Much Ado About Something
a fine mystery
a bard in the hand?
what's at stake?
press reaction

· The Atlanta Journal and Constitution Wendell Brock

"What this fascinating but ultimately one-sided literary detective story does is sow seeds of doubt about the Shakespeare legacy. ...

"My best advice: Neither a Marlovian nor a Stratfordian be. The Shakespeare canon is a miracle and a mystery. And miracles and mysteries cannot be explained. ...

"Never mind the writer. The words themselves are etched upon our souls. Surely that's enough."

· Boston Globe Matthew Gilbert

"Questions about who wrote the work of William Shakespeare aren't new ... and 'Much Ado About Something' may not enlighten those who've already studied the controversy. But for the rest of us, Shakespeare lovers and novices alike, the movie is an engaging introduction to what could be ... 'the greatest coverup job in history.' In a brisk 90 minutes, it both convinces us that there was a deliberate plot to fool the public and shows us that those who passionately believe in the plot may be forcing their proof. ...

"The director and 'Frontline' producer Michael Rubbo resists getting overly invested in the battle, inserting wry flourishes whenever possible. ... He becomes a small character in the movie, as well, wavering back and forth between the two sides, confronting his interviewees with arguments they've faced many times before."

· Chicago Tribune Chris Jones

"The last time the PBS 'Frontline' documentary series dangled its toe in the acidic waters of the great Shakespearean authorship controversy, it sent members of the Stratfordian establishment into a state of veritable apoplexy.

"And when 'Much Ado About Something,' a further 'Frontline' treatment of the same thorny but popular topic, airs ... those academics who insist that William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon penned the great dramas that bear his name will find themselves with another bad case of indignant indigestion.

"It's lucky for 'Frontline' that these arguments are 400 years old and impossible to prove. If this well-respected documentary series were attacking a more contemporary political and cultural nexus in such a one-sided fashion, somebody would be voting to pull its funding. ...

"Rubbo's film ... is more entertainment than scholarship. But the meta-authorship debate is compelling for the way it reveals some fascinating schisms in those of us who are interested in these plays and their author."

· Los Angeles Times Josh Friedman

"Now that the Big Foot mystery has finally been cleared up, we can turn our attention to that other controversial giant: William Shakespeare. ...

"[T]he case for Marlowe comes off as weak and borderline elitist, but it makes for a colorful look at both Elizabethan times and the modern skeptics devoting their lives to this 16th century whodunit. Even flimsy and unsolved mysteries can be fun."

· Philadelphia Inquirer Desmond Ryan

"You may not be persuaded by the doubters and their often bizarre conjecture and convoluted reasoning, but producer Michael Rubbo, who wrote and narrates the program, keeps the controversy light and entertaining. ...

"Just about everyone but Shirley MacLaine in a previous incarnation has been advanced as an alternative author of the plays. 'Much Ado About Something' trots out the usual suspects ... and lands squarely on Christopher Marlowe as the most credible. ...

"But there's one problem with Marlowe. He was stabbed to death in a tavern fight in 1593, well before Shakespeare's masterworks were written. ...

"This is the kind of fact that might make even a conspiracy maven on the order of Oliver Stone say, 'Never mind.' But Marlovians are ready for it.

"Much of 'Much Ado' is devoted to the intellectual handstands required to build a case for Marlowe. ...

"[T]he preponderance of the documentary belongs to the fragile guesswork of the Marlovians. If you are a fan of literary detection or simply a student of man's capacity for obsession, 'Ado' makes a diverting program.

"Even so, the naysayers might do well to heed what Shakespeare wrote in Othello: 'He that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him, and makes me poor indeed.'"

· San Jose Mercury News Mark de la Vina

"For the theatergoers who flock to summer Bard fests and for the vast majority of academics, questioning the authorship of Shakespeare's plays is on par with studying crop circles. ...

"The authorship questions raised in 'Much Ado About Something,' a segment on PBS's 'Frontline' ... aren't new, but partisans ranging from a cemetery owner in Seattle to Mark Rylance, artistic director of the Globe Theatre in London, spout enough fiery opinions to make clear why filmmaker Michael Rubbo opted to take a fresh look at the evidence suggesting Will was a shill. ...

"Rubbo doesn't settle the authorship question, but his parade of impassioned literature lovers, no matter how kooky, is enough to prompt the most casual viewers to want to brush up their Shakespeare."

· Seattle Post-Intelligencer John Levesque

"'Much Ado' seems an odd choice for the normally sedate 'Frontline,' as if someone gave the order to lighten up in the face of frivolous competition from the likes of Discovery Channel, The History Channel and TLC.

"The 'documentary' is one man's obsession with the possibility that Christopher Marlowe is the brain behind Shakespeare's prodigious output. ...

"It's a delightful exercise in conjecture, raised to the level of religion by some, including John Baker, a Seattle-area man who supports the Marlowe theory with all the fervor of a Montague chasing a Capulet.

"What's troubling about the 'Frontline' piece is its startling lack of balance. ...

"Is this a black eye for "Frontline"? Heavens, no. Everyone is entitled to lighten up once in a while. But if 'Frontline' wanted to do something enlightening on the Shakespearean controversy, why not produce a balanced examination of all the theories? Such a treatment would be more worthy of the 'Frontline' imprimatur."

· Wall Street Journal Nancy deWolf Smith

"'Much Ado About Something' ... gets off to a fresh, intriguing start when it asks why so many people have been eager to bring down the Stratford Bard. ...

"Instead of exploring this theme further, however, host Mr. Rubbo lurches into the world of amateur sleuthdom, eventually latching onto a group of eccentrics, ranging from English housewives to an American computer geek, who appear to spend all their free time trying to prove that the real 'Shakespeare' was actually the playwright Christopher Marlowe. Mr. Rubbo becomes such an enthusiastic convert to the Marlowe side, in fact, that he doesn't seem to notice, or care, when interviewees begin treating him like a pesky fly.

"In the end, alas, we learn nothing very new or reliable about the central issue of authorship. But it's amusing to hear that Mark Twain, anticipating the Elvis impulse by many years, once wrote a book called 'Is Shakespeare Dead?' And, frankly, as kooky as some of the sleuths in this saga may seem, what and how they're exploring seems a lot more wholesome than the couch-potato search for who killed JonBenet Ramsey."

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