Will the real Bard of Avon please stand?

Who wrote William Shakespeare's plays? It was the Bard of Avon, the genius of the Globe Theatre, the bearded guy we all read in college, right?

Wrong! At least that's what the makers of "Much Ado About Something" think. Their documentary revisits a controversy almost as old as the Bard himself - assuming he was the Bard to begin with.

The film's bottom-line argument is that a country boy with a high-school education couldn't have been smart enough to produce such learned and poetical works. Or have known enough words - more than twice as many as John Milton, who reached comparable brilliance with a much smaller vocabulary.

But if Shakespeare wasn't Shakespeare, who penned those plays and poems? Some say Ben Jonson, his older contemporary. Others say it was a consortium of authors linked with the King's Men acting troupe. According to filmmaker Michael Rubbo and company, the writer who should get credit for Shakespeare's plays is Christopher Marlowe, even though this theory has some sticky points. For one, the author of "Doctor Faustus" and "Edward II" died at 29. For another, he was busy with other things during his brief lifetime - excelling at Cambridge, translating Latin classics, spying for the queen, and brawling in the bars like the one where he met his messy demise.

But what if he didn't really die until decades later? What if he faked his own murder, hightailed it to Italy, and smuggled his plays back to England for production under a nom de plume that became considerably more lustrous than his own name? All right, it's far-fetched. But it's fun to think about, and Rubbo makes a merry case. Will the real Bard of Avon please stand up?

• Not rated; contains no objectionable material.

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