Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Movie: "Anonymous" is not worth seeing

Shakespeare Anonymous?
Basil Waine Kong

After paying good money and spending valuable time that could have been profitably spent doing something else, my wife and I regretfully saw the movie “Anonymous” based on J. Thomas Looney’s book: “Shakespeare Identified”. He was joined in these beliefs by Sherwood Silliman and George Batty---quiet a credible crowd!

Here is my recommendation: do not waste your time or your money. It is not even as good as the PBS Special (1996) that made similar claims. In fact, thousands of books and more coming suggest that not only were Shakespeare’s parents illiterate and signed their name with an "X" but the boy Shakespeare had minimal education and exposure to the world. Some say he never owned or read a book. So where and how did he gain the experience and culture to have written so knowledgeably and eloquently about the affairs of Kings, the military, geography, law, the sea, and especially the human heart?

This film is boring rubbish based on claims that Shakespeare was not wise enough, educated enough, worldly enough or sophisticated enough to have written the plays, sonnets and poetry to be regarded as the “ultimate expression of the English language” as well as "the greatest literature ever produced in English>" So based only on made up stuff (circumstantial evidence), the movie supposes that Edward de Vere, Seventh Earl of Oxford and the Queen’s consort, must have been the writer. In fact, the movie did not stop at claiming that de Vere was the ghost writer for Shakespeare, it depicted Shakespeare as an ignorant, illiterate blackmailer with no redeeming social value. The movie claims that Shakespeare could not even “form his letters.”

So, how is it that none of his contemporaries raised the question? For that matter, no questions were raised for two hundred years after his death claiming that THE Shakespeare did not write Shakespeare. This question became popular in just the last hundred years. I, for one, love the man and honour him for his amazing gifts to mankind like Bill Bryson wrote: "Only one man had the circumstances and gifts to give us such incomparable works, and William Shakespeare of Stratford was unquestionably that man---whoever he was".

I have a theory. I visited several of the Mayan Temples and Pyramids in Mexico ten years ago and took great interest in the pyramids of Chichen Itza. These magnificent structures spoke loudly about the sophistication of the Mayan people of old, the inventor of astrology and the Mayan Calendar. So what did Europeans devise as the explanation? Non-white people could not possibly have done this. Space travelers from other planets must have lived among them, designed and built these edifices. The rule is: If one’s achievements are remarkable, they didn’t do it and they will make up some preposterous explanations to explain it---most notably, foreign or inter-planetary influence.

Tell that to Usain Bolt! How does little Jamaica, produce the fastest runners (both men and women) that world has ever known? Get ready for preposterous theories: we must have made a deal with the devil, we eat some special diet, Obeah, Usain is out of this world, or take performance enhancements---anything but nurtured talent! Ordinary people do extraordinary things all the time. What’s the difference between a small farmer in St. Elizabeth who never went to school and a doctor? Often, just one generation. It is not unique for modestly acculturated or even deprived children to excell. Jamaicans know this story better than anywhere else. "We little or may have very little but we talawah!"

My granddaughter (Mackenzie) was studying Shakespeare in school and in order to have meaningful and interesting things to talk about with her, I studied along and even made up the following Quiz. If you wish to take the "teaching test" and e-mail me your answers (bwaine@bellsouth.net), I will be happy to score it for you. My very bright grand-daughter as well as her younger brother (Brooks) both made the grade!

Quiz on Shakespeare: His Life and Times

1.It is said that “No human being has received more attention or yielded more uncertainty” than Mr. William Shakespeare (S). He is at once best known and least known of historical figures. We are, however, certain about:
a. What he looked like
b. The spelling of his name
c. His education and how he got to be so smart
d. None of the above

2. S was born in England during a plague epidemic, on April 23, 1530 in:
a. Stratford
b. Snitterfield
c. Springfield
d. Southwark

3. At a time when the life expectancy was 35, S was baptized on April 26 and died at age 52 in 1582 on:
a. July 18
b. April 3
c. July 12
d. April 23

4. When S was born, in the City where his parents lived, they observed which calendar?
a. Gregorian
b. Old Julian
c. Chinese
d. The calendar was not yet invented

5. At 18 years old, S married a woman 8 years his senior. The age of consent to be married was twelve years for girls and fourteen for boys. The spelling of his name on his birth certificate is: Shagspere. Before her marriage, her name was:
a. Anne Hathaway, who was said to be: “sweet as May and shy as a fawn.”
b. Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton
c. Melanie Rochelle of Columbia
d. Mackenzie Kong-Sivert of Phoenix

6. Queen Elizabeth I, who defeated the Spanish Armada, the monarch during most of S lifetime followed by James, never married or had children, ruled England for how many years?
a. 10
b. 20
c. 30
d. 45 years

7. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Why was beef, veal, chicken classified as fish during S lifetime?
a. The catholic church required that converts only eat fish on Fridays
b. All meat taste like chicken
c. “Fish” was a shorthand word for meat
d. Because refrigeration was not available, all meat smelled like fish

8. During S lifetime, if you invited friends to spend the night at your house without a permit from local bailiff, you could be:
a. Fined
b. Stoned
c. Put in jail
d. Insulted

9. A line from “As You Like It” describe a school boy who reluctantly went to school because:
a. The buildings were not heated including sleeping quarters
b. The food was meager
c. The whippings frequent
d. All of the above

10. Children during S lifetime mostly studied
a. Farming
b. Latin
c. Law
d. Religion

11. S attended school until fifteen years old. He had to learn:
a. Metaphor and anaphora
b. Epistrophe and hyperbole
c. Synecdoche and epanalepsis
d. All of the above

12. How many children did S father?
a. One
b. Two
c. Three
d. Four

13. The printing press is thought to be the most influential event in the fifteenth century revolutionizing the way people conceive and describe the world they live in. Printed books (including our Bible---King James Version) became available to a wide audience. Who invented the printing press?
a. The Roman Empire
b. German Johannes Gutenberg around 1440
c. The Chinese under the Ming Dynasty
d. East Indians when they published the Bhagavad Gītā, "Song of The Blessed Lord"), (a sacred Hindu scripture)

14. Bathrooms were not yet available so even the rich relieved themselves wherever they could, including in corners of churches. Some people made a living by carrying containers for urine. Toilet is also called:
a. A washroom in Canada
b. A “Head” on boats
c. A “rest room” or “powder room” in the United States
d. All of the above

15. The clothing style during 16th century (imported from France) was to wear starched clothes. Where did the cassava starch come from?
a. Jamaica
b. India
c. China
d. Brazil

16. Piccadilly was so named for people who enjoyed parading in the square in their “ruffs” (pica dills). Why did they have to stay out of the rain?
a. The dyes in their clothes would wash out as dyes were not yet color-fast.
b. The starch would make their clothes limp
c. They believe they would catch their death of cold
d. All of the above

17. What is “Gresham’s law”, named for the gentleman who built the first shopping center in 1570 so 4,000 merchants could do their business out of the rain.
a. bad money drives out good
b. criminals can take over a community if good people are not vigilant
c. a shopping mall could be used as a “tax shelter”
d. all of the above

18. The style of the times was to have black teeth. The rich had black teeth because they could afford to eat a lot of sugar from Jamaica. So, those who could not afford sugar blackened their teeth artificially. What other silly things do we sometimes believe in the Jamaica even today?
a. Taking medication to lengthen eyelashes when the side effect could be blindness
b. Injecting botox (a toxin) to reduce wrinkles
c. Bleaching our skin will make us more attractive
d. All of the above

19. The association between pale white skin as the standard of beauty (supreme loveliness) and black skin with evil emerged out of this period. So, all kinds of skin bleaching were applied including borax, sulphur and lead. Today, the whitening cream industry is estimated to be worth around $432 million in India and $7 billion in China In Japan, Gaishas:
a. Paint their skins black
b. Paint their skins white
c. Bleach their skins with papaya
d. All of the above

20. Tobacco was first introduced in England about when S was born. Even children were encouraged to smoke as it was touted as a cure for:
a. Venereal disease
b. Migraine
c. Eprophylactic against the plague
d. All of the above

21. What was a common medical procedure during S lifetime that was just outlawed in the USA just before WWII?
a. Blood letting
b. Massaging
c. Laying on of hands
d. Lobotomies

22. The ocean was a common theme in his plays as a place of storms and shipwrecks: “Take arms against a sea of troubles.” “An ocean of salt tears.” “Wild sea of my conscience.” How long did S spend at sea?
a. No time
b. One year
c. Two years
d. Three years

23. The Theater where S plays were performed was owned by Shakespeare, Heminges, Augustine Phillips, Thomas Pope and Will Kemp, all actors otherwise known as “Lord Chamberlain’s Men”. It was built in 1599 and burned down in 1613, three years before S died. What is the name of the Theatre?
a. The Julius
b. The Fox
c. The Globe
d. The Regal Elizabethan

24. Animal baiting was a popular source of entertainment during S’s time. What was it?
a. A bear, bull or horse was tethered to a peg in a ring (sometimes with a monkey on its back) and mastiffs (dogs) were encouraged to rip the animal apart.
b. Bullfighting
c. Dog fighting
d. Cock fighting

25. Cleopatra, Lady Macbeth, Ophelia, Juliet and Desdemona had what in common?
a. Their roles were all played by men
b. They were all Queens
c. They were all married
d. All of the above

26. In addition to being a playwright, S was also:
a. An actor
b. Stage manager
c. Costume designer
d. Popular singer

27. S lifetime was a period of great suffering. In London, at least ten thousand people died in a single year from the plague. Those who could afford to established residences elsewhere left London. What S did is not known but all the doctors:
a. Stayed in London to help take care of the sick and dyeing
b. Left London with the other well-to-dos and left the care of the sick to Apothecaries
c. Left the country altogether
d. None of the above

28. S deduced that the Earth moved around the sun before:
a. Astronomers
b. Religious leaders
c. Politicians
d. Teachers

29. S was not good at Geography (anatopisms). Which of the following did he get right?
a. He put a sail maker in Bergamo, a landlocked city in Italy (Taming of the Shrew)
b. Set sail from Milan and Verona when both cities are more than 100 miles from the Ocean (The Tempest and The Two Gentlemen of Verona)
c. Did not know that Venice had Canals
d. All of the above

30. S was often guilty of anachronisms in his plays. What did he get wrong
a. He had Egyptians playing billiard
b. Implied that Caesar had a clock fourteen hundred years before it was invented
c. Referred to Cato three hundred years before he was born
d. All of the above

31. “The most unkindest cut of all” is a/an:
a. often repeated quote from S
b. Double negative
c. Double superlative
d. All of the above

32. S name has been spelled 80 different ways. The proper spelling in the Oxford English Dictionary is:
a. Shakspere
b. Shakespeare
c. Shappere
d. Shaxberd

33. S introduced 2,035 new words (neologisms) to the English language. Which one was not among them?
a. Critical
b. Horrid
c. lonely
d. computer

34. S is responsible for at least 10% of the quotations in our everyday speech. Which phrase did not originate with S?
a. For every truth you discover, the opposite is also true
b. One fell swoop
c. Vanish into thin air
d. Bag and baggage, play fast and loose, go down the primrose path, in a pickle, budge an inch, the milk of human kindness, more sinned against than sinning, remembrance of things past, cold comfort, more in sorrow than in anger, salad days, to thy own self be true, foul play, tower of strength, with bated breath, pomp and circumstance, forgone conclusion.

35. Stanley Wells observed that S was born in Latin but died in English. When Thomas Smith produced the first textbook on the English Language, he wrote it in which language?
a. Latin
b. English
c. German
d. French

36. Plays by S were originally performed at mid-day because:
a. In the Sixteenth Century, people worked from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm but had a four hour break during the mid-day
b. It was not safe to be out after dark
c. There was no artificial lighting available
d. All of the above

37. The S Library in Washington DC contain more than 350,000 books and is called:
a. The Folger Library
b. The National Archives
c. The Library of Congress
d. The Shakespeare Library

Note: By far, the best source of information as well as the most entertaining book on Shakespeare is:
“Shakespeare: The Illustrated and Updated Edition” by Bill Bryson (Atlas Books, 2007). I am a Bill Bryson fan. His research is flawless and his writing keeps a smile on my face. If you had to just read one of his fifteen books, please start with: “A Really Short History of Everything.”You will immediately become (not necessarily healthy or wealthy but definitely) wise.