The Shakespeare-denying swashbuckler Anonymous, certainly Hollywood's oddest premise for an action flick in ages, is about to open wide and thankfully some scholars are getting out there to stop the bullshit.
James Shapiro continues his crusade against such pseudo-academic misinformation in yesterday's Times, drawing attention to the potential wide reach of the film's message beyond the cinema:
Roland Emmerich's film “Anonymous,” which opens next week, “presents a compelling portrait of Edward de Vere as the true author of Shakespeare’s plays.” That’s according to the lesson plans that Sony Pictures has been distributing to literature and history teachers in the hope of convincing students that Shakespeare was a fraud. A documentary by First Folio Pictures (of which Mr. Emmerich is president) will also be part of this campaign. So much for “Hey, it’s just a movie!”Daily Beast's Chris Lee has more:
The studio (Sony) plans to concurrently release Last Will. & Testament, a documentary about the authorship debate, through First Folio Pictures (a production shingle whose president is none other than Roland Emmerich) and has been providing materials to educators that encourage teachers to “make this thought-provoking new film part of your class plan.”Yes, and make your class part of our subsidiary box office profits!
A corporate spokesman for Sony responded to a request for information about the scope of its marketing push into schools with a statement: “The objective for our Anonymous program, as stated in the classroom literature, is ‘to encourage critical thinking by challenging students to examine the theories about the authorship of Shakespeare’s works and to formulate their own opinions.’ The study guide does not state that Edward de Vere is the writer of Shakespeare’s work, but it does pose the authorship question which has been debated byIn other words..."teach the controversy."
[wackjobs] [ armchair historians]scholars for decades."
Remember this next time you hear about "privatizing" education.
Last word goes to Prof. Simon Schama:
None of [the controversy] would matter very much were there not something repellent at the heart of the theory, and that something is the toad, snobbery—the engine that drives the Oxfordian case against the son of the Stratford glover John Shakespeare. John was indeed illiterate. But his son was not, as we know incontrovertibly from no fewer than six surviving signatures in Shakespeare’s own flowing hand, the first from 1612, when he was giving evidence in a domestic lawsuit.
The Earl of Oxford was learned and, by reports, witty. But publicity -materials for Anonymous say that Shakespeare by comparison went to a mere "village school" and so could hardly have compared with the cultural richness imbibed by Oxford. The hell he couldn’t! Stratford was no "village," and the "grammar school," which means elementary education in America, was in fact a cradle of serious classical learning in Elizabethan England. By the time he was 13 or so, Shakespeare would have read (in Latin) works by Terence, Plautus, Virgil, Erasmus, Cicero, and probably Plutarch and Livy too. One of the great stories of the age was what such schooling did for boys of humble birth.Yes, it's called Renaissance Humanism. Look it up.
Just to be clear, I am not very disturbed that some Hollywood schlockmeisters want to attempt some highbrow genre picture. Movies spread all kinds of nutty theories (from JFK to The DaVinci Code) and we've survived. But I'm with Shapiro on the schools thing. Again, not that I blame Sony for trying. But beware if desperate and/or gullible teachers or principals take them up on their revisionist product placement scheme.