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Frankly, I think the Shakespeare conspiracy theories are a waste of time. Whether or not the chap from Warwickshire whose mug we've grown accustomed to actually wrote the plays and sonnets seems irrevelant. Whoever he was, Shakespeare was Shakespeare. Nonetheless, director, Roland Emmerich and writer, John Orloff, have put together this concoction of a film that I hear isn't half bad. Anyone seen it?


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I also plan to see the movie.  I hold little to no expectations that it will help us in our search for the truth.

There is an objective truth.  It is probably beyond the available evidence to definitely arrive at it (unfortunately)....but I'm willing to go down that road and see where it leads.

I have seen the movie "Anonymous" three times, and also the discussion on the DVD by the director Roland Emmerich and the scriptwriter John Orloff.  I highly recommend the discussion on DVD  which explains why some of the historical details were altered to create an exciting drama rather than a documentary.  It's a wonderful movie -- beautifully photographed, elegantly costumed, splendid with its special effects, and amazingly authentic about the political and religious strife that characterized Elizabethan England.  The actors were all wonderful within their characters -- especially Vanessa Redgrave as the aging queen Elizabeth and her daughter Joely Richardson as the younger and more passionate Elizabeth.  Even the minor characters were portrayed in oscar-worthy performances.   AND THE DVD IS BETTER THAN THE THEATER VERSION!!!
    It dismays me to see what ought to be a discussion about the MOVIE descend into an acrimonious debate about the basic premise -- that "William Shakespeare" was a pen name, probably invented by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.  Oxford was known to be Queen Elizabeth's "favorite" in 1572-73, the very year in which the Third Earl of Southampton was born, exactly 9 months after the Revels of Twelfth Night of that year. 
     It's a lovely legend that Queen Elizabeth remained a virgin all her life, but recent histories of Gloriana say many scandals circulated around Europe about her many lovers.  It's tempting to think that a grain-merchant's son could acquire the vast knowledge (including that in books not yet available in English translation) just by befriending a few aristocrats (not likely), but Mark Twain (aka Samuel Clemens) wrote an essay "Is Shakespeare Dead?" that reveals how little we ACTUALLY know about the man who signed his name "William Shaxper" or "Shagspere" or "Shakspere" but NEVER the same way as the author spelled his (consistently Shakespeare or Shake-speare). 

   The scholars Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn and their son Charlton Ogburn, Jr., are scholars of the first order, extremely knowledgeable about Shakespeare's plays and poems.  Their books ought to be "must" readings for anyone interested in the authorship issue:  THIS STAR OF ENGLAND is a brilliant biography of Edward de Vere, and Charlton Ogburn Jr.'s book THE MYSTERIOUS WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE is a thorough analysis of the whole authorship question -- including the history of doubters and some of the candidates that had been proposed for the true author (pros & cons).  More info is available on the web sites of the Shakespeare-Oxford Society and the Shakespeare Fellowship, with many links to  scholarly work and documents about the authorship of the greatest works ever produced in the English language. 

That's it, Sleuth.


Criticize us for spending more time on the authorship debate than on the movie, as if you were above the fray of us low-class boors, then start off on your own extensive Oxfordian argument.


The scholars Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn and their son Charlton Ogburn, Jr., are scholars of the first order, extremely knowledgeable about Shakespeare's plays and poems  


That's bull shit. Their books are as full of un-supported speculation as the worst of them. They're just better known than the rest. Like Ayn Rand they write with facility, making pronouncements as if they were already truths that require no further support than the utterance of them.


They start out with the basic premise: Shakespeare couldn't be the true author because of who he was and how little we know about him. And de Vere must have been the true author because of who he was and how much we know about him. 


Then they proceed to shit on Shaxper or Shagsper or Shakspere -- or whatever other name by which he was referred to over his life -- describing to him as an ignorant, country slob, the illiterate descendant of illiterates, and -- whenever there's a choice of interpretation that might be favorable to this pathetic caricature -- they opt for the one that denigrates and abases him as much as possible. But for their own candidate -- the wife-abandoning gadabout, the spendthrift and reputed pederast (maybe that's the reason he denied he was responsible for his wife's pregnancy), and groveling petitioner -- they reserve a retch-worthy adoration that finds its way into titles like This Star of England.


In short, they do not approach or evaluate their sources objectively or impartially. That is not scholarship. That is special pleading.


Even as they denounce -- sometimes fairly and accurately -- the imbecilities of Stratfordians they themselves engage in those same imbecilities.


All the extant evidence that can't be interpreted as ambiguous is shit on as phonied up, or they suggest it was created as part of the "conspiracy" to conceal de Vere's true identity -- for without this "conspiracy" there is no claim for Oxford. You know it. I know it. The Ogburns know it, and every other Oxfordian knows it. That's because there is just too much contrary evidence to be explained away, unless you rely upon a conspiracy that was set up to falsify it.


It's a lovely legend that Queen Elizabeth remained a virgin all her life, but recent histories of Gloriana say many scandals circulated around Europe about her many lovers


If there's no evidence that Shakespeare went to school there's surely none that Elizabeth's reputation for being a virgin was merely a "lovely legend". Most of Europe was still powerfully Catholic during her reign, and her status as the "heretic" queen triggered some fearsome "scandals" -- all of them thoroughly untrue. Merely not being a virgin was the least of what she was accused of. As often as not she was denounced as "that Protestant whore." Rely upon such scandals, if that's your sense of historical evidence. It's not mine.


But let's assume she was not a virgin. Is there some reason for assuming de Vere was her lover? Of all the men she was known to "associate" with, Dudley was probably the man who'd had the best chance of making whoopee with her in the rack. And by the time her name was coupled with the young Essex, she was probably past caring about dick. I grant you this: for political reasons it was important for her to seem a virgin, and Elizabeth did like being the center of masculine attention.


Personally, I think the current effort to deflower her in the history books is based on our notions of female empowerment -- it's an even lovelier legend to believe that she was a proto-feminist, one who could fuck a man and shit on him afterwards, just as women today can do. Hence, even if it contradicts my own view of the world, I'm still prepared to believe she was a virgin -- though, perhaps, the greatest prick-tease in history.


If everything I said still makes no sense, remember that Catherine the Great was likewise the target of "scandals" all over Europe. And the most outlandish of those scandals -- and probably, therefore, the one most believed -- was that she died while trying to fuck a horse -- (evidently he had the only dick left in all Russia that could satisfy her). This notorious "scandal" was precisely that: a scandal and no more.


It's tempting to think that a grain-merchant's son could acquire the vast knowledge (including that in books not yet available in English translation) just by befriending a few aristocrats (not likely)


It's not only tempting, it's inevitable. First, disavow yourself of the delusion that the plays of Shakespeare are some sort of vast compendium of human knowledge. They are not. People who believe that are usually those who have small familiarity with the plays themselves, which are embarrassingly full of anachronisms and errors and outright misrepresentations.


Second, Shakespeare's sources have been the subject of much scholarly study and speculation. Do not, I beg of you, believe the hogwash that he had no access to books. As I mention above, he grew up down the street from Richard Field, who was only three years older than Shakespeare, whose father -- as even the most rabid Oxfordians admit -- was a notable in Stratford-upon-Avon. Field's own father was a tanner, just as Shakespeare's has been referred to as a tanner or as a glove-maker. Thus both their fathers were in much the same business, or at least one where they'd have plenty of mutual contact. So if the town was as small and backwater as the Ogburns argue, it's almost guaranteed that Field and Shakespeare knew each other at least by name and by sight.


Field left for London, just as Shakespeare was to do. And while there he became a reputable publisher with access to manuscripts of all sorts -- some which would later be printed and some which would not. It was Field who entered Venus and Adonis for publication in 1593. It bears Shakespeare's name as the author and contains his celebrated dedication, under the name "William Shakespeare", to Southampton. If anybody were in a position to know who was the "Shakespeare" who authored that poem it would surely be Field. Did he falsify that entry to conceal the "true" identity of some other writer? In your own words, "not likely".


The Stratfordian Shakespeare was referred to as "Shakespeare" even in Stratford-upon-Avon, where sundry records misspell his name with a consistency that only students of Elizabethan history can fully appreciate. You remember that Oxford -- as I say above -- signed himself Oxenford. If he can play havoc with his own name -- and he a great lord of the realm -- why should a mere Shakespeare be any different? 


I think Mark Twain is one of the very greatest writers in the English language. But on many issues involving history he doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground. There are, perhaps, a half-dozen agreed-upon signatures attributed to Shakespeare, all of them written in an ugly script that is no longer in use. Elizabethan calligraphy is -- to say the least -- difficult to read. It's not really possible to be sure how  Shakespeare signed his name, so grotesque are the current specimens of it. The Ogburns even use this to charge that Shakespeare was only semi-literate, since his signatures were so illegible. That's the kind of scholars they are.


In any event, to my knowledge Twain did not have access to all the signatures when he made his statement. So he wouldn't have known about the Blount-Mountjoy deposition, where "William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon . . . of the age of fort-eight years or thereabouts . . ." -- he was exactly forty-eight when the document was prepared -- signs his name, as we can best decipher it, as "Willm Shakper".


NEVER the same way as the author spelled his (consistently Shakespeare or Shake-speare)


That's not exactly true, is it? It was the printer or publisher who did the name-spelling. And even that wasn't always consistent. The 1608 publication of King Lear  identifies its author as "William Shak-speare" on the title page.


So let's stop this fussing over spelling. People who work in the theatrical profession often have names that are wholly different or only moderately different from their own. And Shakespeare did that sort of work in an age when he had many different spellings of his name and in official public documents, too. If the guy had somehow gotten a reputation under the name "Shakespeare", why wouldn't he keep that name for commercial and career benefits even if he were more comfortable actually signing his name under a different spelling? Isn't that precisely what the Oxfordians argue? -- That their candidate had reasons for signing his name differently from what was on the title pages of the quartos?


[Anonymous is] beautifully photographed, elegantly costumed, splendid with its special effects




and amazingly authentic about the political and religious strife that characterized Elizabethan England


Don't make me laugh.

Thank you, Sev, for taking the time to make an extensive reply to my post.  I do wish you had put FIRST the nice things you said about the beautiful movie "Anonymous" which I agree is largely fiction, just as "Shakespeare in Love" was fiction. 

You surely do evidence a large amount of knowledge about Shakespeare's work and the history of England, but I, too, have a lot of knowledge gained from 20 years of research and attendance at many Shakespeare festivals and performances.  So please afford me the same respect I afford you.  Words like "bull shit" are not appropriate in a civil discussion, as well as quite untrue. The Ogburns were pioneering and thus subject to much derision, but they knew Shakespeare's work THOROUGHLY and their speculations make at least as much sense as the speculations of Stratfordians -- and in my humble opinion, much more.

   One recent book that might interest you is Helen Hackett's "Elizabeth and Shakespeare -- the meeting of two myths."  Ms. Hackett agrees with your theory about seeing Elizabeth through the eyes of different generations -- during the Victorian age as an idealized icon, and in other centuries as a kind of "iron lady" -- and so forth.  Great reading.

You did misunderstand my comment about Mark Twain's essay.  He didn't dwell on the signatures, but he compared our scant knowledge of Shakespeare's life  to making a brontosaurus out of 9 bones and tons of plaster.  His essay "Is Shakespeare Dead?" is well worth reading.  As one who did himself use a pseudonym, and as a commoner who was born a genius but became a master of language, his opinions are worth considering.  As for the signatures, I was referring to the ways that Shakspere HIMSELF wrote his name, not the many ways others have spelled it.  That might make one wonder why he would use a different spelling (and pronunciation) on written work if he was indeed the same person as the great author.

    I don't hope to change anybody's mind about the Shakespeare authorship question, but I do hope people view the movie as an exciting possibility, no matter whether they agree with the premise or not.  If I have made you laugh, I'm happy about that.  :-)    :-) 

Words like "bull shit" are not appropriate in a civil discussion, as well as quite untrue.


Let me apologize in advance, Sleuth. I can't avoid using dirty words. I sprinkle them on my breakfast cereal. They provide me the protein I need to function. (When you read something like Partridge's Shakespeare's Bawdy, you wonder if the Bard ever wrote anything that wasn't a lewd double-entendre.)


But aside from the sewer level of my diction, I hope and trust that you sense the respect implicit in my willingness to argue your points at length.


Let me say again what I've already said a number of times. I really enjoyed Anonymous, and I hope to have a DVD of it within my grubby hands within a matter of hours. Rest assured I don't judge anti-Stratfordianism solely by what Roland Emmerich and his crew have set out in the film.


But its plot is so psychotically over-the-top, so needlessly insulting to the genuine participants of this "historical" debate, that I think it does the Oxfordian argument more harm than good.


Don't misunderstand me: I find the whole line of argument in favor of de Vere as the author of the canon to be without any basis whatever. I think the Ogburns garbled the evidence, were biased in their evaluation of it, and in some measure deserve the reputation not only of bad scholars, but also of cranks. Under such circumstances -- and given my natural penchant for profane vitriol -- use of the expression "bull shit" is not only within bounds, it's genteel.


It's quite sexy to believe oneself "in the know". It's gratifying to be among that brotherhood of those who Fight the Good Fight against the pomposity of established scholarship in an effort to arrive at a "truth" that has been hidden for centuries. In a Frontline documentary Charlton Ogburn, Jr. actually wept as he quoted the "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow . . ." soliloquy from Macbeth, believing that de Vere was giving voice, in this exquisite passage, to his own personal agony at being deprived of the one solace every man is entitled to -- acknowledgment of his work.


But for all Ogburn's tears, for all his sincerity, for all the rough treatment he's undergone while standing up for his idea, that idea is still wrong. It's still unsupported by competent scholarship. It's still -- let me try to make this more palatable to you -- issuing from the asses of bulls.


Unlike most people I only came to Mark Twain as an adult. Hence, my view of his talents is skewed by all the other nonsense that crossed my path before I reached him. But while I love some of his critical material, and his late-in-life cynicism is thrilling to read, his historical understanding is vapid and hopelessly Victorian -- see, for example, his novel about Joan of Arc, on which he put so great a store.


I think Twain was likewise deficient in his appreciation of paleontology. You can make a brontosaurus -- a brachiosaurus out of nine bones and a ton of plaster.

Welcome to the group, Sleuth.

In response to your impression that this thread has descended into an acrimonious debate I must respectfully disagree. In fact, I'm encouraged to see what I regard simply as vehemence over the Shakespeare authorship question. The motivation behind such vehemence - how and why people have drawn their conclusions - is part of the fun and exactly what I'd hoped for when I tagged the group "Shake & STIR". It's a bit unfortunate that the authorship question has been the subject of the longest thread thus far but I think it's fairly representative of the what the public at large spends expends their energy on in regard to Shakespeare today.

Even scholars as well regarded as Columbia University's James Shapiro ( 1599 : A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare), who I never thought would succumb to the temptation of engaging in the authorship debate succumb with his Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?. But like Sevorin, I think if you're going to engage, why knock it?

Frankly, I think the authorship question overwhelms any compositional merits to found in Anonymous. I've alluded to the few I found noteworthy though no one's bothered to extend or give alternative impressions of those merits. But no one has to. The film-watching experience is too subjective to expect any kind of universal response of a specific kind. You just put it out there and hope for the best.

thanks for the welcome, and for the respectful disagreement.  I think a dialogue or discussion can be spirited and even opinionated without all the pejoratives and name-calling.  I will gladly discuss the merits of the movie as an exciting drama, especially after seeing the "special feature" on the DVD where Emmerich and Orloff discuss how they made their decisions and even the way that actors taught them new ways of seeing the material.  I thought the deathbed scene, for example, was quite ingenious because even though it never happened in real life, in drama it gave Ben Jonson the opportunity to say to the author in person, "You are the soul of the age." 


I cringed during that last moment - felt it was a mawkish, though an apt conclusion. And though I know it's a conditioned expectation I felt the film had no sympathetic protagonists. Not one. Neither does Bresson's Pickpocket, whose main protagonist is a scoundrel but there at least you develop compassion for him. Or can it be that compassion develops in him? Either way, the character of De Vere, who is ostensibly the center of the piece, doesn't really develop. He remains the tortured, misunderstood creep he was at the beginning of the film. Even contemporary animated films have characters with more developed dramatic arcs. Perhaps I should have approach it as a live cartoon.

I agree that the character of Oxford was not well developed, as it should have been.  I attended a seminar about the movie, and one of the valid criticisms voiced there was that we didn't get to see the witty, playful side of Edward de Vere. The movie really becomes more of Ben Jonson's story than that of Edward and Elizabeth, although I can see why emmerich and Orloff put the battle over the succession at the center of the plot.  My own disappointment in the motivation for Oxford to write plays seemed to be trivialized. In reality, Oxford wrote most of his plays for Queen Elizabeth's court and/or royal weddings, and she commissioned him to write the history plays to encourage her English subjects to feel a greater loyalty to England than to a particular religion.  In 1586 she awarded him an annuity of 1,000 pounds paid quarterly, which Oxfordians believe was to maintain a stable of actors (known as the Lord Chamberlain's Men or the Queen's Men at differing times.)  The lines about hearing voices that wanted to be set down on parchment seemed to trivialize Oxford as if he had neurotic compulsions rather than the normal compulsion that all geniuses have to create what inspires them.   

. . . she commissioned him to write the history plays to encourage her English subjects to feel a greater loyalty to England than to a particular religion


Please forgive me, Sleuth . . . but your post is so lunatic that I can't tell whether it's meant to be serious.


If you'd be so kind, please clarify: Are you saying that de Vere wrote Shakespeare's first and second history cycles because Elizabeth commissioned him to do it? If your answer is "yes", when, exactly, did he produce those plays.


In fact, what do you believe is the proper sequence and dates of the plays?


Are you one of those who believes Elizabeth awarded de Vere an annuity of 1,000 pounds -- payable, if I understand you correctly, at the rate of 250 pounds per quarter -- solely to support what was known at various times as the Lord Chamberlain's Men? How long after 1586 do Oxfordians contend this subsidy continued?

My excellent Shakespeare professor (a staunch Stratfordian, BTW) told us students decades ago that the purpose of the history plays was to encourage patriotism among Englishmen so they would put their country first, ahead of their religion.  That seems logical, considering that Catholics and Protestants were killing each other to the point of massacre (e.g. Huguenots) and that the Pope in 1570 excommunicated Elizabeth and said outright that it would not be considered a sin for a Catholic to assassinate her, and then plots against her life increased.  She was a masterful propagandist as well as a smart politician, so that explanation of the motivation for the history plays seems credible to me.  Some of her biographers credit her with creating the persona of the "Virgin Queen" in part to give her Catholic subjects who felt the loss of the Virgin Mary an icon to focus upon as she took on more and more the role of Defender of the Faith.       As to the purpose of the annuity, I said that Oxfordians (at least a great many of them who have thought about it) believe it was to maintain a theatrical company, but he was not required to account for it, so we don't have a documentary proof except that it was awarded.  However, the annuity continued every year until her death in 1603, at which time King James continued it (Oxford died in 1604, however, so James didn't have very long to pay it.    The exact dates of the plays cannot be established, but some of the Oxfordians now are compiling a list based on topical references, maturity of the work, and other criteria used by the Stratfordians to create their speculative list.  The Stratfordians, however, forced the dates to fit the lifetime of their candidate, something like a Procrustean bed, so their assumptions can be questioned by a serious open-minded scholar.

My questions were quite specific, Sleuth. I'll repeat them for you:


Are you saying that de Vere wrote Shakespeare's first and second history cycles because Elizabeth commissioned him to do it?


Simply telling me that it was advantageous to instill a sense of national pride in Englishmen is no evidence that Elizabeth specifically commissioned de Vere to write any history plays, much less the Henry VI trilogy, Richard II or III, the two parts of Henry IV, or Henry V.


But if   Elizabeth did  commission him to write such plays, what conceivable reason could there be for him to conceal his authorship of them?  -- That he couldn't do what his queen asked him to do because it was "unseemly" for a nobleman to write plays even when the ruler of his country requested him to do so?


Come on, pal. It doesn't take a scholar to see that such a notion is "bull shit" -- and here I'm using the appropriate and inescapable terminology.


Personally, I think it was the national pride that triggered the interest in the history plays and not vice-versa. The common Brit was orgiastically happy after the annihilation of the Armada in 1588. That gave rise to the slew of history plays of the 1590s. Much the same thing happened in Attic Greece after Marathon and Salamis.


Next question:


Are you one of those who believes Elizabeth awarded de Vere an annuity of 1,000 pounds . . . solely to support what was known at various times as the Lord Chamberlain's Men?


You haven't answered this question. I don't care what other Oxfordians believe. It's you I'm talking to. Do you believe Elizabeth gave him this annuity to subsidize the Lord Chamberlain's Men?


If so, 1,000 pounds a year is a hefty sum to lay out for mere actors -- especially since those actors received additional payment from the royal treasury for performing plays. In fact, for performances of two separate plays before the queen on December 26 and 28, 1594, a total of 10 pounds per play was paid -- paid, I might point out, to Will Kempe, Richard Burbage, and William Shakespeare as the servants to the Lord Chamberlain. This information is contained in the warrants prepared by the Treasurer of the Royal Chamber, who had to account for the funds he paid out. Not like Oxford, who "was not required to account for" that 1,000 pound pension.


I can't help but ask: If these guys were already being subsidized by Oxford, why would the queen -- the same woman who refused to pay the starving sailors who manned the ships that saved England -- pay these actors any more money?


The Oxfordian crowd is really reaching here. There's not a fact, not even a whisper of a fact, that Oxford used that scratch for any purpose other than that for which he always used the dough that came into his hands -- to piss away on pussy and watermelon. He was a notorious spendthrift who devoted loads of time to scratching out pleas to Elizabeth for money, pleas for preferment, pleas for tin monopolies.

The Stratfordians, however, forced the dates to fit the lifetime of their candidate, something like a Procrustean bed, so their assumptions can be questioned by a serious open-minded scholar


In short, you don't yet have any idea when or in what order the plays were written.


Not having any such idea, you'd still rather accuse the Stratfordians of distorting the facts to "force" the dates to suit their candidate.


But you and I know the truth, don't we, Sleuth? The real Procrustean bed is the one used by Oxfordians who are still struggling to force the dates to suit their candidate.


Other anti-Stratfordians -- such as those who favor Francis Bacon -- don't go through these twisted re-calibrations of the existing (and accepted) chronology. Why? Because their candidate didn't die in 1604, years before some of the plays were written and performed. They have no need to change the dates around, because Bacon lived long enough to have authored the plays.


No: It's the Oxfordians who are the ones most guilty of trying to "force the dates". They're the ones with the biggest motive to change the existing chronology. They're the ones who challenge not only the Stratfordian chronology, but damn near everyone's chronology, just to suit the life of their own favorite.


So try not to assume the sacred mantle of impartial scholarship. When it comes to distorting evidence or bypassing facts, Oxfordians are the guiltiest motherfuckers of the bunch. And every time they accuse rival candidates -- whether Shakespeare or Bacon or Derby or Marlowe or anyone else -- of faulty research, they're usually just smelling their own upper lip.




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