undyingking: (Default)
[personal profile] undyingking
At the pictures the other night, saw a trailer for new film Anonymous, in which the Earl of Oxford writes Shakespeare's plays.

The conspiracy theory that the plays were written by someone other than Shakespeare (who in this version was just an actor) is of very long standing. There are a number of other candidates suggested, but the overall gist is the same: 'the man from Stratford's' contribution to the oeuvre (sonnets and other verse as well as the plays) was nil or negligible.

It seems to me that this theory or set of theories, which I used to think of as being the realm of fringe loonery, has recently gained a bit of currency. What better way to find out than with an LJ poll?

[Poll #1787472]

You might remember Shakespeare in Love also included signficant aristocratic contribution to the Shakespearian canon. But that was a bit different, in that it was presented as a joky fun idea rather than an uncovering of the truth. The people involved with Anonymous make it clear that they see it as practically documentary, exposing a centuries-old wrong.

What I find interesting is that the main argument of the anti-Stratfordians is that William Shakespeare was a mere middle-class grammar-school oik, so he couldn't possibly have written works of refinement and grace: the author must have been a nobleman. You can imagine why this sort of naked appeal to snobbery was popular among its Victorian originators, but a little startling to see it now. It's as though the Stratfordian theory is simply too socially repellent to be true.

More detailed arguments seem to me weak. For example, it's argued that the author must have travelled in Italy, because so many of the plays are set there and landscape etc is described in detail. But if it's pointed out that much of the Italian geography in the plays is hopelessly and fancifully wrong, that is adduced as evidence of the true author covering his tracks.

The killer though, I think, is that one group of people see the evidence as inexorable pointing to Oxford as the true author; others see the same evidence as inexorably pointing to Francis Bacon. (And there are other schools, too.) They can't both be right, but make very similar cases, so it seems more likely that neither are correct. In fact I think Occam's Razor works strongly against any such conspiracy.

But respected actors such as Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance take the Oxford line, so pay your money and take your choice. Maybe the film will convince me…

(The post title is a call-back to this post of a while back.)
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undyingking: (Default)

March 2012

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