“The Writer, The Queen and The Director: Shakespeare, Elizabeth I, and Emmerich’s ‘Anonymous'” Dr. Edel Semple (University College Cork)(26 March 2014)

Dr. Edel Semple a lecturer in The School of English in University College Cork presented a paper today on The Writer, The Queen and The Director: Shakespeare, Elizabeth I and Emmerich’s ‘Anonymous’ the final seminar of this years research seminar series. I must admit I am not the biggest Shakespeare fan, though I do enjoy his work. I am though, very interested in Queen Elizabeth. I blame Edmund Spenser entirely. I had not seen Emmerich’s Anonymous but I had heard quiet a lot about it and so was keen to see the perspective that Dr. Semple, the ultimate Shakespeare guru, would take on it. I think it was safe to say, she is not the biggest fan.

The Film Poster for Emmerich’s “Anonymous” (2011).

The Oxfordian conspiracy ‘or theory, if you want to give it that much weight’ is the belief that The Earl of Oxford used William Shakespeare, depicted as a drunken, illiterate actor, as a guise, obviously insinuating that Shakespeare never wrote a single word. While it was obvious to most people in the room that this ‘theory’ had no truth, Dr. Semple showed us clearly the large audience it had gained attention from.

While most people laughed at the depiction of the idiotic Shakespeare in the film, it was the depiction of Elizabeth that shocked me the most. She is illustrated as an object of art rather than a subject in history. A sex toy, with rather fewer brain cells than her real life counterpart would have possessed. She is a political puppet and appears only on screen when she is useful to Oxford. The fact that she ruled in isolation for nearly 50 years was never acknowledged. In fact, the length of her term as Queen was only depicted in the ages of her bastard children.

The depiction of Jonson is one I found particularly amusing. He is portrayed as a sniveling, lowly, worried man which, as seen in my previous blog post, he was not. Oxford demonstrates his best line in the film, in my opinion, to Jonson when he says “All art is political Jonson, otherwise it would be just for decoration, and all artists have something to say, otherwise they would make shoes, and you are not a cobbler, are you Jonson?” (Anonymous) 

Oil Painting of Ben Jonson

The wonderfully witty presentation delivered by Dr. Semple provided much food for thought on the subject of art and audience: the influence one has on the other and the momentum that a seemingly foolhardy conspiracy can gather.


Film Cited. 

Anonymous. Dir. Roland Emmerich. Centropolis Entertainent. Colombia Pictures. 2011. Film.

Images Cited.

Periscope. “Anonymous Movie Photo 12”. 26 Oct. 2011. Photograph. “Emmerich’s Anonymous: Earl of Oxford was the Real Shakespeare”. Paper Blog. Web. 08 Oct. 2011.

Reedy, Tom. Benjamin Jonson. National Portrait Gallery: London. 2009. Painting. Wikimedia Commons. Web. 26 Mar. 2014

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