Film Review

As we approach the first anniversary of the death of our dear colleague Kevin Crawford, I wanted to share with you his review of the film Anonymous (2012). Knowledge is good!

Anonymous dramatizes the absurd idea that Edward de Vere, the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, wrote the plays of “William Shakespeare” but could not claim to have done so as a nobleman.

This piece of utter nonsense, although beautifully shot and mostly well-acted, gets more than a few things wrong…

Elizabeth I was childless, not the mother of countless male bastards who got to be foster-child earls. She was not de Vere’s mother, and most certainly not his lover and a mother of HIS child (who later gets to be the Earl of Southampton). At least we get the first film to include Queen Elizabeth engaged in oral sex with her son/lover right before he fathers his own son/brother on his own mother/lover…

Christopher Marlowe is shown alive in 1598; he died – by the nagging inconvenience of murder – by 1593.

Apparently, Shakespeare was Marlowe’s murderer; Ben Jonson accuses him of the crime, claming he “slit (Marlowe’s) throat” in Southwark. Hmmmm. Marlowe was murdered by Ingram Frizer in the suburb of Deptford when Mr. Frizer slipped his dagger in Marlowe’s left eye. Ouch. (Marlowe also dies in the film on the same day Essex leaves to meet the rebellion in Ireland – these two events happened six years apart. Oops.)

In 1603, either the Rose or the Globe Theatre burns down; the film doesn’t make it clear, but we know the Globe Theatre burned down in 1613, and the Rose never caught fire.

Richard III is billed as premiering in 1601, but was actually printed four years earlier in 1597 and performed well before its publication. Even worse, RIII is performed in the film as a rabble-rousing prelude to the Essex rebellion, when in fact Richard II – a VERY different play – was performed before the uprising (Shakespeareans are, admittedly, divided on how much the play’s performance was connected to Essex, but the play’s deposition scene was banned on stage and in print for many years).

The poem Venus and Adonis is depicted as a bestseller written and printed especially for Queen E in 1601. It was published in 1593; no known 1601 edition exists.

Ben Jonson is shocked that Romeo and Juliet, written in 1598, is entirely in blank verse. ButGorboduc precedes it as the first drama to use blank verse throughout a play by more than 35 years. By 1598 the form was standard in the English theatre. Oh, and Romeo and Juliet has quite a bit of prose in it, too. Like nearly fifteen percent of the play.

Elizabeth’s funeral takes place on the frozen Thames. The ceremony took place on land and the Thames did not freeze over that year.

Richard III was not the first play performed at the Globe.

Shakespeare was not illiterate. His grammar school education had him reading and translating major works in Latin and a few in Greek. How many modern college graduates read Latin and Greek? How many were doing so after the equivalent of sixth grade? Take lots of time with your answer…

Shakespeare spelled his own name in different ways? Fine. So did Marlowe, and the Earl of Oxford. Indeed, Oxford spelled the work “halfpenny” eleven – ELEVEN – different ways. Was he illiterate? Obviously, which means he couldn’t have written Shakespeare. I guess that means Queen Elizabeth wrote the plays when she wasn’t having sex.

And so on…