Oxfordians of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your wits. Or perhaps one ought to say, half-wits. The movie Anonymous is out, bound and determined, one might infer, to blast that maundering imposter Shakespeare back to much-deserved oblivion and raise the poor misunderstood de Vere to his rightful place in the pantheon of literary greats.
Do I overwrite? Very well then. I am overwrought. Also disappointed that Eric Idle — or Michael Palin, it’s not clear which — has beaten me to the punchline. It’s all there in the latest New Yorker. Here are a few lines to give you the flavor. Go read the whole thing.
While it is perfectly obvious to everyone that Ben Jonson wrote all of Shakespeare’s plays, it is less known that Ben Jonson’s plays were written by a teen-age girl in Sunderland, who mysteriously disappeared, leaving no trace of her existence, which is clear proof that she wrote them… Queen Elizabeth, who was obviously a man, conspired to have Shakespeare named as the author of his plays, because how could a man who had only a grammar-school education and spoke Latin and a little Greek possibly have written something as bad as “All’s Well That Ends Well”? It makes no sense. It was obviously an upper-class twit who wished to disguise his identity so that Vanessa Redgrave could get a job in her old age.
Thomas Jefferson produced the Declaration with the aid of a ghostwriter, a woman of color named Betty Mae, who was a non-voluntary worker. “Moby-Dick” was written not by Herman Melville but by Herman Melbrooks, who wrote most of it in Yiddish on the boat over from Coney Island… Henry James did write all of his own works, because nobody else could be that boring, and, more significant, no one else has ever bothered to claim them.
You can save yourself the trouble of seeing the movie by reading A O Scott’s review.