After several years and many attempts, I finally found enough time and a hearty-enough constitution to watch Anonymous. In the interest of accuracy (unlike the film itself), I'll reveal that I watched it in several sections over about a week's time, occasionally watching it at three times the speed with the subtitles on, frequently grading papers as I did so.
The film is awful in all sorts of ways. For the ways in which the plot is ludicrous—both historically and logically—I point you toward Holger Syme's take on the film. In addition to that, the acting is bad, the writing is worse, and the editing frequently makes very little sense.
I don't imagine it comes as a surprise to any of Bardfilm's readers, but I was utterly appalled by the film. Here are a few of the more notable things this film asks us to believe:
- Elizabeth I goes on progress in order to give birth to illegitimate children (one of whom is fathered by a former illegitimate child of Elizabeth's). Every time the Virgin Queen gets pregnant, they have to go on progress, have the baby, and then shuffle off the little mortal coil to some noble willing to raise it. According to Mary Cole's The Portable Queen, Elizabeth went on twenty-three progresses during her reign. The math suggests that Elizabeth was certainly doing her part to increase the stock of heirs to the throne of England by at least (there could have been twins!) twenty-three. Note: Thanks to @commish24 and @historyadjunct for their help in suggesting this source and passing along its information.
- The Earl of Oxford has a stockpile of a dozen or so plays that he suddenly decides to release to the world. It's always good to be prepared with a Brilliant Drama Slush Fund.
- William Shakespeare is too idiotic to be taken seriously as an actor, but everyone swallows the idea that he's a playwright—make that the playwright—without any question. He's also completely ignorant—except when it comes to extorsion and theatre business, which he manages quite nicely.
- Elizabethans hate hunchbacks. Therefore, they hate Robert Cecil. The Earl of Oxford decided to give the Richard III of his eponymous play a hunch in order to mock Robert Cecil. That was the first time anyone ever said anything about Richard III having a hunch.
- Christopher Marlowe was murdered by William Shakespeare because he suspected that Shakespeare might not be the author of the plays.
- Writing anything in iambic pentameter is inordinately impressive to everyone—even other playwrights.
"Remember when Regan and Cornwall gouged my eyes out? This was worse."
"This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard."
"Eww, that's disgusting. She's old enough to be his mother! Oh, that's right. She is his mother."
"I had never seen this film before, nor shall ever again, for it is the most insipid ridiculous film that ever I saw in my life."
"Well, I'll admit it. As slurs on my character go, this tops Ben Jonson's 'Not Without Mustard' joke!"
"Never, never, never, never, never."
"O horrible! O horrible! Most horrible!"
"I rather liked it."
Cole, Mary Hill. The Portable Queen: Elizabeth I and the Politics of Ceremony. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999.
Links: The Film at IMDB.