Roland Emmerich’s long-awaited big-screen production of a movie based on the Shakespeare authorship controversy has turned out to be a great disappointment. While technically brilliant, Anonymous turns the Elizabethan era into a heathen, barbaric époque with none of the strong religious values characteristic of the time. Queen Elizabeth is not depicted as the Virgin Queen, but as a lascivious victim of double incest: with her son, Henry de Vere, and grandson, Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southamption, who, as the story goes, should have become Henry the Ninth. In short, the story is so historically grotesque as to make of the authorship controversy a gaseous bubble of ridiculous and obscene fantasy.
But the authorship question is not based on fantasy. It is based on a real historical dilemma involving the world’s single greatest body of literature. Indeed, that is why there has been so much serious doubt about the true authorship of the works attributed to William Shakespeare. If the 36 plays in the First Folio are considered the world’s most outstanding work of literary genius, then there is every reason to want to know as much as possible about the man who wrote them.
One of the more recent compelling books on the subject is Diana Price’s Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography: New Evidence of an Authorship Problem, published in 2001. She examined every single document pertaining to Shakespeare unearthed over the years by a small army of scholars, and came to the conclusion that he was not a writer. ”These documents,” wrote Price, “account for the activities of an actor, a theatre shareholder, a businessman, a money-lender, a property holder, a litigant, and a man with a family, but they do not account for his presumed life as a professional writer.”
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