Well, the summer movie season is rapidly coming into full swing, and I have my list of big-budget, computer-generated-special-effects-loaded, blockbuster mind candy all set. Topping my must-see list are X-Men: First Class (I am willing to give the franchise another shot after the disaster that was X-Men 3) and, of course, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (I am waiting for Molly Weasely’s line, “NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!”)
However, there is one film that I am dreading on a professional, academic, and, yes, personal level, Anonymous. What Roland Emmerich did to climatology with The Day After Tomorrow (2004) he is now doing to Shakespearean criticism. Here’s the trailer for the film:
(It seems that Emmerich is adopting Edward de Vere’s candidancy for authorship.)
I am going to blog about this film when it comes out. But just to give a little bit of insight into this whole question about the authorship of the plays and poems we, i.e. scholars, ascribe to William Shakespeare, the controversy boils down to this: those anti-Shakespeare proponents don’t feel that someone with Shakespeare’s rustic background could have the knowledge to write his works. In other words, his plays and poetry reflect the mind of a person incredibly widely read in classical literature, familiar with nautical terms, an initimate knowledge of British history, and exposure to the world at court. The skeptics of Shakespeare’s authorship don’t believe that someone with his limited education and family background could write such literary masterpieces. The underlying motivation here is elitism.
To offer a relevant ancedote, I once was teaching Merchant of Venice at a Yeshiva, a private Jewish school. (Yes, the irony did not escape me at all.) Well, everyday, one of my students would always derail the discussion I was trying to get going by proclaiming, “You know, Shakespeare probably didn’t even write this play.” Years later, as I thought about this incredibly annoying student, I realized one of the reasons for people constantly bringing up this question again and again: it is an easy way to sound intelligent. As with the 9/11 conspiracists or the Birthers, to claim that Shakespeare didn’t write these plays and we have all been hoodwinked by a 400-year-old hoax makes one seem like s/he is in the know, has figured it all out.
Allow me to say something to those Shakespeare conspiracy theory devotees: who cares! They are still great plays and poems!