For centuries, people have been debating the marvel of Shakespeare. Who was the person who wrote some of the most deathless prose known to mankind, who has inspired countless audiences with the wonders of his words, who coined more phrases than any other single writer in the history of the world? How could such greatness have come from an unlettered man born of common parents?
Anonymous explores the theory that it wasn’t William Shakespeare who wrote Hamlet, King Lear, and Henry V, but instead was Edward De Vere, the Earl of Oxford. In the film Shakespeare is an illiterate, buffoonish actor used as a foil by De Vere in a titanic game of royalist politics. Anonymous is rich in production values, with fabulous costumes, sets, and recreations of the Globe Theater and Elizabethan England. The film is marked by a number of striking performances — including Rhys Ifans as the world-weary Earl of Oxford, haunted by his past and unable to stop or truly celebrate the torrent of words pouring from his quill pen, Vanessa Redgrave as the aging Queen Elizabeth, David Thewlis as Elizabeth’s manipulative adviser, Sir William Cecil, and Sebastian Armesto as Ben Jonson, who keeps Oxford’s secret. Along with the true authorship of the Shakespearean library, Anonymous also reveals the intrigues and scandals underlying the Essex Rebellion and the succession of King James.
This movie demonstrates, with quiet yet unmistakable power, the triumph of Shakepeare’s words and thoughts — which ultimately conquer time and the petty politics of the court. I recommend Anonymous to anyone who loves Shakespeare and period dramas, as I do.