Sunday, May 03, 2009

Kenneth Branagh - Oxfordian in the making? [UPDATED]

[UPDATED May 11] John Shahan, president of the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition writes today with this update repudiating the Express article on which this blog post was originally based. Quoting:

I've learned that the article by Sandro Monetti in the Sunday Express on May 3rd was in error. Kenneth Branagh did not mean to say that he has changed his position. The article has been taken down. An authoritative source confirms that he has always believed, and still does, that "the plays of Shakespeare were written by the man from Stratford, of the same name." Mr. Branagh is fascinated by the alternative theories, but he is "a Stratfordian through and through and expects to remain so."

An article from today's Sunday Express (UK) drops a bit of a bombshell:

"Shakespearean actor Kenneth Branagh... admits he is beginning to be swayed by the theory that the true author was not William Shakespeare but the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere."

Quoting more:

Branagh said: “There is room for reasonable doubt. De Vere is the latest and the hottest candidate....

"I’m fascinated by all the speculation. If someone could find conclusive proof that Shakespeare wasn’t the author of the plays then it would cause a seismic shock – not least to the economy of Stratford-upon-Avon.”

He was speaking at the US premiere of his BAFTA-winning Swedish detective series, Wallander.

(End quoted passage.)

Outspoken Oxfordian Sir Derek Jacobi (who wrote the foreword to SBAN) has long been a mentor figure to Mr. Branagh. It's been a subject of some speculation in Oxfordian circles whether (or perhaps how often) Sir Derek has broached the authorship issue with his protege.

When Branagh was promoting one of his Shakespearean film adaptations (Hamlet? Love's Labour's Lost?), he made an appearance on Dave Letterman's Late Show. And to his credit, Letterman asked Branagh what his take was on the authorship question.

I don't have the direct quote of Branagh's response, but it was essentially that Branagh didn't have any doubt that Will of Stratford was the author.

Clearly something has changed.

(h/t reader D.B.; Creative Commons image by Cien de Cine)


Doc Stritmatter said...


Any idea what the story behind the story is here? Doesn't this seem a bit bizarre? I mean, Monetti didn't make up those quotes, right? She still has her job. Did *some*body start pressuring Branagh to keep his mouth shut? I don't mean to say that he is an Oxfordian -- clearly he is not or at least doesn't wish to be known as one. But it does seem to me that his expression of interest was sincere, and yet even that apparently cannot be tolerated. The record has to be whitewashed...hmm.

Mark said...

I don't really know what to make of it, Ben. Rumors have persisted for years about where Branagh stands on the authorship question. But rumors are just that. The article referenced above did seem to settle the question one way -- and then the other way. Lacking any outside confirmation of the goings-on either at the event in question or at the newspaper, I unfortunately can't really add much. Maybe there's something there. On the other hand, sometimes retractions are just retractions -- and a genuine mistake was simply made.