Last Will. & Testament

Last Will. & Testament premiered Tuesday, October 15, 2013.

Investigate a great literary mystery: who wrote the works of William Shakespeare?

About the Program

Was Will Shakespeare, the grain dealer from Stratford, really the literary icon we celebrate today?

Praised by critics as "a powerful artistic achievement," and "a force for historical re-assessment," Last Will. & Testament explores the greatest literary mystery of all time; Who wrote the works of William Shakespeare?

body_will-testamet_2.jpgGRFX Shot of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

Although the official story of a Stratford merchant writing for the London box office has held sway for centuries, questions over the authorship of the plays and poems has persisted. Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles are among the many famous figures who doubt that a grain-dealer from Stratford-Upon-Avon was England's 'Star of Poets'.

Why is there no definitive evidence of authorship that dates from his lifetime?

“All he left us in his own hand are six shaky signatures in which he uses eleven letters of the alphabet. There’s nothing else. He never left a letter, a memo, anything.”
–Author, Charles Beauclerk, Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom

The disconnect between the man and the works set into motion the greatest literary manhunt of all time. Over 60 candidates for authorship have been put forward, including various theories of group authorship. Each theory compelling but few able to withstand the test of time, save one: Edward De Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.

Last Will. & Testament explores Oxford’s childhood, noble lineage, vast learning, Italian travels, and details his intimate connection to both the London theatre scene and the court. Through on-camera commentary, a very human author emerges, a real-life Hamlet, whose tragic experiences at the heart of the Tudor state provided the raw material for the canon and gave birth to the anti-Stratfordian and Oxfordian movements.

The final act of the film weaves together the major historical events of the late Tudor era, including the crisis of succession and the Essex Rebellion. The power politics of the Elizabethan age and the towering figure of the Queen herself are explored by the film’s commentators, who seek to connect Shakespeare’s plays and Sonnets to the turbulent world of the court. By the end of the film, viewers will be challenged to explore the many unresolved historical, political, and artistic issues that lie at the heart of the mystery of who wrote Shakespeare. From Executive Producer Roland Emmerich and debut directors Lisa & Laura Wilson, Derek Jacobi leads a cast featuring Vanessa Redgrave and Mark Rylance on a quest to uncover the truth behind the world's most elusive author and discovers a forgotten nobleman whose story could rewrite history.

 

Contributors

Sir Derek Jacobi, Actor
Charles Beauclerk, Author, Shakespeare's Lost Kingdom
Prof. Roger Stritmatter, PhD, Coppin State University
Vanessa Redgrave, Actor
Prof. Jonathan Bate, CBE, Oxford University
Prof. Stanley Wells, CBE, Hon. President of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Diana Price, Author, Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography
Assoc. Prof. Michael Delahoyde, Washington State University
Dr William Leahy, Brunel University
Prof. Daniel Wright, Director - SARC, Concordia University
Mark Rylance, Actor
Bill Boyle, Librarian, New England Shakespeare Oxford Library
Jon Culverhouse, Curator of Collections & Conservation, Burghley House
G. J. Meyer, Author, The Tudors
Michael Cecil, 8th Marquess of Exeter
Hank Whittemore, Author, The Monument

 

Last Will. & Testament was produced by First Folio Pictures 
in association with Centropolis Entertainment.


Related Links

Support for pbs.org

Learn more about PBS sponsorship

Shop PBS

shop_last-will-testamet_1.jpg

Last Will. & Testament (DVD)

Own this DVD that examines wrote the works of William Shakespeare?

Buy It!

Your purchase supports PBS and helps make our programming possible.

Support your local PBS station
When to watch

Last Will & Testament

Sign Up for Program Reminders & More
Get the latest information about upcoming PBS programs, sneak peeks, tune-in reminders and web extras delivered to your inbox every week.