Saturday, 5 November 2011


Went to the cinema to catch Anonymous Roland Emmerich's frankly bonkers film which suggests that Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford was the real author of Shakespeare's work. If you can get past the nonsense of the thesis, ignore the moment by moment chronological inaccuracies and relax into the swashbuckling silliness of the conspiracy theorists world, then it's quite a fun night out.

I thought Vanessa Redgrave was wonderful as the aging Elizabeth I, returning beautifully to second childishness. Her performance every bit a match for Judi Dench's Oscar winning cameo in Shakespeare in Love. Whilst Rafe Spall gives us a believably magpie-esque Shakespeare, a sharp, live wit with an eye on the main chance. What he lacks in Latin, Greek and Italian travel, he more than makes up for in opportunism, charisma and imagination. I saw no contradiction between this lustful, life loving, optimist and the poet philosopher of our popular imagination. Why shouldn't a grammar school boy create King Lear, Hamlet, Richard III? He also knocked out Falstaff, Bottom and Christopher Sly.

I suppose I've never been that interested in the authorship debate. For what it's worth I think Shakespeare was probably a wonderful writer, but the first folio only appeared seven years after he died and I've no doubt that by that time the parts had been refined, honed and road tested by his surviving colleagues in communion with the demands of the audience. Actors wouldn't have worried too much about the authors posterity, but rather there own survival. They'd have kept what was popular and re improvised moments that didn't grip. Think of the play as a performance rather than an script and it soon becomes possible to imagine the collaborative forces at work. A terrific synergy that leads to 'genius.' I suspect Shakespeare gave his companies great material to work with, but in truth the canon stands less as a monument to one man's achievements and more to the increasingly democratic and enlightened spirit of the age.

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