Bert Fields Talks Shakespeare Authorship Debate (Q&A)

The entertainment attorney will be feted by the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles, along with "Anonymous" director, Roland Emmerich.
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

On Oct. 4 at Sony Studios, the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles is honoring director Roland Emmerich and entertainment attorney Bert Fields with its Crystal Quill Award for their contributions to the Shakespeare authorship debate. The evening includes an advance screening of Emmerich’s Anonymous, which is set in Elizabethan England; a Wolfgang Puck-catered dessert reception, and the award presentation.

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Fields has long been interested in the authorship of the Shakespeare plays. In 2005 he published the non-fiction book Players: The Mysterious Identity of William Shakespeare, which deals with the subject.

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This seemed like a good time for The Hollywood Reporter to catch up with Fields on the subject.
 
The Hollywood Reporter: Which side are you on in the authorship debate?

Bert Fields: I’m an agnostic. I think there’s a serious issue as to whether the guy from Stratford, who I call the Stratford Man, really wrote the poems and plays of William Shakespeare. His name is William Shakespeare, but there’s an issue over whether he wrote the plays. I don’t rule out the possibility that he did, but I can make a strong argument that indicates it’s a real stretch that this man wrote them by himself.
 
THR: Doesn’t that happen all the time with screenplays?

Fields: Yes, but we have an arbitration system. Had they had that arbitration system in the 16th century we’d be a lot better off on the issue of who wrote Shakespeare’s plays.
 
THR: Do you have a theory on who wrote them?

Fields: I think the most likely thing is an aristocrat, like the Earl of Oxford, wrote the basic plays and then the Stratford Man, who was a theater-wise, tough-minded guy edited them and worked on them and allowed them to be produced under his name. In those days, it would not have been seemly or proper for an aristocrat to write for the public theater.
 
THR: It would be like you writing for a Hollywood trade paper.

Fields: It’s analogous to that, yes.
 
THR: If you were on a desert island and could have only one Shakespeare play with you, what would it be?

Fields: Merchant of Venice is a great favorite of mine. There are serious inconsistencies in the characters and I think Shakespeare intended those inconsistencies. Portia has outrageously racist lines. Virtually every character, except Shylock and Antonio, turn out to be hypocrites. They say one thing and do another.

THR: And that would never happen in the entertainment industry.

Fields: I’ve never seen any hypocrisy in all of my years of dealings here. Nor dishonesty.

What do you think?

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