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  • Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford and Bard of Avon

Anonymous opens this weekend. That’s the new movie from Independence Day auteur Roland Emmerich, taking off on the Oxfordian theory—the idea that it was the 17th Earl of Oxford and not the “Stratford man” (i.e., Shakespeare) who wrote Shakespeare’s plays. Originated, interestingly enough, by a guy named Looney (though he pronounced it LOHney, much as Gene Wilder’s character in Young Frankenstein insists on calling himself FrAHnkenstEEn), the theory holds that Shakespeare was too common and provincial to have come up with the plays that have defined Western culture for the last four centuries. It had to be somebody who was rich, well-traveled, hyper-educated, and on intimate terms with the royal court. A member of the 1 percent, as it were. Francis Bacon, Queen Elizabeth, and lots of others have been suggested. Even Christopher Marlowe, who’d have to have faked his own death to qualify. But the earl, Edward de Vere, has emerged as the favorite.