Filmmaking | Interviews

Nothing is Truer Than Truth: The Quest for Shakespeare

1 May , 2012  

Written by Donna Sorbello | Posted by:

Whether you’re a thespian or have just unknowingly quoted a Shakespeare aphorism, most everyone loves a mystery, especially filmmaker Cheryl Eagan-Donovan, who has set out to see if she can finally solve the truth behind William Shakespeare.

“Vero Nihil Verius,” which translates to “Nothing Is Truer Than the Truth,” was the family motto of Edward de Vere, who was the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford and also possibly the world’s most famous playwright: William Shakespeare. “Nothing Is Truer Than Truth” is also emblazoned on the t-shirts that Cheryl Eagan-Donovan has had made to promote her six-years-in-the-making film, a documentary tracing the true identity of Shakespeare.

The project first began when she first read John Thomas Looney’s book Shakespeare Identified. Looney (pronounced Loney) examined the juvenile poetry and songs of de Vere, which seemed to Eagan-Donovan to presage Shakespeare’s writings, despite de Vere’s words being written years earlier. Since that first spark, Eagan-Donovan has set out to document the life of Edward de Vere, journeying to England and Italy for discussions with well-known actors, authors and historians, in the hopes of uncovering the story behind the man she believes was the beard of Shakespeare…and therefore the true bard.

Eagan-Donovan seems to have been fated to become obsessed with revealing the true writer of what most of us for 500 years have attributed to William Shakespeare. She was first introduced to thoughts on the subject in an honors British Literature course in high school. In l997 she took a history course at the Harvard Extension School with Donald Ostrowsky where, again, that nagging doubt about Shakespeare’s credentials surfaced. That was when she started writing about the subject herself. Then, in 2006, the book Shakespeare By Another Name, by Mark Anderson, was published. She quickly optioned the documentary rights to Anderson’s book. In the book, Anderson chronicles the many correspondences between the life of Edward de Vere and the characters, settings and plots of the Shakespeare plays. As Eagan-Donovan read and researched, even more evidence came to light in the case for de Vere, from the fact that father in law Lord Burghley gave de Vere access to his extensive library (filled with the history, geography, literature, and politics that Shakespeare would need for his plays) to the fact that de Vere’s travels through Italy mirror the locations of Shakespeare’s plays.

Eagan-Donovan’s research has led her to Oxford scholars Roger Stritmatter and Richard Waugaman and to authors such as Stephen Greenblatt (Will In The World), Steven Pinker (The Stuff of Thought) and Richard Paul Roe, the author of Shakespeare in Italy, which retraces all those locations in the Italian plays–down to the sycamore grove in Romeo and Juliet. (Of course, as mentioned above, it was DeVere who traveled in Italy from 1575 to 1576, and not, as far as anyone knows, Shakespeare). She has talked with renowned actor Sir Derek Jacobi, who wrote the introduction to the Anderson book as well as to the actor Mark Rylance, whose performance amazed everyone in New York last season in the play Jerusalem, and who is also the Artistic Director of The Globe Theatre in London (the rebuilt home of “Shakespeare’s” plays). Locally she has interviewed Diane Paulus, Artistic Director of American Repertory Theatre.

A New England filmmaker, Eagan-Donovan says she comes to filmmaking as a writer, not a cinematographer. She has worked diligently to raise money for the making of this film, along with her sisters’ and brothers’ help. Starting with 35 initial contributors consisting of family members and people specifically interested in pursuing the true authorship of Shakespeare’s plays, the number quickly tripled and she hopes will keep growing. A fabulous fundraiser Carnevale in Venice at Club Oberon a year ago, helped finance her sojourn to Italy. Efforts through Kickstarter, the online promotional tool associated with, has garnered her further investors. A documentary that requires such a wealth of research and travel, however, is costly. At the moment she is attempting to raise funds for the final editing and launching of the film.

Cheryl Eagan-Donovan has had quite a sojourn of her own with a few degrees thrown in, including those from Goddard and Lesley Colleges for writing and art, and Boston University for Business. And there were also the classes in the ‘90s in filmmaking. No slouch–and coming from what she terms an “entrepreneurial family” (her dad quit his secure position in business to start his own company and her five siblings either own their own companies or are in creative fields), Eagan-Donovan has worked in P.R. as a publicist for others’ films, as a producer, worked in finance, as a film reviewer, and as a promoter for a rock group following a gig booking acts at a Cambridge club. It appears her varied work life has given her the skills required to make her film happen including initially knowing to buy the documentary rights to the Anderson book, to her fundraising efforts, her writing, filming and interview skills as well as her savviness about how to package her product. She’s working on a 60-minute version for television and already has made connections with PBS and BBC America. She is also working on obtaining grants and is presently planning which film-festivals she can be ready to submit to.

Eagan-Donovan seeks the truth–and nothing but the truth–as she travels in de Vere’s footsteps. Hopefully what she will find there is a large audience eager to uncover the fruits of her incredible journey.

For more information on the film, please visit its Kickstarter Page.

For more information on the film, please visit its Kickstarter Page.