Anachronism: A Journey Through Time’s Oddities

Anachronism: A Journey Through Time’s Oddities
  • PublishedOctober 1, 2023

Anachronism is like a time traveler who accidentally lands in the wrong era, causing confusion and amusement to those who witness it.

Whether intentional or accidental, anachronisms can offer unexpected insights into the past and present, making them a fascinating subject for anyone interested in history, culture, and the art of storytelling.

What does Anachronism Refer to in Films or Literature?

In film or literature, anachronism refers to the use of something that is out of place in terms of its historical or chronological context. 

A movie set in medieval times showing characters using a mobile phone would be an example of an anachronism. Similarly, a character in a Victorian novel using modern slang would also be an example of anachronism.

Is Anachronism Really a Mistake? 

Often considered as a mistake, anachronisms can sometimes be intentional. In some cases, filmmakers or authors may use anachronisms to create a sense of timelessness or to make a point about the past and the present.

  • In the movie “Marie Antoinette” directed by Sofia Coppola, modern music is used throughout the film, including songs by The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and New Order. Or you might see a pair of Converse shoes in Marie Antoinette’s wardrobe!
  • In the movie “A Knight’s Tale,” set in medieval times, characters perform a dance routine to David Bowie’s “Golden Years.” Which was released in 1975.

Timeless Tales: Shakespeare’s Mastery of Anachronism

Shakespeare is widely regarded as one of the greatest playwrights of all time, but did you know that he was also a master of anachronism? 

In his plays, Shakespeare often mixed up historical periods, throwing in references and objects that didn’t belong to the era in which the play was set.

  • In Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar,” the character Cassius says “The clock hath stricken three” – however, mechanical clocks did not exist in ancient Rome.
  • In “Henry VI, Part II,” a character mentions Spanish explorers in America – but this play was set in the 15th century before Columbus discovered America.
  • In “As You Like It,” a character mentions the game of tennis – but tennis did not exist in England until several centuries after Shakespeare’s time.

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