Much Ado About Something

Regardless of where you stand on the issue — whether you honestly believe William Shakespeare didn't write the plays and poems attributed to him, or consider the whole matter absurd — you have to admit one thing: The idea that the single most important figure in the history of English literature has, for the past 400 years, been taking credit for...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Regardless of where you stand on the issue — whether you honestly believe William Shakespeare didn't write the plays and poems attributed to him, or consider the whole matter absurd — you have to admit one thing: The idea that the single most important figure in the history of English literature has, for the past 400 years, been taking credit for another writer's work makes for a great story. And it's persistent one: For years "Baconians" have insisted that the man behind the curtain was really the philosopher Sir Francis Bacon, while "Oxfordians" now claim he's Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. But the prime suspect has long been playwright Christopher Marlowe, who was born in 1564 — the same year as Shakespeare — and stabbed to death in 1593, shortly before the name "William Shakespeare" appears in print for the very first time. His death, "Marlovians" argue, was obviously faked; Marlowe was a heretic who needed to be spirited out of the country before he could be dragged before the dreaded Star Chamber. The playwright lived out the rest of his days in Italy where he wrote what are now considered to be the works of William Shakespeare. As wacky as it all sounds, such speculation makes for an interesting diversion. Australian filmmaker Michael Rubbo does a fine job of presenting the Marlovian argument — primarily from the mouths of their liveliest representatives — as a well as a few words from the opposing "Stratfordian" camp, which continues hold that no one but the gentleman from Stratford wrote the works of Shakespeare. The film is divided in to three parts. In the first, Rubbo introduces Marlowe and the Marlovians, many of them disciples of Calvin Hoffman, whose books — including The Murder of the Man Who Was Shakespeare — really got the ball rolling. The second section presents the case against Shakespeare and the argument that a man of so little classical education (and such poor handwriting!) couldn't have written plays of such erudition. Part three reconstructs the morning of Marlowe's "murder," postulating a conspiracy that ranks alongside Kennedy assassination theories and certain episodes of The X-Files for sheer imagination. Granted, much of the Marlovian argument is patently ridiculous (was Ben Johnson really part of a massive cover-up?) but it's good fun, and the whole debate raises some interesting questions about larger questions of authorship and whether or not it ultimately matters who "Shakespeare" actually was.

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Regardless of where you stand on the issue — whether you honestly believe William Shakespeare didn't write the plays and poems attributed to him, or consider the whole matter absurd — you have to admit one thing: The idea that the single most imp… (more)

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