Anonymous is all about Shakespeare. No! Don’t stop reading! It is neither a soppy love story, nor is it a tribute to the bard, it’s actually a thriller! Think DaVinci code meets Macbeth. It’s a political thriller which puts forward that old chestnut that it was not commoner William Shakespeare who wrote all those plays, but that it must have been an upper class genius in the shape of Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford who penned them, all set in the backdrop of the succession of Queen Elizabeth I, and the Essex Rebellion of 1601.
De Vere is depicted as a literary prodigy and the lover of the Queen, with whom he sires a son, Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, to whom many believe the Sonnets of Shakespeare are dedicated. He eventually manages to get his suppressed plays performed through a frontman (Shakespeare) in order to support a rebellion led by Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex. The insurrection fails, and to save his son by the queen, he must renounce his right to be known as the author of Shakespeare’s works. The film depicts the historic Shakespeare as a murderous, illiterate simpleton.
I will never believe that Shakespeare was not the author, but the film is actually quite good fun, an excellent period piece (the kind of thing I love) and really well acted (apart from the role of Shakespeare, which I decided to ignore). Maybe the actors, many of whom have gone on national TV to say they believe the theory, were attempting some kind of revenge attack for having had to learn all those difficult lines.
My favourite review in the press is from James Lileks, in the Star Tribune, who head a critic wondering if Emmerich had actually had anything to do with the film, and that a shlock-merchant like him couldn’t have actually been involved, and that the whole thing showed the hand of some more experienced filmmaker, whose identity will be much debated for centuries to come.
Oh and before you go telling your English lit teacher that William was a fraud, I would read this rebuttal about the whole nonsense. http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/shake_did_write_plays.html