By Anonymous

Strange how one changes over time. I used to get quite worked up over all this Shakespeare-didn’t-write-Shakespeare business, and was happy to engage in debate. Nowadays, I really don’t care. If some people really want to believe that someone else wrote those plays, then fair enough, and good luck to them.

I was, nonetheless, amused to read this piece from John Orloff, the screen-writer of a new film Anonymous, which, I gather, rehashes all this Shakespeare-wasn’t-really-Shakespeare lark. The tone of Mr Orloff’s article seems to me somewhat badly judged: it doesn’t seem to have occurred to Mr Orloff that when an author tells readers to “think for themselves”, it implies that, in the author’s opinion, the readers haven’t, till now, been doing just that. And some readers, not surprisingly, get a bit miffed by that suggestion. This is certainly one of the reasons why the various readers’ responses to Mr Orloff’s article are, perhaps, not as sympathetic as Mr Orloff might have hoped for, but I must admit many of them had me chuckling. But the biggest laugh of all comes in the article itself, in which Mr Orloff solemnly informs us that James Schapiro, one of the world’s leading experts in matters Shakespearean, refused to debate with him. Did Mr Orloff really expect Professor Schapiro to debate with him on this matter?

(Anyone, incidentally, who would like a scholarly appraisal of the various Shakespeare-didn’t-write-Shakespeare hypotheses can do no better than to go to Professor Schapiro’s excellent book Contested Will.)

16 responses to this post.

  1. I expect we’re going to see a lot of this sort of business now that the film is on the loose.

    You don’t happen to know any books, do you, about Wyatt?


    • hello guy, I’m afraid I don’t. Indeed, i don’t even think I have an edition of Wyatt’s poems: the only poems of Wyatt that i have read are those included in The Oxford Book of English Verse.

      As for further Shakespeare-didn’t-write-Shakespeare stuff, I find it rather amusing to be honest!


  2. Posted by Carolyn Deverson on October 29, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    I just find it depressing knowing that such a movie will reinforce these ideas. Such a snobbish idea that people from a more or less ordinary background aren’t capable of thought. Do they say the same about the discoveries of Michael Faraday, for instance?

    I don’t take too much notice of these things, but I think it was accepted in his lifetime that Shakespeare wrote these plays, wasn’t it? If I’m right about that, it would be like people in the future arguing about whether Graham Greene wrote his books or not.


    • Hello Caro, yes you’re right – Shakespeare’s authorship was no disputed in his own lifetime. Indeed, even someone such as ben jonson, who was extravagantly erudite and well-educated, knew Shakespeare personally, and saw no reason not to believe Shakespeare teh author of these plays (he contributed a few commendatory line in the publication of the First Folio). As for the film re-inforcing the ideas, I don’t really know that it will, or, indeed, whether it matters much if it does. After all, The Da Vinci Code (book & film) appears to have convinced many people of all sorts of daft ideas relating to Leonardo and to Renasisance Art. I don’t think Leonardo’s reputation has suffered as a consequence.


  3. I haven’t really been following this story very closely, Himadri, but yesterday a friend of mine told me something about the filmmaker’s weak defense of the sceenplay’s “factual” nature (“Shakespeare didn’t really write all that stuff, but we invented some scenes and people in the movie to drive that point home for the audience” or some such nonsense). Anyway, wanted to drop by and let you know that I enjoy your blog–a recent find for me and one I’ve been quite happy to discover. Cheers!


    • Hello Richard, and thank you for your kind words.

      I find it quite amusing to see that the makers of this film are trying so desperately to appeal to the anti-authority paranoia that seems such a conspicuous feature of our times (“Don’t believe what those nasty professors tell you … think for yourself ,,,” etc.) I doubt any of this will have any significant impact in the long run, or even, for that matter, in the short run.


  4. Posted by alan on October 30, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    Does anyone take movies seriously these days ? I suppose 20 or 30 years ago one could see a film that would create a lively debate about a matter of importance, but now ?
    I suppose it is of mild sociological interest as to why conspiracy films emerge from America: Capricorn 1, JFK etc. Perhaps it is based on a desperate desire to believe that someone is in charge and knows what they are doing, and that therefore, in theory, if they redirected their energies, then life could be better ?
    Seeing this film as a reactionary contribution to the narrative of class struggle, is, I fear, to give it too much credit.


    • This particular conspiracy theory has been around for a long time, and to be fair, it did not originate in USA.

      There was a spate of American conspiracy movies in the wake of the Watergate affair, as I remember. I am not quite up with the latest trends, but a conspiracy theory can certainly make for a strong narrative, so it is perhaps not surprising that America, which has the largest film industry in the Western world, should make a few films of this nature.


  5. Posted by alan on October 30, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    This bloke suggests that the first Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare theorist was American.


  6. Posted by alan on October 30, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    But you are right, the oxfordian theory is credited to a Englishman glorying in the name of John Thomas Looney.


  7. Posted by Neil on October 31, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    Claiming that X didn’t really write X is almost always a way for failed academics to get their 15 minutes of fame. There is a small group of people who have tried to peddle the idea that Mozart didn’t write his own works – not just a few very early pieces whose provenance may be the subject of legitimate dispute, but masterpieces like Don Giovanni, Le Nozze di Figaro, the late symphonies and piano concertos and almost everything else. The leader of this group is well known for to classical music forums, from most of which he’s been banned. His opening gambit is to put forward a couple of plausible sounding arguments with the tantalising offer of concrete proof which, of course, never appears. He procrastinates and writes ridiculously long, rambling posts to support his “theory” – posts which for all their length say nothing at all. As with most trolls, he resorts to name-calling and abuse when his specious nonsense is shown up for what it is.

    I deliberately haven’t named him as he appears to Google himself every day and appears without fail on any forum which mentions him. The last thing I want to do is inflict him on this excellent blog! If anyone is actually interested in finding out more, a search for “Mozart Myth” will provide the relevant information.

    Haven’t these people got better things to do?


    • Hello Neil, good to see you here again.

      I did a quick search, and found him. So Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare, and Mozart didn’t compose Mozart … And you know what? I reckon Jordan doesn’t write Jordan either. Call me a loony conspiracy theorist, but that’s what i reckon… 🙂


  8. Posted by alan on November 2, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    I’ve always enjoyed the apocryphal tale about the man who spent his life trying to prove that the works of Plato were not written by Plato but by another ancient Greek of the same name…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: