Film

Shakespeare Bites Back: Stratford Takes on Hollywood

Eminent Shakespeare scholars present their argument in response to the upcoming release of Roland Emmerich's Anonymous.

Roland Emmerich is really putting the cat among the pigeons; and he is taking eminent Shakespearean actors along with him, such as Sir Derek Jacobi, Vanessa Redgrave, and Mark Rylance (former artistic director of the London Globe Theatre) in his pursuit to create a ‘reasonable doubt’ in the minds of audiences about the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays.

Emmerich’s forthcoming film Anonymous is to be released on October 28th and seeks to establish a dramatic angle for Edward de Vere,the Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans), as the secret aristocratic author of the plays, who uses the humble actor Will Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) as his front in the escapade. All very conspiracy theory, as is Emmerich’s trademark, but not very original. That being said – things are hotting up in the build-up to the release date. The ‘pigeons’ are fighting back with a vengeance.

On 1st September, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-on-Avon hosted a webinar to promote the debate and defend Shakespeare as the author of his own plays, and to publicise forthcoming events and publications that reinforce this established academic position. The primary hosts and presenters of this webinar were Paul Edmondson, Director of Research at the SBT, and Stanley Wells, world famous Shakespeare scholar and Honorary President of the SBT. Both provided an inspiring and informative clear argument in defence of Shakespeare studies that support the reputation of the man as actor and playwright.

The advertising campaign belonging to Emmerich and his distributors is glossy and dramatic. I have only just dared to venture beyond the opening page of the site that has quite an intimidating soundtrack and slightly gothic feel. Dark corners and cloak-and-dagger conspiracy are both the order of the day. It looks like it will be an entertaining period film. In addition Emmerich has created a documentary that claims it will look at both sides of the debate. Professor Wells has contributed to this also, but admitted during the webinar that he looks forward to it with some ‘trepidation’.

By comparison, the efforts of the SBT are rather more modest. The project ‘60 Minutes with Shakespeare’ (Twitter: #60mins) has recruited famous and not-so-famous scholars, actors, directors, journalists, etc. to each offer a 60-second response to a question about Shakespeare authorship. This helps to open up the debate to a global collection of experts from across the full spectrum of the arts. One of the most inspiring responses to these questions has come from K. S. Vijay Elanqova, a journalist for The Hindu, a writer and a poet. He defends Shakespeare with the simple point that ‘Genius can come from humble origins’.

Part of the issue in the authorship debate is that of the snobbery directed at a man of modest background rising to become one of the greatest authors the world has ever seen. His reflection on life and grasp of the human condition has always been regarded as second to none. Some of his contemporary critics and fellow playwrights, such as Ben Jonson, ended up conceding greatness to him and offering glowing tributes. So, far from the justification of the anti-Shakespearean group that there is no evidence of his status during his lifetime – there is actually sufficient proof of his professional career. Edmondson and Wells both endorsed the importance of academic integrity and honesty that ought to be perpetuated, and warned the detractors to be wary of always proffering the negative argument.

Anyway – with the release of the film and the spate of works and broadcasts that will accompany it – it might be time to take sides. Are you with Team Edmonson/Wells or Team Emmerich? Team Shakespeare or Team Oxford/Essex/Marlowe (or 77 other candidates that have been proposed!)? The full recorded webinar will be available on the SBT site soon (I even get a mention a couple of times as they were kind enough to answer my questions, so listen out). And Emmerich and the detractors will be presenting their case on screens from October.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image