The Oxfordian position in the obstreperous Authorship Question controversy was surely given a shot in the arm when the great Shakespearean actor Derek Jacobi came out as a supporter. As I have said on these pages before, I am not an Oxfordian myself, but I have enough respect for enough adherents of that view, as well as a healthy appreciation for the history of assorted academic dogmas (and their eventual abandonment in favor of once-mocked views) to (I hope) keep an open mind on the subject.
With that in view, I was looking forward to this documentary, hosted and narrated by the wonderful Sir Derek himself, but was in the end, alas, disappointed.
The 1999 documentary seems a poorly constructed affair, more a collection of vaguely sinister-sounding talking points—random bits of pro-Oxford evidence wrapped in conspiracy-theorish suggestions that the only thing propping up the Stratfordian position is regard for the tourist industry in Stratford.
As someone who has, even as an amateur, read enough bardolatrous literature of the academic sort to know that there are plenty of smart Stratfordians out there with no vested interest in the British tourist trade, this is a gross oversimplification to put it mildly. If we’re going to look at things like that, one had better not enlist the support of (for example) the present Earl of Oxford, whose family could only gain in every possible way if he were to be at some point acknowledged a direct descendant of Shake-speare. I mean, who else would have more to gain? Think of the boon to the tourist trade in Essex and Hedingham Castle!
But be that as it may, as I said, this little documentary isn’t well organized or argued. It may preach eloquently to the Choir, I couldn’t say, but newbies to the Authorship Question would, I think, get a better introduction to the Oxfordian position by watching the PBS Frontline program. PBS doesn’t seem to be selling them anymore, but you might have some luck on ebay or Amazon Marketplace. A transcript of the program is available from the PBS website linked above.
But here’s a little preview of The Shakespeare Conspiracy: