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Much ado about new Bard film; Hollywood claims Shakespeare didn't write his plays.

Byline: BEN GOLDBY

A HOLLYWOOD director has been accused of "rewriting history" with a new movie that claims Shakespeare did not write his plays.

Roland Emmerich's Anonymous depicts Edward De Vere, the Earl of Oxford, as the real author of the most famous works in literary history. The film, due out in September, stars Vanessa Redgrave, Rhys Ifans and Rafe Spall, who plays William Shakespeare as an inarticulate fool.

But Paul Edmondson, head of research at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, criticised the movie and Emmerich, who is behind blockbusters including Independence Day and Godzilla, He said: "This may well provoke debate, but the point we are making is that there is no debate. It is historical fact that William Shakespeare wrote these plays.

"When I first heard about this film I thought, 'we have to do something and get the real story of Shakespeare out there'.

"I worry these theories could enter the public mindset. Most people will enjoy the film as a conspiracy romp, but others may think there's no smoke without fire, and believe it's a true story."

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, a charity responsible for promoting the work of the Bard, held a debate last week involving Mr Emmerich in front of a crowd of 120 people.

"We are running an online Shakespeare project on our website, and will be organising events to educate people about his life," Dr Edmondson said.

"So far I've seen about 20 minutes of clips from Anonymous and the film is visually stunning, it's a very seductive piece. But, it takes itself seriously and is almost biopic in style.

"The film-makers seem to believe Shakespeare did not write these plays."

Mr Emmerich, 55, is famed for disaster flicks like 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow, and has defended his latest movie saying as an artist he wants to "provoke" a reaction from the audience.

But Dr Edmondson claimed that conspiracy theories about the Bard are nothing new.

"There have been 77 different people proposed as the 'real' Shakespeare, including Francis Bacon and even Elizabeth I. Mostly these conspiracy theories are proposing academics or aristocrats as the author, and there is clearly a class prejudice.

''The theorists claim Stratford was a backwater, and say that a supposedly uneducated man like Shakespeare couldn't have produced this work.

"But all the historical evidence points to William Shakespeare of Stratford as the author of these plays."

For more information go to www.shakespeare.org.uk.

CAPTION(S):

AUTHOR WORRY: Director Roland Emmerich and (right) Shakespeare Trust head Paul Edmondson CONTROVERSIAL FILM: Rhys Ifans plays Edward De Vere (left) in Anonymous
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jun 12, 2011
Words:434
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