British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

Was Shakespeare A Fraud?

The political thriller ANONYMOUS directed by Roland Emmerich opens at the cinemas this week. The film asks `was Shakespeare a fraud?’. It is already causing a stir amongst the academics in Stratford-upon-Avon where the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is mounting a stern protest in taping over nine road signs for the day to coincide with the film’s premiere at the London Film Festival.

The BUFVC International Database of Shakespeare on Film, Television and Radio lists 43 titles which debate the authorship question including WILLIAM IRELAND’S CONFESSION (1939), a radio play by Arthur Miller about the Shakespeare forger, and SWEET SWAN OF AVON (2009), a Norwegian documentary by Petter Amundsen who believes he has found a set of codes embedded in The Tempest which prove that Shakespeare was an illiterate actor and Francis Bacon wrote the plays and sonnets. MASTER SHAKESPEARE, STROLLING PLAYER (1916) is a feature film, made for the Shakespeare tercentenary, in which two lovers argue as to who wrote Shakespeare. So strong is their disagreement that the engagement is broken off. When lover Lieutenant Stanton (who votes for Shakespeare) is injured in the Mexican border wars (but not as badly hurt as she first thought) she happily renounces her Baconian theories and falls into his arms.

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