Viewpoint: Anonymous’ Shakespeare theory is flawed

Anonymous, a new film that claims William Shakespeare was not the author of one of English literature’s most celebrated canons, is based on an ‘unacceptable’ premise according to University of Liverpool Professor Philip Davis.

Professor Davis, Director of the University’s Centre for Research into Reading, Information and Linguistic Systems, said: “The latest film to dramatise Shakespeare’s life suggests that the world famous playwright was in fact, Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.

“The theory, however, is an unacceptable one, as the Earl died before ten of the plays ever appeared, including Macbeth, King Lear and The Tempest. Indeed there are no stylistic patterns from what de Vere did write to suggest he was capable of producing such works.

“The theory was first propounded in 1920 by an Oxford school teacher, the aptly named J Thomas Looney.”

Anonymous, directed by Roland Emmerich and starring leading British talent Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave and David Thewlis, opens at cinemas on Friday 29 October.

Its release has prompted an angry reaction from Shakespeare devotees, with many Warwickshire towns blacking out reference to the Bard on signage in protest.

Professor Davis, who appeared on BBC North West Tonight to discuss the controversy, said: “There are many conspiracy theories concerning Shakespeare’s identity and part of his appeal is that we know relatively little of his life and personality.

“Some of the theories raised in the film are perhaps based on the assumption that it is easier to believe that a highly educated Earl, rather than an average Grammar-school boy, could have created such great works of literature.

“But some of the world’s most famous and well respected pieces of literature, art, scientific and archaeological discoveries have been made by people that didn’t come from a wealthy or educated background.

“Until proven otherwise, Shakespeare will remain the man the history books suggest he is, and we will continue to enjoy his work, as well as the mysteries that surround his life.”

To watch Professor Davis on BBC North West Tonight, go to: The Anonymous report begins around 23 minutes in.

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