Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Anonymous

Who was William Shakespeare?  Was he truly the author of the plays that bear his name, did he take credit for the work of an anonymous author, or is the man we know as the bard a complete fabrication.  This his been debated for years by the likes of Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Sigmund Freud, and others.  Consider this:  no play in his hand writing is known to exist, his parents and children were illiterate, his own signature nearly illegible - sometimes spelled Shaksper, sometimes Shaxpeare.
It is inferred from the plays that the author was well educated - very knowledgeable in history, well versed on the law, most likely able to speak multiple languages. It is also thought that he was well traveled, probably having lived in Italy for several years since many of the plays are set there.  He would have to have inside information on royal affairs and courtly procedures.  None of these attributes can be verified in regards to the man from Stratford upon Avon that history has come to accept as the author of the plays.

So who did write the plays?  Some think it was Francis Bacon.  Some think it was the Earl of Oxford.  Some think there were multiple authors. The supposition of the movie Anonymous is that the true author of the Shakespearean canon was Edward DeVere, Earl of Oxford.  That due to political machinations, he had to keep his authorship a secret.  Many of the negative reviews complain that the film is historically inaccurate, but it's not meant to be.  If you keep in mind that it's a work of fiction, that the majority of scenes are complete fabrications and not intended as historical fact, it is absolutely brilliant.

First, let me say that the film is visually gorgeous.  The CG, costumes, etc really transport you back to 16th century England.  The dialogue is sparkling and the political intrigue is thrilling.  The acting is top notch, and I found the portrayal of Edward DeVere by Rhys Ifans particularly captivating.  The film jumps around in time a bit, and there are younger and older versions of characters, so you really have to pay attention or it will get confusing quickly.  If you stick with it, though, you will be greatly awarded with a very interesting movie that will likely stimulate you to learn more about who really wrote what are considered by many to be the greatest works of the English language. 
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