So, Shakespeare: talented bloke, apparently, with a body of work unparalleled in the annals of English literature. Or was he?
Since the 19th century, there’s been a current of thought in academic circles that says Shakespeare didn’t actually write any of the masterpieces attributed to him. After all, it’s well known that Shakey was a habitual collaborator, with at least 11 of “his” plays earmarked as collective efforts. And his biography doesn’t mark him out as the learned, cultured sort of chap you’d assume the writer of that canon of plays to be. Were those soaring soliloquies and iambic ramblings really his words, or from the quill of another man entirely?
That’s the question currently obsessing director Roland Emmerich, the man behind Universal Soldier and Independence Day. In his new film Anonymous, which is out this Friday, this newly ordained anti-Stratfordian (as the Shakespeare sceptics are known) advances the case that Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, wrote the plays attributed to the Bard.
“Through my research I became one of these people who believes that the Man from Stratford didn’t write that amazing body of work,” says Emmerich. “And there’s a very strong theory that Oxford did and we use that in our film.”
Rhys Ifans, who plays the Earl in Anonymous, suggests that the case is so watertight that the movie will put a rocket up conservative academics, saying: “Basically, the film is about who wrote Shakespeare, and there will be a right old kerfuffle and a lot of sweaty old dons reaching for the Valium when this comes out. There’s going to be a lot of dust blown off parchment, I can tell you.”
Whether or not Emmerich and his film will cause the GCSE syllabus to be rewritten is a matter for debate. Which is rather appropriate, seeing as the director participated in one with a gaggle of Shakespeare scholars back in June, which you can see for yourself above.
And if you’re itching for more authorial conspiracy theories, check out this video of Emmerich laying out his top ten reasons for doubting Shakespeare’s authorship.
So, will you be burning your copy of the First Folio in disgust? Or do you think Emmerich and co might be barking up the wrong tree? Post a comment and let’s have it out here and now…