Updated: Dec 18, 2020
"He breathed upon dead bodies and brought them into life. Nor sequent centuries could hit Orbit and sum of Shakespeare’s wit."
Ralph Waldo Emerson on Shakespeare
The carefully crafted documentary by Robin Phillips discusses and dissects an alternative theory about the most significant literary figure in the west - William Shakespeare or as Phillips argues , the pen name of Edward De vere the seventeenth Earl of Oxford. The documentary also discusses how unlikely were the chances of a literary giant to be someone from a family of glove makers in Stratford upon Avon.
Sigmund Freud said :
" I no longer believe that William Shakespeare the actor from Stratford was the author of the works that have been ascribed to him". Freud did not have sufficient reasons to believe otherwise or so the film wants it's viewers to believe. Many significant literary and non literary figures believed an anonymous man possibly from nobility wrote under the pseudonym of Shakespeare. Ben Johnson famously wrote that one must not see the face but the works of the great man.
Robin Phillips does a fantastic job as the narrator of the film. She ensures that there is not a single dull moment in it, a bell for all her antics like the porter scene in "Macbeth" or the scene with the skull of Yorick in " Hamlet ".
Another remarkable feature in the movie is the use of colourful costumes. Phillips appears almost Elizabethan if not for her Johnsonian sense of humour. However the film should not be looked upon as some casual presentation of facts full of levity. It is dense with a plethora of facts that would make one question the entire existence of Shakespeare. It would rekindle the debate between the Stratfordians and the Oxfordians.
The film asserts but never too strongly so as to appear coercive. A feature in the movie that one must talk about is the usage of images. There are numerous images in the movie almost sufficient to tell a story by itself. The numerous comparisons in the movie ensures that the viewer finds clarity in the claims of the storyteller. The jokes never feel forcibly inserted and the documentary never loses it's proximity with fun. The background music transports one to an Elizabethan setting where literature flourished courtesy the university wits and the mysterious 'Bard of 'Avon'.
Robin Phillips has done her research quite well. She has presented a side that must be considered seriously in both the academic and the artistic circles revolving around Shakespeare. She was
influenced by Roland Emmerich's 2011 film 'Anonymous', that explored the idea that Edward De Verne, the 17th Earl of Oxford, a playwright and poet himself, was the one who wrote the plays attributed to the son of a glove maker from Stratford upon Avon.
The movie explores a number of themes including Identity, love, the life of noblemen, their scandals and lastly the literary Renaissance in Elizabethan England. It would Inspire the admirers of Shakespeare to think about his existence, his life beyond a name and such quests must not be ' ...full of sound and fury signifying nothing'.