The critics who find Anonymous irreverent miss the point by analyzing it as if it pretended to be based on a true story—that of de Vere, the historical character who used the real Shakespeare as a straw man. Rather than bringing to life the Oxfordian theory, the film bases its plot on the tension between two “Shakespeares”—the individual, whose life story contains many blanks on the one hand, and the product of his texts on the other hand. In keeping with the second viewpoint, the film foregrounds the plays, and derives its treatment of the question of authorship from them. In this article, I attempt to rehabilitate Anonymous by analyzing it as a successful adaptation of the Shakespearean corpus. The film uses de Vere as a pretext for creating a storyline that proves relevant in its treatment of the plays. To make this point, I first show that Anonymous improves on extant adaptation strategies. I then demonstrate that the film's apparently disrespectful approach allows Emmerich to adapt some of the main reflexive features in Shakespeare's plays. I finally draw from the film's self-reflexive elements to characterize Anonymous as the first instance of a new mode of Shakespearean adaptation.

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