Orloff: “Why I Played With Shakespeare’s Story”

John Orloff has written a piece for the Wall St. Journal detailing why he chose to confront the authorship question in his screenplay for “Anonymous”.

We at the Shakespeare Authorship Roundtable feel hearing his case for the Edward DeVere authorship of  the canon directly from the author, as opposed to merely those reviewing the work either negatively or positively, serves as a much more accurate and explicit explanation of his intent, so we encourage you to give it a read.

An excerpt:


The truth is, there is no truth in film — in any film. Even the films that we think are true, about real people in real places, actually aren’t.

This might seem obvious, but the emotions of a movie often overwhelm our intellect, blurring the line between fact and drama. We walk away feeling as if we have witnessed history.

But does this make a historical drama inferior to a history book or a documentary based on the same subject matter? Not necessarily.

Whatever a film might lack in literal truth, it can be far better at expressing the emotional truth of an event. In a movie, an audience can become connected to characters in a way that they often can’t in a straight historical account.

I researched the screenplay for “Anonymous” — the new movie about the Shakespeare “authorship question” — for several years before I wrote it. I learned as much as I could about Shakespeare, the Earl of Oxford (the leading alternative candidate for authorship of the plays), the Elizabethan court, Elizabethan stagecraft, etc. I wanted my script to be as factually accurate as possible.

But I also wanted to tell a rocking good story and to express a theme that matters to me a great deal: that the pen is mightier than the sword.

At the climax of the film, the Earl of Oxford — through his front man, the actor William Shakespeare — tries to inspire a mob to go to Queen Elizabeth’s palace to peacefully demand the banishment of Sir Robert Cecil, the Queen’s chief adviser and the film’s villain.

How does he attempt to bring this about? Through a performance of one of his plays, of course.

Anyone who knows Elizabethan history knows that Shakespeare’s “Richard II” was performed on the eve of this event, which became known as the Essex Rebellion.

But “Richard II” is a very subtle and complicated play. Why its politics were relevant to London commoners in 1601 — and why it would incite them to start an actual rebellion — would be extremely difficult to convey to a modern audience. I could have done it, but it would have required an additional 20 minutes of film time.

And, as I said, the film is not really about the Essex Rebellion. It is about showing that ideas are stronger than brute force. So how to make that point without wasting 20 minutes of the audience’s time?

Well, Sir Robert Cecil — our villain — was in real life a hunchback. And so is King Richard III in Shakespeare’s play of the same name. By switching the play that precedes the Essex Rebellion from “Richard II” to “Richard III,” I was able to let the movie’s audience immediately see the political implications of the performance. I didn’t have to explain any complicated political metaphors: They only needed to see Richard III’s hunched back to understand instantly a point that would have been obvious to London bricklayers and cobblers of the era.

In the end, the Essex Rebellion failed. In “Anonymous,” it fails because Robert Cecil uses cannons—brute force—to destroy it….


Read much more HERE.

Vanessa Redgrave Speaks Out

The magnificent actress Vanessa Redgrave was just recently interviewed on the BBC regarding the Shakespeare Controversy and her role as Queen Elizabeth I in the new movie “Anonymous”. Watch the video HERE.

Sassy About Shakespeare Controversy

There’s a hilarious article by Monty Python great Eric Idle on the Shakespeare controversy in the November issue of the New Yorker which you can read HERE.

Best line? “Mere lack of evidence, of course, is no reason to denounce a theory. Look at intelligent design.”

The Role of Shakespeare in English

Here’s a neat little video I found the other day courtesy of the Open University on the role of Shakespeare in English:

Michael York Press Conference on Authorship Question

Tonight at the L.A. Press Club’s Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood, actor Michael York delivered a blistering counter-argument to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s “60 Minutes with Shakespeare” presentation.

York also announced a monumental breakthrough in the research on this topic, detailing considerable evidence that the author of the plays traveled extensively in Italy. This is problem for those who hold to the belief that William “Shakspere” of Stratford wrote the plays, as it is also known that he never left England.

You can find out more about this facet of the argument from the newly-released Harper Perennial book, “The Shakespeare Guide to Italy: Retracing the Bard’s Unknown Travels”by Richard Paul Roe, who spent more than 20 years researching evidence in the 10 Italian plays.

He also read the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt, which has now been signed by over 2,200 people, including over 800 scholars with advanced degrees, nearly 400 of which are current or former college faculty members.

Please read the full rebuttal “Exposing an Industry in Denial” presented HERE.

Michael Dunn Solves Shakespeare Mystery

Doubters on the Defensive

Here’s a great article courtesy of South African paper, The Independent:


Mark Rylance is one of Britain’s most famous actors.

Mark Rylance, one of Britain’s most respected actors and the founding artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, has defended his role in a film that pours doubt on the identity of the Bard.

The actor, who has signed a “declaration of reasonable doubt” about Shakespeare’s identity, also responded to claims that those who doubt the playwright are motivated by envy.

Anonymous, directed by Roland Emmerich, partly espouses the “Oxfordian theory” that it was Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, and not Shakespeare, who wrote some of literature’s greatest plays.

The film has reignited the debate between conspiracy theorists and those who defend Shakespeare’s legacy. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has set up an online campaign to combat the doubters, securing contributions from the Prince of Wales, actor Simon Callow and Gregory Doran, the chief associate director of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

One defender, psychoanalyst Anouchka Grose, said: “Doubting Shakespeare’s authorship might be a way of dealing with envy and competition. If great people aren’t actually that great, then you don’t have to feel quite so measly in relation to them.”

Rylance said: “I was staggered. To make an analysis of why someone like me doubts that Shakespeare wrote the plays? Without meeting me, or asking me, or meeting anyone who doubts? Not even positing that it might be that we are curious about the truth? That we think this isn’t maybe true? They really are defensive. It’s a classic response that they attack us, our motivations.”

Rylance said he and fellow actor Sir Derek Jacobi, were part of a forthcoming “response” to the trust’s audio website, “60 Minutes with Shakespeare”, possibly in the form of a published letter. Both Rylance and Jacobi appear in Emmerich’s film, and have signed the declaration, run by The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition. Other high-profile signatories include actors Jeremy Irons and Michael York.

Rylance will discuss his views at the coalition’s annual conference at the Globe next month, where there will be a screening of the documentary Last Will and Testament. The film’s backers claim it is “the first major documentary on the authorship question for 22 years”.