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.

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

Anonymous Scribe

There’s a wonderful and truly open-minded NPR interview with the writer of “Anonymous”, John Orloff, that you can read, or listen to the full conversation HERE.


Orloff argues that it’s a reasonable notion in a world where aristocrats weren’t expected to sully themselves in the disreputable — and occasionally politicized — world of the theater.

“We need to look at this through the lens of the 16th century,” Orloff argues, “and not the 21st century, where we worship celebrity. They didn’t. Quite the opposite: Celebrity was something to be avoided at all costs.”

De Vere, son-in-law to one of Queen Elizabeth’s most powerful ministers, and thus privy to state secrets, would have been particularly conscious of the risks, Orloff says.

“Playwrights had their hands cut off if they got in the way of the government,” Orloff says. “It was actually quite a dangerous act to write a play that might annoy or anger the powers that be; it was a very dangerous thing to be a playwright in 1600.”


Highly recommended!

“Blows the Bard to Bits”

There’s a fantastic review by Harry Haun of the new movie Anonymous up at the pre-eminent theatrical website Playbill.com that is most definitely worth the read. To quote a bit from the piece:


This authorship question has been raging off-screen for centuries but more frequently and more intensely for 150 years. It’s hardly the majority view, mind you, and most academics give it less credence than the [Francis] Bacon theory and the [Christopher] Marlowe theory, but this is the first time the “Oxfordian theory” has been translated into a screenplay that boldly presents itself as fact.

“It’s not our theory,” insists screenwriter John Orloff, who has gone where no theorist has gone before (unless you count the established, company-line “Stratfordians,” who have always held that Shakespeare wrote his own stuff).

“Some of the people who thought Shakespeare didn’t write the plays are Mark Twain, Henry James, Sigmund Freud — Walt Whitman became obsessed with it — a lot of writers, and I don’t think that’s coincidental because writers understand how you write. It’s a big question in this case because writers tend to write what they know. They write from experience. Mark Twain’s whole point when he wrote an entire book about why he didn’t think Shakespeare wrote the plays was that he [Twain] couldn’t have written about the Mississippi, had he not been a Mississippi boat pilot and known these people and had these experiences. His thesis was: ‘No way can you can convince me, Samuel Clemens, this boy from Stratford could write about all these noblemen and the intricacies of court and the metaphors of falconry and lawn bowling and tennis and medicine and law, if he hadn’t been that person.’

“There is a reason why four Supreme Court Justices don’t think William Shakespeare wrote the plays, and the reason they don’t think he did is that the law in Shakespeare is incredibly accurate, 16th-century law. In fact, for a couple of hundred years, people thought William Shakespeare must have been a lawyer or law clerk. We don’t think that anymore because there is no record of him going to law school.

“We didn’t make a documentary. We made a movie, and we can’t say it more clearly than the opening moments where we have an actor on a theatre stage [Derek Jacobi at the Broadhurst] introducing the movie, saying it’s a piece of theatre. This is a movie about the intersection of art and politics. It’s about: ‘Is the pen mightier than the sword?’ We’re just using that story to talk about that bigger truth.


Read more HERE…

Was Shakespeare a Fraud?

There’s a new article in The Daily Beast on the Shakespeare Authorship Question that everyone might want to have a look at. You can read it HERE.