The Unwarranted Dignity of It All

‘Anonymous,’ by Roland Emmerich – Review – NYTimes.com: “The film’s premise is that the plays and poems commonly attributed to William Shakespeare are actually the work of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. This notion, sometimes granted the unwarranted dignity of being called a theory, is hardly new. It represents a hoary form of literary birtherism that has persisted for a century or so, in happy defiance of reason and evidence. The arrival of ‘Anonymous’ has roused Shakespeareans more learned than I to the weary task of re-debunking…”

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There is a movie poster for “Anonymous,” right, that is especially galling. (Really?)

To be fair, there is a class of faux-historical pop culture that seems harmless. The fulsome fatuity laid down by writers like Dan Brown, for instance, can be given credit because its roots are wound around such esoteric earth that even if the premise (i.e., that there is a cult of self-flagellating, puzzle-obsessed freaks protecting the direct descendants of Jesus of Nazareth) was accepted as fact, few ordinary people would be equipped to even understand it. But with “Anonymous,” the observer needs know nothing about literature or theater to be persuaded that serious people believe Shakespeare was a fraud. (They don’t.)

It is a little like being in a group of indecisive people who are discussing where to go for dinner and one of their number, distracted at first by their cellphone or a shiny penny, chimes in with a cheery and inevitable, “Let’s have noodles,” when everyone has already dismissed noodles as too much of a pain in the ass.

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