LAST WILL. & TESTAMENT: A Shakespeare Authorship Film Premiere with Guest Speakers and Discussion.
First Folio Pictures presents "Last Will. & Testament", hosted by Mark Rylance and Dr William Leahy.
I went to this today (Sunday 27 November) and I promised to report back.
First of all, I will own up to my own ignorance. I saw the film Anonymous as part of the London Film Festival. It posits a different author for Shakespeare's Works and I thought the film's premise was ludicrous. As happens very often, I was totally wrong.
Before I attended this seminar, I had no idea that the Authorship of Shakespeare's Works was so contested. No idea at all. I just assumed that everyone knew, and that it was a fact, that the Works of William Shakespeare were authored by William Shakespeare, born in Stratford upon Avon. What this seminar showed me was that my view has been under fire for a long long long time - I was just oblivious to it! Although academia per se is still turning a blind eye, there is a growing body of amateur scholars, who are growing more vocal and who are gaining ground, who are questioning the standard Shakespeare orthodoxy.
The seminar focused on the most basic and fundamental question - did William Shakespeare, the Stratford man, write the Works that have been attributed to Shakespeare, crudely summarised as "The Authorship Question". Derek Jacobi described the hunt for the "true" author as "the best whodunnit in the world."
Some key facts, that I confess I was oblivious to, are as follows. There is no contemporaneous evidence for William Shakespeare, the Stratford man, as a writer. This contrasts with all of the other playwrights of the time. William Shakespeare's Will has no literary dimension to it. There is no recorded evidence of the education of William Shakespeare, the Stratford man. It is important to be aware of just how much of the evidence attributing Shakespeare's Works to William Shakespeare, the Stratford man, is circumstantial and how much is documented and real.
The true author it was argued had to be in London and at Court. He had to be an insider, who knew all about court politics, someone who was close to royalty and who had travelled widely on the continent, especially Italy.
Over a long period of time, impetus has been growing behind the "anti-Stratfordian" case, and many contenders for the Crown have been put forward. These include Bacon, the Earl of Derby, Marlowe, Mary Sidney, and even Queen Elizabeth herself. So there are a multiplicity of candidates all vying for attention. One of the strongest contenders for the Crown is Edward Devere, the Earl of Oxford. What each of these contenders have in common is that they are trying to "transcend through literature (writing) the pain of a lived experience".
One of the reasons given for the true author wanting to maintain anonymity, rather than seeking celebrity and fame, was the Bible teaching about not seeking to broadcast your name and your achievements, but that these were better kept secret.
What I found disturbing, in a free liberal democracy, was that many in the media were describing this debate and discussion as "dangerous" because the scholars involved were challenging the very basis and foundation of Shakespearean studies. This IS ludicrous. Asking questions, and researching their answers, can never be "dangerous" or seditious; it is increasing our knowledge of a subject or a field of study. This can only ever be a good thing. To say it is a bad thing, or worse still, "dangerous" is just plain stupid.
The film itself was excellent and appeared to be very well researched. It was gripping from start to finish, and I learnt a lot. It makes a strong case for Edward Devere, the Earl of Oxford. When this is screened on television or in the cinemas it is definitely worth watching.
Finally, to conclude, I would like to say a few words about Mark Rylance. He used to be the Artistic Director at the Globe and I will be honest and say that since he left the quality of productions at Globe has deteriorated markedly. I have only ever seen Mark Rylance act before, never speak. He was a revelation. He was a font of knowledge, wisdom and intelligence. He was also a brilliant Chair, because he was the epitome of politeness and courtesy, very unassuming and self-effacing, kind in the way he treated people, and yet he managed to keep all the questions and the discussion focused and bang on topic. Genius!
To find out more about The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition (SAC) and the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt about the Identity of William Shakespeare follow the link:
Cut and pasted from the SAC website:
The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition (SAC): Dedicated to legitimizing the Shakespeare authorship issue by increasing awareness of reasonable doubt about the identity of William Shakespeare.
The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition runs this website so anyone who cares about Shakespeare, as we do, can easily see why his identity has long been in doubt, and sign a definitive declaration addressing the issue — the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare. We have nothing against the man from Stratford-on-Avon, but we doubt that he was the author of the works.
Our goal is to legitimize the issue in academia so students, teachers and professors can feel free to pursue it. This is necessary because the issue is widely viewed as settled in academia and is treated as a taboo subject. We believe that an open-minded examination of the evidence shows that the issue should be taken seriously. Your signature on the Declaration will help us make the case that there is reasonable doubt about the author.
The Declaration was written to counter orthodox claims that there's no doubt who wrote the works. It provides a concise, definitive overview of the evidence and arguments for and against William Shakspere of Stratford as the author. It was written not just to advocate, but also to educate the public about the controversy. Nearly three dozen Shakespeare scholars helped write it, and even some supporters of the Stratford man have praised it.
Among the many prominent people who have signed the Declaration are actors Derek Jacobi, Jeremy Irons, Michael York and Mark Rylance, founding Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, and former U.S. Supreme Court Justices John Paul Stevens and Sandra Day O’Connor.
The general website of The Shakespearean Authorship Trust is here: