In 2009 I published The De Vere Code, which demonstrates that the poems published as Shake-speare's Sonnets in 1609 were in written, not by William Shaksper from Stratford-on-Avon, but by Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, a nobleman at the court of Queen Elizabeth I.

As the promotional bandwagon for Roland Emmerich's Stratford-baiting Anonymous gets under way, this blog will chronicle the next few months in the life of The De Vere Code, to see how its arguments, and the wider case for Edward de Vere, fare during this time of unprecedented scrutiny around all things Authorship…

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Emmerich at the ESU

I attended the Shakespeare Authorship Debate at the English Speaking Union on Monday evening featuring, surprisingly perhaps, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust heavies Prof Stanley WellsRev Dr Paul Edmondson, and Birkbeck's Michael Dobson. Given that Anonymous isn't released until September, it's quite a coup for Roland Emmerich to draw the fire of the heavy guns so early in the campaign. Couldn't be the lure of Sony Picture's free wine, surely.

In the blue (Oxfordian) corner, Emmerich, Charles Beauclerk, and Dr Bill Leahy of Brunel University (Wittenburg to Stratford's Rome). 

Despite the intractable nature of the Authorship debate, the most baffling question facing the assembly appeared to be how to pronounce Charles Beauclerk's name correctly. 'Boo-clark', 'Ber-cloak', 'Boar-kler' and 'Berk-luck' were all assayed, but none proved definitive. Suggestions are welcome. How much simpler it would have been to address the de Vere descendent (for truly he is so) by his proper title, 'my lord Charles, Earl of Burford'. But though easier to get right, that would sadly play into the eager hands of those Stratfordians desperate to shout 'snobs! snobs! yer all snobs!' at every juncture. And there are some of them out there, I believe.

Professor Wells delivered the standard-issue volley of Stratfordian dates, names, quotes and 'definitive' corroborations that establish Homo Stratfordiensis, 'Stratford Man', at the scene of the rhyme (sorry). To those unfamiliar with the debate, these sound impressive enough. To those versed in the opposition case, the response is off pat: for Stratford Man substitute Piltdown Man.

With his customary long-suffering charm, Beauclerk gave an elegant and emotive five minutes on the Hamlet parallels with de Vere's life, a powerful plea cogently articulated by a man admittedly with a Ver-y large axe to grind. 

Aside from losing his lines early on, the Rev Edmondson struck several savage blows to the Oxfordian case, each accompanied by raised eyebrows and a knowing nod to the 'not mad' members of the congregation, expressing his sorrow that the anti-Stratfordian conspiracy theorists were missing out on so much real history by basing their beliefs on an elaborately constructed fantasy. One wonders how he gets his Sunday flock to swallow the virgin birth, the resurrection, and transubstantiation – perhaps a nod and a wink helps there too. Several times he guiltily avowed his affection for 'historical costume B-movies', which clearly delighted his audience – though multi-million-dollar-blockbuster-maker-Emmerich seemed somewhat baffled as to whose work the Rev intended the term 'B-movie' to apply to.

The director will no doubt be careful who he invites to his discussion evenings in future and he would be wise to be so. The first three audience members handed the 'talking-stick' (as the chair inexplicably insisted on referring to it - perhaps a nod to inclusivity) were all clearly wracked with unarticulated passions, and incapable of asking a grammatical question. 

"Are the Shakespeare deniers bonkers, m'lud? Exhibits A, B and C. Case closed. Take them down."

The Stratfordians increasingly smelt blood, and the pitch and frequency of the sniggers increased. A round of hurrahs greeted an eminent actress who rose to her feet and brushed away the proffered talking-stick, "I'm not sure I'll need that!", before offering, very much after the manner of Janet Suzman, to take on Mark Rylance and Derek Jacobi in single combat, and chastising Jeremy Irons for his apparent defection to the Oxfordian camp: "I'm very disappointed with Jeremy." As no doubt are a great many of us, but Damage is only one film in an otherwise illustrious career. 

She then succumbed to the microphone and trotted out the old canard that Shakespeare clearly was a 'man of the theatre' as any actor knows who has been there on stage with him and excavated the text and so on, etc, and that it is snobbery to suggest that "he weren't clever enough to have wrote all them plays by hisself" (I paraphrase).

At this point the insouciant Earl finally lost patience, slipped the lead and unleashed Bill Leahy into the midst of the bleating Stratfordians. "Using terms like 'snobbery' and 'conspiracy' is just lazy thinking. Lazy," he growled. "And I wish people would think a bit harder about what they're saying before they start 'feeling sorry' for those who take a different view of the facts. It seems, quite frankly, arrogant." There was a queasy moment as the chair hurriedly checked to see if anyone present had a valid firearms licence. "Did I say Shakespeare was stupid?" continued Leahy, his east-London growl eerily reminiscent of Sir Alan, Lord Sugar. "No. I said he was a businessman."

For a second, it seemed Dr Leahy might spring across the table, take a chunk out of said priest and possibly attempt to "fire" the actress, a contest the outcome of which no-one would dare to predict. Thankfully, the chair stepped in, the proceedings were drawn to a swift conclusion, a hasty show of hands was had and the day was given, thankfully for the safety of all, to Stratford.

Overall, the Stratfordians seemed very happy to attempt to use humiliation as the primary weapon in their armoury. But confidence and condescension are two sides of a rather thin coin and as the debate moved beyond the preliminaries, the name-calling and joke-making, the unease persisted that the Oxfordians might not just be blown over with a few silly put-downs.

Emmerich meanwhile seemed fascinated and bemused by the passions on display. "I'm a storyteller you know. You want to make the story the biggest you can. I think there is a view of Elizabethan time that is not known. I want to tell that story. Its just my little costume B-movie."

Of course, if you want to entirely circumvent the debate, you could just read The De Vere Code. For a limited time, you can get it for £11.99 (rrp £14.99) if you use the code(!) DVC1 at the checkout...