Development is currently underway on The Bardess, a new limited series set in sixteenth-century England hailing from screen star and executive producer Tiffany Haddish (Tuca & Bertie, Like a Boss), producer Akiva Goldsman (Star Trek: Picard, Mr. & Mrs. Smith) and writer-director Amma Asante MBE (A United Kingdom, A Way of Life), according to The Hollywood Reporter. Asante, who helms the project as series author and director, shared her excitement regarding her creative partnership with Haddish and Goldsman via Twitter.
Teaming up…! ♥️ https://t.co/HjPBGh7WIk
— Amma Asante (@AmmaAsante) February 12, 2021
The Bardess is reportedly based on Shakespeare’s Secret Messiah by Joseph Atwill (Caesar’s Messiah), according to The Hollywood Reporter. Atwill’s Anti-Stratfordian text posits that several key dramatic works credited to the author known as William Shakespeare (Twelfth Night) were in fact penned by the Black Jewish poet Emilia Lanier, widely known as the first woman in England to publish a volume of original poetry, Author’s Den reports. Atwill’s enduring fascination with theoretical scholarship apparently extends to his twenty-first century beliefs, as he has allegedly been parroting COVID-19 conspiracy theories and anti-vaccine rhetoric via his personal Facebook page.
Atwill is not the first writer to suggest a connection between Shakespeare and Lanier. The theory allegedly originates in the findings of A.L. Rowse (Homosexuals in History), who suggested that Lanier was the direct inspiration for the recurring character of the “Dark Lady” in the Bard’s later poems in his 1964 book Shakespeare’s Sonnets, according to Reading Shakespeare’s Mind by Steve Sohmer (Mancuso, F.B.I.). Rowse doubled down on his hypothesis nearly a decade later when he re-issued his book in 1973 under the title Shakespeare’s Sonnets: The Problems Solved, via Shakespeare Quarterly.
The Bardess, therefore, seems as if it would be at home inside producer Goldsman’s wheelhouse. The Academy Award winner boasts scripting credits on two big-screen adaptations of novels by best-selling author Dan Brown (Inferno), The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. Goldsman’s Da Vinci Code screenplay preserves the subversive religious and historical hypotheses of Brown’s original novel: “Goldsman, obviously, wanted to be sure the audience could follow the book’s theorizing about how the Roman Catholic Church has been involved in a centuries-long misogynist coverup to disguise the fact that Jesus was mortal, that… his wife bore him a family, and that it was she who carried on her husband’s teaching,” via The L.A. Times.
Asante, too, has dabbled in suppositional European history with her previous work. Her 2013 feature film Belle proposed that Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Fast Color), a multiracial British heiress from the eighteenth century, was an abolitionist whose progressive ideas contributed to a revolutionary court ruling against the Gregson syndicate which paved the way for Great Britain’s regulation of the slave trade, according to BBC History Extra.
Emilia Lanier’s book of poetry Hail, God, King of the Jews resides in the public domain.