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History is real history

10/24/11

History is real history

The new movie Anonymous, "dramatizes a fringe theory, unsupported by any historical evidence, according to which the works of Shakespeare were written by an Elizabethan aristocrat, Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford." Stephen Marche, a professor of Shakespeare, points out some obvious flaws with this proposition, but more importantly, makes a more general observation about this and other conspiracy "theories" in a great way:

... [a]nd I fear that the attraction of the Oxfordian theory, to people who don’t know any better, may be profound. Counternarratives have an inevitable appeal: wouldn't it be cool if there were yetis? If the United States Army were keeping extraterrestrial remains in the Nevada desert? If aliens with powers beyond our imagination built the pyramids? If Shakespeare wasn't Shakespeare but actually this, like, lord who had to keep his identity secret?

You don’t have to be a truther or a birther to enjoy a conspiracy theory. We all, at one point or another, indulge fantasies that make the world seem more dangerous, more glamorous and, simultaneously, much more simple than it actually is. But then most of us grow up. Or put down the bong. Or read a book by somebody who is familiar with both proper historical methodology and the facts. The errors in "Anonymous," I should point out, do not require great expertise to identify. Any undergraduate who has taken a course in Early Modern Drama, and paid attention, should be able to spot at least 10. (That might make a good exam, come to think of it.)

This is a great analogy. I've long thought that the popularity of any conspiracy theories is that they allow people to believe something they want to believe, almost to the exclusion of any other appeal.

This means that conspiratorial thinking didn't give birth to the sniper on the grassy knoll, it's more that the insecurity caused by the fact that a lone loser with a gun killed Camelot gave birth to conspiratorial thinking. Likewise, a world with Yeti's and UFO's and little green men and psychics would be cooler than the world we have. I understand the temptation.

  12:08:00 pm by Ragamuffin, Categories: News, Entertainment

2 comments

Comment from: Junta Kinte [Visitor]
Junta Kinte

Haven't read the article or your blog, but the topic remeinded me of this tweet from John Fugelsang:

"'Anonymous' is a film about how Shakespeare was really a no-talent hack, by the guy who made 'Godzilla' & '10,000 BC.'"

10/24/11 @ 16:53
Comment from: grygus [Member]
grygus

Yeah it's a natural compulsion, but that's why we invented fiction. You can get your fix for wishing things were different without distorting your view of reality.

10/24/11 @ 20:39
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