Orloff was, at first, taken aback by his director’s suggestion, though admits it makes for great drama. ‘I have done a lot of non-fiction-based movies and there is a point where you have to go with the emotional truth, not the literal truth, because the drama is the primary concern.’

Is Emmerich expecting any adverse reaction from the British media? ‘Absolutely,’ he says. ‘I’m looking forward to it. It’s quite interesting how emotional people get when it comes to this subject. What we’re doing in this movie is very controversial.’

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