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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    A poet by any other name …

    Who would’ve thought that anyone could turn the life of William Shakespeare into a political thriller? Well, on Oct. 28, the release of the film “Anonymous” will do just that. The trailer advertises the movie as exciting and dramatic,sure to have viewers on the edge of their seats. Even the film’s premise is particularly interesting because the movie is based on a conspiracy theory — supposedly, Shakespeare was not the real author of the Shakespearean canon.

    Although “Anonymous” could very easily make a great film, it’s important to remember that the Shakespearean fringe belief is just that. In terms of literary critics, it’s virtually impossible to find an authoritative expert who will support the claim that Shakespeare’s works were written by anyone else. To quote a 2004 article by Alan Nelson, a professor of Renaissance literature at UC Berkeley: “I do not myself know of a single professor of English in the 1300-member Shakespeare Association of America who questions the identity of Shakespeare.” Even a quick online search or visit to Shakespeare’s Wikipedia page will support Nelson’s claim.

    So why question Shakespeare’s authorship? The debate began in the mid-1800s, as Shakespeare began to cement his reputation as one of history’s greatest poets and playwrights. However, William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon hailed from a humble and at times obscure background. As a result, a few scholars at that time began to propose that someone of greater education and reputation, such as Francis Bacon or Christopher Marlowe, must have written the work. In “Anonymous,” the film follows the claim that Shakespeare’s true identity was that of Edward de Vere, an illegitimate but wealthy prodigy, son of Queen Elizabeth.

    Thus, although conspiracy theories and thrilling movies are all in good fun, the suggestion that Shakespeare didn’t write his own works indirectly stems from the belief that normal people aren’t as intelligent or capable as those of higher class or rank. According to a review in Newsweek, the film’s real Shakespeare is depicted as an uncultured, unimaginative “hick,” who could not possibly have authored the genius works, thus painting the portrait of one of the largest identity scams of all time.

    But whether he was “cultured,” “proper,” “civilized” or whatnot, Shakespeare is, more than likely, the true author of his own works. And he was arguably just a normal person with an incredible ability.

    As sensational as the conspiracy is, isn’t it much more optimistic and inspiring to believe that great masterpieces can unexpectedly come from average people?

    — Miranda Butler is the assistant arts editor. She can be reached at

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