On the other hand, The Shakespeare Conspiracy does provide the only clip I've seen of the 1941 film entitled Pimpernel Smith, which James Shapiro comments on in his Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare (193-94).
The professor in this film (played by Leslie Howard) is an Oxfordian. In one of the scenes extracted below, he picks up a skull at an excavation site and delivers this speech:
An ancient Teuton. Alas, poor Yorick. Get thee to my lady's chamber, my dear general. Tell her though she paint an inch thick, to this favor must she come. Make her laugh at that. The Earl of Oxford wrote that, you know.The quotes on IMDB also indicate a “Shakespeare was a German” theme. That seems quite interesting, and I'd love to be able to see the film in its entirety. One character argues that Shakespeare was really German; another argues that Shakespeare was really the Earl of Oxford—and they're both deliciously wrong. Fascinating!
Update: Alert reader and, for this post at least, copious commenter e. meritus prauf tracked down part of the film on YouTube and sent in on to me. I've extracted the portion that is relevant to the "Shakespeare was German" theme. The Professor and the General speak first of "Jabberwocky" before moving on to a bit of Shakespeare:
The dialogue is remarkably funny—but it also provides telling insight into the anti-Stratfordian position. First, here's the exchange:
Twice the dialogue slyly digs at the anti-Stratfordian argument. The first is when the words of "Jabberwocky" are purported to mean whatever the reader wants. Making it mean whatever you want it to mean may be fine for nonesense verse (though even that may be debatable), but it's not fine for the works of Shakesperare or for the evidence about his authorship.General: Tell me—I am curious. Your English humorist, Lewis Carroll. Why does he write such idiocy? Listen:[With intensified German accent—particularly on "vaa-bay"]: "’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves / Did gyre and gimble in the wabe." It does not make sense!Professor: But it does! [With intensified English accent]: "’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves / Did gyre and gimble in the wabe. / All mimsy were the borogoves / And the mome raths outgrabe." Well, it makes perfect sense.
General: But what does it mean?
Professor: It means whatever you want it to mean. You can either use it lyrically or, as I'm afraid I do sometimes, in place of swear words.
Professor: As a matter of fact, you know, ever since I've been in Germany, I've felt exactly like Alice in Wonderland.
General: Oh, but Germany is a wonderland.
Professor: Oh, it is, it is.
General: But we have one problem: "To be or not to be," as our great German poet said.
Professor: German? But that’s Shakespeare.
General: But you don’t know?
Professor: Why, I know it’s Shakespeare. I thought Shakespeare was English.General: No, no, no. Shakespeare is a German. Professor Schuessbacher has proved it once and for all.Professor: Oh, dear, how very upsetting. Still, you must admit that the English translations are most remarkable.
General: Good night.
Professor: Good night. Good night. "Parting is such sweet sorrow."
General: What is that?
Professor: One of the most famous lines in German literature.
The second dig is when we learn that "Professor Schuessbacher has proved it once and for all." The anti-Stratfordians—as in the previous clip—often claim that their arguments prove "conclusively that Shakespeare wasn't really Shakespeare." But the claims are never conclusive—they can't be. For the anti-Stratfordians, they can only be speculative at best and intentionally misleading at worst.
Thanks, e. meritus prauf, for calling Bardfilm's attention to the clip's availability and to the most interesting examination of the life and work of Leslie Howard you provide in the comments below.
Links: The Film at IMDB.
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