Was Shakespeare a Fraud?

Anonymous is the story of “the truth” about who really wrote the works of William Shakespeare.

The film starts out as a stage play telling the tale of Ben Johnson, a theater owner and playwright that is entrusted with the works of the Earl of Oxford, Edward De Vere, and asked to put the plays on as his own works. Johnson puts on the first of the plays, and the crowd loves it so much that they call for the writer to take a bow. Due to Johnson’s reluctance, and being in the right place at the right time, William Shakespeare, an actor, steps out on the stage to claim credit for writing it.

There’s a lot more to it than just Shakespeare possibly stealing someone else’s work. It deals heavily with the privileged, yet tortured, life of Edward De Veer, his love for Queen Elizabeth, and very heavily with his conflicts with his wife’s brother and father, Robert and William Cecil.


  • The story was well told. It was a bit disjointed , but was well told. It was nice that it didn’t really focus on Shakespeare, but instead was mainly about De Veer, his personal demons, and the things in his life that inspired him to write the plays that he did.
  • Rhys Ifans, who plays De Veer, plays an emotional and psychologically tortured man very well. The actor that played Robert Cecil (Edward Hogg) was so creepy and evil that he stole every single scene that he was in.
  • You wouldn’t expect any less than visual spectacle from Roland Emmerich, but the film looked very good. Some of the costume design and sets really stole the spotlight in a period piece like this.
  • The use of flashbacks throughout are very frequent, and sometimes confusing. First it’s modern day, then it’s 1604, then 1599, then 1574. It switches back and forth between ~1574 and somewhere between 1599 & 1604 throughout in order to tell De Veer’s back-story. Ben Johnson gets arrested in both 1604 and 1599, so when Edward De Veer goes to bail him out and meet him for the first time, it’s hard to figure out when that is supposed to be happening.
  • It’s a little heavy on the Shakespeare hate. In the story not only is he not responsible for writing anything he’s credited with, he’s also a selfish and self-important asshole that can’t read. Probably a little too strong with the negativity.
Anonymous isn’t a great film, but it’s also not bad. It’s somewhere in the middle between good and very good. I’d definitely watch it again. It’s definitely worth the price of admission. I’d recommend this for people who are fans of flashier British period dramas like The Tudors, and for people that enjoy Elizabethan theater.
This isn’t a film for big Shakespeare fans because it would probably just piss you off.

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