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. The makers of the film, however, don't think that it's an "alternate" history.
  • 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.
  • 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 DIED IN 1593. You see the problem here?
    • 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?
    • At one point, De Vere waxes would-be-profound on the Tudor Rose... while holding one. There is not, and never has been, an actual biological Tudor Rose; it's purely symbolic, combining the Red Rose of the House of Lancaster and the White Rose of the House Of York. To posit that such a flower actually existed betrays a total lack of understanding by the production team.
  • 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.
  • Historical Fiction: Although not everyone thinks it's fiction.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: The Cecils, as well as William Shakespeare himself.
  • How We Got Here
  • The House of Tudor: Queen Elizabeth herself plays a large role in the events of the film.
  • Large Ham: Shakespeare himself is one of the bigger offenders, although several of the actors ham it up throughout the film.
  • Parental Abandonment: Queen Elizabeth gives birth to Edward out of wedlock, then gives him up to be raised by the Duke of Oxford to avoid a scandal.
  • Parental Incest: Edward De Vere sleeps with Queen Elizabeth, who is secretly his mother. And she gets pregnant from their coupling.
  • Really Gets Around: Queen Elizabeth I (hilariously enough).
  • Succession Crisis: With Queen Elizabeth old and having no legitimate children, the Cecils want James of Scotland to take the throne of England after her death. Edward wants it to go to the Earl of Essex.
  • Surprise Incest: Between Edward and Elizabeth, his mother.
  • Elizabeth I : She is The Virgin Queen In Name Only, if the film is to be believed.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story/Based on a Great Big Lie: Depends on whether you're a Stratfordian or Anti-stratfordian.