Today (25 October) is St Crispin’s Day, a day when we should recall the Battle of Agincourt and Henry V’s stirring speech to his outnumbered troop.
Instead, here in Stratford-upon-Avon, it’s more of a case of ‘Hung be the heavens with black!’ (Henry VI Part 1, 1.1.1)
As box offices await the arrival of the new Hollywood film Anonymous, which portrays William Shakespeare as a fraud, the playwright’s name is disappearing from pub and street signs up and down the country.
The blackout is a bid to highlight the potential impact of the film’s attempt to re-write English culture and history. Even the famous Gower Memorial statue in Shakespeare’s home town of Stratford-upon-Avon has been covered up to illustrate how different the world would be without William Shakespeare. Pubs are shrouding their Shakespeare-themed names and in Shakespeare’s county, Warwickshire, road signs bearing his name have been taped over.
The cover-up is part of our on-going campaign to tackle the film’s conspiracy theory that William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon was a barely literate front man for the Earl of Oxford.
The film flies in the face of a mass of historical fact, but there is a risk that people who have never questioned the authorship of Shakespeare’s works could be hoodwinked. We thought that our project would remind us that Shakespeare is at the core of England’s cultural and historical DNA, as well as (arguably) our most famous export.
Today’s activity barely scratches the surface, but we hope it will remind people of the enormous legacy we owe to William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon Avon. Where better to start a conversation about the true author than in the pubs and streets that bear his name?
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has also taken the conversation online with a website, 60 Minutes with Shakespeare, featuring the voices of HRH The Prince of Wales and Anonymous director Roland Emmerich, as well as 60 authors, actors and scholars answering the big questions about Shakespeare in 60 seconds each.
This Friday (28 October) will see the publication of the our free e-book, Shakespeare Bites Back (co-authored by Stanley Wells and I), which sets out the evidence for Shakespeare and discusses the phenomenon of the Shakespeare Authorship Conspiracy Theory. Register for your free copy at www.shakespearebitesback.com