Film: Anonymous

Anonymous is a 2011 historical drama from director Roland Emmerich. Like many of Emmerich's films, it revolves around fringe conspiracy theories and features a major world landmark being destroyed, even if it isn't a disaster movie like his previous work. It's based on the conspiracy theory that William Shakespeare did not author his plays, but was given them by the Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere.

Not to be confused with the web vigilante group.

The film invokes the following tropes:

  • Alternate History: The premise of the film is that Shakespeare never wrote his own plays, instead attributing them to Edward De Vere, the Earl of Oxford.
  • Anachronic Order: Kyle Kallgren at Brows Held High points out that this was probably done to stop the audience from noticing that the internal chronology of the film is both self-contradictory and flies in the face of almost all historical data.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: To cover up the fact that Shakespeare never wrote his own plays... and also that Edward De Vere was the child of Queen Elizabeth, as well as the father of another one of her children.
  • Anonymous Author: Edward, before Shakespeare starts taking credit for his plays.
  • Anything That Moves: Elizabeth I is "The Virgin Queen" In Name Only in this film.
  • Arranged Marriage: Between Edward and William Cecil's daughter.
  • Artistic License History: Derek Jacobi appears in the beginning to admit that the story is just an intellectual exercise, not hard history.
    • The chronology is completely wrong. Macbeth is performed before Hamlet. Macbeth is widely considered to be a rather late production by Shakespeare, and directly references King James I (who ascends to the throne at the end of the film).
    • Also, Christopher Marlowe figures out that Edward is writing the plays, because he realises that the character of Polonius in Hamlet is meant to signify William Cecil, so Shakespeare murders Marlowe to prevent the truth from getting out. Hamlet was first performed in 1601 (1598 in the film.) Marlowe had already died in 1593, and Cecil in 1598.
    • The portrayal of Richard III as an Evil Cripple wasn't Shakespeare's invention: it appears as "fact" in Polydore Vergil's Anglica Historia, published in 1534 - over a decade before the births of both Edward and Shakespeare.
    • Cecil was actually against Elizabeth naming James of Scotland as her successor, and for very good reason: it was Cecil, more than anyone else, who'd convinced Elizabeth to execute James's mother, Mary, Queen of Scots.
    • Surprisingly, the Earl of Essex DID hire Shakespeare to stage a play about King Richard in order to incite a riot so he could seize the throne. However, rather than Richard III, as shown in the movie, the play was Richard II. Which makes sense, as Richard II is about a noble earl who does his solemn duty and deposes a corrupt and decadent monarch, whereas Richard III is about how wonderful Queen Elizabeth's family is, and isn't it great that they're in charge now?
    • The Globe Theater catches on fire when torch-bearing troops chase Ben Johnson through it. The actual 1613 fire was an accident caused by a prop cannon.
    • At a gathering of playwrights, the idea of a play entirely in iambic pentameter is treated as revolutionary. Not only did Shakespeare write only one play entirely in that form (Richard II), but writing plays in verse was the common way of doing it back then.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: William Shakespeare was actually a patsy for Edward De Vere, allowing him to publish poetry without affronting his aristocratic family.
  • Brick Joke: Ben Johnson complains that Oxford's writing is just a passing hobby, saying "Last week it's gardening, now it's plays, next week it will be falconry!" Later, when Shakespeare is in Oxford's study, there is a hooded falcon perched off to the side.
  • Coitus Interruptus: At one point, Shakespeare is interrupted while having sex with a prostitute.
  • Downer Ending: The fraudulent Shakespeare winds up taking credit for all of De Vere's work, De Vere is a failure as both a playwright and a human being, and Elizabeth dies without a legitimate heir, marking the end of the Tudor line.
  • Evil Chancellor: William and Robert Cecil.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Most of the characters in the film, obviously. The ones with their own page on TV Tropes could be mentioned: William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe and Elizabeth I.