Linfield’s resident Shakespeare expert, Professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, discussed the controversial new movie about Shakespeare, and the social trends that influence people to question the Bard’s authorship.
The movie Anonymous, which recently opened in theaters across the world, has already unleashed a torrent of heated discussions. The movie attributes the plays of Shakespeare to another author.
The Linfield Shakespeare researcher told Think Out Loud that the interesting question isn’t whether Shakespeare was the author, which scholars say is beyond dispute, but what motivates people to keep asking. He believes the debate mirrors larger social trends that revolve around class prejudice and elitism.
For centuries, upper-crust elites doubted that an uneducated writer who came from the lower classes could produce such powerful literary works, Pollack-Pelzner says, but many Americans emulate those who pull themselves up by their bootstraps. The Bard was the most popular writer in 19th-century America (in Oregon, settlers typically owned just two books: the Bible and Shakespeare) because he provided evidence that anyone, regardless of social pedigree, could become a heroic figure.
Ironically, the very anti-elitism that made Shakespeare such a celebrated figure in America has now made doubters challenge the scholarly consensus that Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to him, Pollack-Pelzner says.
Professor Pollack-Pelzner teaches Shakespeare, Renaissance drama and British literary history, and is completing a book on Shakespeare and the Victorian novel. He trained at Yale University as a Shakespearean actor.
Oregon is home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Portland Shakespeare Project and Shakespeare in the Parks.