The Dogs in New Shakespeare Movie “Anonymous”

Director Roland Emmerich's new film Anonymous, which advances the theory that William Shakespeare's plays and poems were actually authored by Edward De Vere, the multitalented...


Director Roland Emmerich’s new film Anonymous, which advances the theory that William Shakespeare’s plays and poems were actually authored by Edward De Vere, the multitalented 17th earl of Oxford, is a gorgeous spectacle whether or not youbelieve its controversialpremise.

It hasn’t even opened yet, but already it’s the talk of Twitter and Facebook, and deservedly so. View the trailer here, and by all means go see this Columbia Pictures flick when ithits theaters on Friday, October 28.

Me and the Bard go way back. His works have always brought me great joy.If an actorcanplay Shakespeare convincingly and timelessly, he wins my heart instantly and for life.Royal Shakespeare Company actors are rock stars, in my humble opinion.Over 20years ago, I fell hard forthe youngman playing Iago in a New York City production of Othello (sadly, Juilliard-trained actor Michael Louden died in 2004). Andeven before that — long before he was famous for playingMagneto or Gandalf, long beforehecame out asopenly gay— I carried a torch for the sublimely gifted Ian McKellen because of Acting Shakespeare, the brilliant one-man show he wrote, conceived, and performed to great acclaim on stage and TV.

So trust me when I say thatAnonymous does justice to Shakespeare’s immortal words as few other films ever have. There are moments in this movie whenthe famous lineswe’ve all heard so many times soundso movingly, thrillinglynew that Ifound myselfon the verge of tears. “Did my heart love ’til now? Forswear it, sight!” never sounded so compelling.

This film lets contemporary audiences experience what it must have been like to be among the firstgroundlings toexperience Shakespeare’s magical artistry. It’s a splendid celebration of the magic of the theater in all its Sophoclean power to amaze, inspire, and — at times — horrify. The message is lessabout “Was Shakespeare a fraud?” and more about the playwright’s — any playwright’s —astonishing ability to bring tragedy, comedy, history, and romance to life.

The film’s visuals are lip-smacking eye candy, from the costumes and set decorations to the dazzling beauty of several of the actors (especially the ones portrayingDe Vereas a boy and as a young man).

And then there’s the dog action. There isn’t much, butDogsters will surelytake note of what’s there.

Before we even see aK9 on screen, we hear one referenced by the mature earl, played to perfection by Rhys Ifans,who says to fellow playwright Ben Jonson (a key character in this story), “Don’t look at me like I just gutted your pet dog!”

A key scene meant to bring new insight to the infamous curtain-stabbing in Hamlet reveals a glimpse of a tapestry — and on that tapestry is depicted a white hunting dog resembling a Greyhound,complete with wide, martingale-style collar.

Later, in another scene, we spot a handsome Bloodhound.

And sadly, because the cruel practice ofbear-baiting was popular in Elizabethan times — it wouldn’t be abolished untilthe 19th century —we also see a poor bear chained up,with slavering dogs about to be released to attack the defenseless giant beast. Happily, we know that neither the bear nor the dogs were actually hurt during filming. That’sbecause all animal action was monitored by officers of American Humane, which awardedthis filmits prestigious “No Animals Were Harmed” end credit.

So, Dogsters — any thoughts on Shakespeare and dogs on film? Please share in the comments!

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