Tuesday, May 4, 2010

This Movie Has To Open NOW

I read this (and thanks to Robby Karol  for passing it along!) and still don't quite believe it: Roland Emmerich, film director famed for repeatedly destroying the world's major landmarks (2012, Independence Day, and Godzilla are among his credits) has started making his next film--and it's about Shakespeare.

Well, not exactly. In fact, it's about how Shakespeare's plays were not written by Shakespeare himself, but by Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. (A frequently repeated, if generally discredited, theory.) Additionally (and this is a new bit), according to the movie, de Vere was the secret son of Elizabeth I! So secret, indeed, that when he grew to adulthood, he became her lover! And they sired Henry Wriothesley, who was the "young man" to whom the sonnets were addressed!

I generally take a dim view of the arguments against Shakespeare having written his own plays--they seem founded on equal parts classism (How could a provincial actor who never traveled the world possibly have the experience needed to write such great plays? It must have beena  nobleman!) and wild conspiracy theorizing. I have yet to find a really convincing argument.

More to the point, I think it's a blind alley. Who cares who wrote them? They were written! That's amazing! And there is so much to find in them, and get from them. This also ties into my belief that far too much energy is spent analyzing them as literary artifacts, rather than theatre. Far too much Shakespeare scholarship mummifies the work, and I'm much more interested in lines of inquiry that bring it to life. But the "who wrote Shakespeare" argument is worse: it makes the work itself almost beside the point: why plumb Hamlet's sould when you can play Da Vinci Code?

All that aside though: Roland Emmerich directing a costume drama! With a plot that loony! And Vanessa Redgrave as Elizabeth I, not to mention the super-human Mark Rylance as one of the Globe's actors! This is going to be an amazing train wreck. (Armada wreck?)

I don't know if I can stand waiting another year


Simon said...

Dude...what a conspiracy.

Howard Schumann said...

You have yet to find a convincing argument because you apparently have not examined the evidence but prefer to repeat commonly accepted misconceptions. It is totally fallacious that knowing that the author, instead of being a personality-less cipher, was a living breathing human being who was writing out of the depths of his life experience, out of his pain.

As author Sarah Smith has said, "Biography means a man's life matters. It matters who Shakespeare was because it matters who we are."

Whether Oxford was or was not the son of Queen Elizabeth, the truth is that the plays are filled with themes of succession, bastardy, and incest. There are no stable relationships, no loving mothers or protective fathers. These plays were written by someone whose family experiences were traumatic.

My suggestion is that you open your mind to the possibility that the truth has not been told. Read "Shakespeare's Unauthorized Biography" by Diana Price, "Shakespeare by Another name" by Mark Anderson, and Shakespeare's Lost Kingdom" by Charles Beauclerk.

Monica Reida said...

Oh my God.

I can't believe this isn't a joke.

pengo said...

Here's the thing - while Anti-Stratfordians can sounds as looney (get it?) as Birthers, my exploration in the "Authorship Question" has shown me that dedicated Shakespeare-Wrote-His-Own-Work people can also be extremely myopic.

I just want to brig up three points:

1. No, the art does not need to reflect the life. One's work does not have to biographical. However, poems that were written for private consumption generally are. Shakespeare did not publish his own sonnets, and to take them as fictional makes no sense whatsoever. Discuss.

2. We know nothing, or nothing useful, about William Shakespeare the man. The facts fit on a single sheet of paper. These books that come out, holiday season after holiday season, make conjectures about his life story which are based evidence equally as flimsy as those who presume alternate authorship.

3. The "class" argument cuts both ways. Conservatives are always fond of saying that it is elitist to suggest a working man cannot be a genius. And so they work to close all the public schools and deny government assistance to the underclass.

pengo said...

Oh - and I think it's cool they got Redgrave and Rylance, two ardent anti-Stratfordians to act in it! Did they get Derek Jacobi, too? Shame they couldn't have Orson Welles in it.

Mr. K said...

Howard: I have no idea how "Shakespeare wrote a bunch of plays about bastards, succession & incest" equals "he must be Edward DeVere." Plus, it was a historical period particularly troubled by succession, given that most prospective Tudor heirs were Catholics or in league with foreign powers.
pengo: We have way more data on Shakespeare than most of his contemporaries. But no one claims that Edward DeVere was actually writing as Christopher Marlowe or Robert Greene, people whose lives & deaths are way more mysterious.

Mr. K said...

pengo: In fact, it seems to me that the arguments for Shakespeare are pretty strong. If Shakespeare didn't write his own plays, why didn't his contemporaries make any jokes about it or attack him on it? Robert Greene's 1592 attack on the Bard is phrased as an attack on an inept johnny-come-lately. Would he have used that same tone if his target was the mouthpiece of a Lord?

Mr. K said...

And Shakespeare makes mistakes in his plays. Would a well-traveled noble have written of the Seacoast of Bohemia?
Heck, if Shakespeare had secretly been a noble like DeVere, how could the true author have survived the 1601 staging of Richard II on the eve of the Essex Rebellion? What was seen as foolishness from a middle-class writer with merely literary interests would have been treason coming from a titled Lord.
Do you sincerely believe that would have slipped Elizabeth & her spymaster's notice?

pengo said...

Mr. K.: We do not know more about Shakespeare than we do about his contemporaries. Your reference to Greene's Groat's-worth of Wit is a prime example of what I am talking about.

"There is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tyger’s hart wrapped in a Player’s hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and beeing an absolute Iohannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey."

As the kids would say, WTF? Please do not bother going about parsing this, you will only prove my point. Tying this rant to the (in 1592) then-unknown William Shakespeare takes a great deal of supposition and assumption and does not, in my opinion, count as true scholarship.

Let me remind you - I didn't say he didn't write the plays. I said people like you irritate me with your creating a backstory of Shakespeare that doesn't exist. I am content with what facts actually exist.

pengo said...

Oh hey - here's an awesome novel:

HISTORY PLAY by Rodney Bolt

It presents itself as an argument that Marlowe wrote the plays - in fact, it's like a biography of Marlowe explaining how that all makes sense.

Only it's better than that, it's not really suggesting Marlowe wrote the plays at all. What it is is a big joke making fun of all of these really thick Shakespeare biographies that take what little we know and then make a lot of shit up.

Mr. K: Haven't you read "The Shakespeare Wars"?

Mr. K said...

pengo: If you have an issue with the historicity of Shakespeare bios, I'm afraid I don't know what to say. Until we invent a time machine, that's the best understanding we're going to get of Shakespeare or pretty much anyone under the level of nobility from his age.

Actually, I'm not even sure you exist anymore, as I have no documentation available saying you are not, in fact, Edward DeVere. Please do not bother going about parsing this claim, you will only prove my point, as well.

pengo said...

Of course I can prove my existence. Here my is my birth certificate:


Mr. K said...

pengo: Oh, well, in that case... WAIT A SECOND!

(well-played, sir. Well-played.)