Anonymous is a film that examines history as we know it and attempts to challenge scenarios that we have come to accept as truths. It covers two significant events during the time of Elizabeth: the Essex Rebellion of 1601 and the succession to the throne of Queen Elizabeth I (played by Vanessa Redgrave). It also supports the Prince Tudor theory proposed in 1920 that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (played by Rhys Ifans), was the real author of the literary works of William Shakespeare.
After a private play before Queen Elizabeth I, he is forced to live in the house of William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghleythe and chief adviser of the Queen. Cecil blackmails de Vere to offer his daughter to him in marriage, though to avoid dishonoring their family, Cecil insists that he forget about literature. De Vere later becomes the Queen’s lover, and with her, sires a son, Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton.
Decades later, in order to support a rebellion led by Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, he finds a way to bring to make his secretly written plays public via William Shakespeare. When the plot for rebellion fails, de Vere pleads with Shakespeare to keep the true identity of his authorship a secret forever in order to save his son’s life. And thus, Shakespeare continues to remain the greatest writer in the English language.
Anonymous is a perfectly wielded historical drama by German director Roland Emmerich. Different eras unfold slowly to reveal the possibility of de Vere being the true author of Shakespeare’s works. It is a very compelling film and some consider it Emmerich’s masterpiece.