Ah, spring! The temperatures are in the balmy mid-60s, we’re being sprinkled with warm thunderstorms every few days, the cuckoo is singing loudly, the ewe bleats after the lamb,and there’s a new Roland Emmerich movie on the horizon.
A new Roland Emmerich movie about Shakespeare.
Yes, so the director of Independence Day is making a movie about Shakespeare, and I can die happy.
But wait, you may ask, what the holy hell is this movie actually about? Other than, I guess, Shakespeare wasn’t Shakespeare and also late 1500s London looks a lot like Middle Earth when it is an aerial CG shot?
Wikipedia tells me it is about the Oxfordian theory of Shakespearean authorship, but not just the boring old “A noble decided to write some plays under a pseudonym which was actually the name of another, real dude and for some reason everyone just went along with it” theory! That is not exciting enough for cinema, not exciting enough for Roland Emmerich, and not exciting enough for you or me — so instead we get the Prince Tudor theory, aka the unorthodox Oxfordian theory. Why is it called unorthodox version when it is in fact a heterodoxy of a heterodoxy? BECAUSE OF ALL THE SEXINGS, MAN.
Specifically the movie is paying attention to the version of the theory where the Earl of Oxford was 1) the illegitimate son of Elizabeth, and 2) the lover of Elizabeth, resulting in 3) their incest-baby, Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, and supposed Fair Youth of the Shakespearean sonnet cycle. As a friend of mine remarked, this sounds like the setup for an awesome Greek tragedy.
Wait: why in the holy hell is Roland Emmerich making this movie? Again, Wikipedia has the answer.
[F]or me there was an incredible script that I bought eight years ago. It was [initially] called Soul of the Age which pretty much is the heart of the movie still. It’s three characters. It’s like Ben Jonson, who was a playwright then. William Shakespeare who was an actor. It’s like the 17th Earl of Oxford who is the true author of all these plays. We see how, through these three people, it happens that all of these plays get credited to Shakespeare. I kind of found it as too much like Amadeus to me. It was about jealousy, about genius against end, so I proposed to make this a movie about political things, which is about succession. Succession, the monarchy, was absolute monarchy, and the most important political thing was who would be the next King. Then we incorporated that idea into that story line. It has all the elements of a Shakespeare play. It’s about Kings, Queens, and Princes. It’s about illegitimate children, it’s about incest, it’s about all of these elements which Shakespeare plays have. And it’s overall a tragedy. That was the way and I’m really excited to make this movie.
So wait, this started out as a taut conspiracy thriller centering on the jealousy of Ben Jonson (who was absolutely baller), Shakespeare, and Oxford, and it is all like Amadeus but with old theater dudes? This movie sounds completely awesome. Unfortunately Emmerich doesn’t seem to realize that!
Now we have to throw in the Queen, too, and also the Essex rebellion, and the question of succession, because the audience won’t be happy without explosions and beheadings.
Incidentally, if you poke around enough about these Shakespearean authorship debates, you’ll find a lot of people quoting Supreme Court justices about what they think. This is because people like to stage mock trials to determine Shakespeare’s identity, and these justices make rulings. Other than the fact that this is all vapid pageantry, it… wait, nope, it’s pretty much all vapid pageantry. Why the fact that Justice Sandra Day O’Connor thinks Oxford wrote Shakespeare’s plays should have any sort of weight is completely beyond me, when someone like, oh, I dunno, BEN JONSON (baller) KNEW SHAKESPEARE AND NEVER DOUBTED HIS AUTHORSHIP?
Incidentally, this is one thing the movie seems to take care of — by implicating Jonson in the conspiracy. I am so excited, guys, you do not even understand.