Many thanks to Ted Alexander for posting the text of Mark Rylance’s remarks on Phaeton. Rylance, currently starring in “Jerusalem” on Broadway, was speaking at a press conference on April 29, 2010, at Babelsberg Studios, Berlin, regarding the movie ‘Anonymous’ — which is scheduled for release by Sony Pictures on September 30, 2011. Read the text below and take a look at the video of Rylance making the case that it matters a great deal if we know the true identity of the author.
“Your question about the difference that it makes…
I’ve played in maybe 50 productions of Shakespeare plays and plays by his contemporaries over the 30 years of my career and was ten years artist director of Shakespeare’s Globe. I love the Shakespeare plays, I particularly love the author and I love new plays, and I think in any field if there were someone who had achieved what this author has achieved in his field, the people who work in that field would be interested. If it was in medicine, or war, or aviation, or farming, people would be interested in how that person had surpassed not just the people in his country but seemingly anyone that anyone can mention anywhere in the world. No one’s written such a wide compass of plays as Shakespeare.
So yes, I’m interested in how he did that, and at the moment there is a massive campaign to convince us that this is some kind of impersonal literary exercise. And that’s being taught to young people who pay a lot of money in many universities that the Sonnets are ‘a literary exercise’. I have never ever encountered a poet, a playwright, any artist that doesn’t involve himself or herself personally in their work, and doesn’t draw upon their own experience and their own efforts to learn by books, or by talking to other people, or by visiting places, by putting a lot of work in. To say that these works – that you make up fourteen plays about Italy, set in Italy, with accurate details of Italian landscape, customs, habits, culture – that you just imagine that stuff.
I think it’s an absolute crime that young people are being taught that. An absolute crime that members of my profession are being taught that. And since the authorship question was opened to me, my respect for the author, my attention to the detail of the plays, my feelings that I am working with someone who is possibly, in this particular story, sharing something of enormous personal pain and suffering, that these words were not just ‘made up’ – it’s a ridiculous idea – but that there was enormous personal suffering that went in to make this kind of writing. Let them bring forth other writers, let them bring forth evidence that Ibsen or Chekhov or Goethe wrote without deep feeling, or Dostoevsky wrote without deep feeling and personal input.
There’s a great great deal of rubbish being put about about Shakespeare and it’s getting in the way, it’s getting in the way badly. And fortunately people like Roland and these actors who are putting themselves on the line, and the people who backed this film, and the person who’s written it are doing a lot to break down that idiocy – as there is idiocy in many fields at the moment, isn’t there? Many many fields, and one of the fortunate things of this Shakespearean thing is it’s totally unimportant. It doesn’t matter a jot. But when you break through it it starts to teach you how to question and break through other fallacies that are being put about at the moment.
So that’s the difference it makes to me as an artist, Sir!”