Thursday, October 30, 2008

"The Other Shakespeare"

Contact: Karen Evans, Karen Evans Management (Plummer, Biederman)
(323) 933-9218
Jessica Regel, Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency (Anderson)
(212) 794-1082


NEW YORK, N.Y., Oct. 30, 2008 -- Imagine if an Elizabethan Hamlet had actually written Hamlet, or if a love-scarred veteran of Montague/Capulet street wars in London had in fact written Romeo and Juliet. A recent book, newly optioned for television, tells this very story.

Shakespeare's celebrated plays are, according to the 2005 book "Shakespeare" By Another Name (Gotham Books), remarkably autobiographical. And, say screenwriters John Christian Plummer and James Biederman, this astonishing (and controversial) new perspective also holds tremendous promise for some ground-breaking television.

Plummer (recent subject of a PBS documentary about his critically acclaimed production of Twelfth Night for the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival) and Biederman (veteran executive producer for television series such as The Kids in the Hall and The Whitest Kids U Know) are currently developing several projects for television and collaborating on an unrelated feature screenplay for Academy Award winning producer Wendy Finerman.

Their new television series option of "Shakespeare" By Another Name, says Plummer, "is the sort of thing Shakespeare -- de Vere -- would be proud of. We're using a mass medium to tell an incredibly elevated but at the same time tremendously entertaining story. And at the same time, we're taking on one of the world's biggest sacred cows."

"Shakespeare" By Another Name tells the epic life story of the courtly poet and playwright, Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, both in Queen Elizabeth I's inner circle in England as well as across Europe, visiting many of the Italian and French cities and locations that would later be immortalized under the byline "Shakespeare." A growing number of scholars have suspected de Vere was in fact the author of the Bard's plays and poems.

"Shakespeare" By Another Name author Mark Anderson says that in book-signings and lectures across the U.S. and around the world over the past three years, he has often heard audience members say they wish de Vere's adventurous life could be brought to the screen. "I keep hearing that the Shakespearean mini-dramas, comedies and tragedies found within Edward de Vere's biography seem practically ready-made for movies or television," he says. "Well, to that we can now reply, 'The game's afoot.'"

Praise for "Shakespeare" By Another Name:
"Deserves serious attention" (The New York Times)
"Makes a compelling case... Especially impressive" (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
"Quite a compelling argument" (The Chicago Sun-Times)
"One of the most fascinating theatre-related books I have ever read. An absolutely first-rate piece of sleuthing and an absolutely first-rate read." (Don Rubin, editor-in-chief of The World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre)
"Makes a convincing argument that the brilliant, rather tormented Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford -- not Shakespeare -- was the dramatist ... draws powerful connections between Shakespeare's plays and the life of de Vere." (USA Today)

On the web:


jhm said...

Very nice!

Hunferth said...

Mark, I am an Oxfordian, so my question is out of curiosity. How do Oxfordians -- or you -- explain the Northumberland manuscript?


Mark said...

Hi, Chris. Not sure what there is to explain about the Northumberland MS. It's an interesting document, but it's not one that proves much of anything -- other than that sometime circa 1597, some Shakespeare plays were being bundled together in the same collection with some controversial works.

I discuss the MS. in Shakespeare By Another Name, Chapter 10. Excerpt below.


A tantalizing cover page for a c. 1597 manuscript of Richard III — and a number of other controversial works — has survived the centuries and now sits in the archives of Alnwick Castle in Northumberland. The manuscripts for which this page serves as the cover have all, however, been lost or destroyed. The one-page document is a lists of seditious or surreptitiously obtained texts: Richard III, Richard II (treasonously depicting the deposition of a sitting monarch), Nashe and Jonson’s Isle of Dogs, the libelous Leicester’s Commonwealth, and Francis Bacon’s Essays (which were printed in a pirated edition in 1597).

On this single surviving sheet, a scrivener, whose handwriting has never been identified, scratched out two words that would henceforth be seared into the flesh of every mature play from de Vere’s pen. There on a single page, scattered amidst sundry sentence fragments, quotes and titles, are written the words “Willi... Sh... Sh... Shak... will Shak... Shakespe... Shakspeare... Shakespeare... william... william Shakespeare... William Shakespeare.”

Kathryn said...

Hi Mark,
Our Seattle Oxfordian discussion group currently is reading and discussing your book.

We just heard about it being optioned for TV. One of our members wrote,
"Although it's not completely clear in the blog, it sounds like a
dramatization of Oxford's life, for TV and/or film is a possibility, rather than a documentary. Hope they cast an actor who is right for the role, and not base the casting decision on box office appeal."

Do you have any comments, or can you tell us anything more?

We of course are thrilled. Congratulations. And as another of our members said, your book should be required reading for every introductory Shakespeare course. Perhaps someday it will be.

Mark said...

Hello, Kathryn. Thank you and please thank everyone in your book group for the kind words.

The television project would indeed be a dramatization, not a documentary. (Although there is also an SBAN-inspired documentary in the works, cf. ) The screenwriters are still developing the pitch, and so we have no announcements to share at the moment about directors, cast members, broadcast partners, etc. But, as this project develops, I'll certainly be using this blog to share any new steps forward that the TV project -- or the documentary -- takes. Please stay tuned!