Three British law lords unanimously rejected a claim on Saturday that the works of William Shakespeare were more likely to have been written by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.

Sitting in Middle Temple Hall, an Elizabethan chamber where Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" was first performed, they heard arguments for both viewpoints in a public "moot," or debate."The English love a lord and refuse to believe poetry of such genius could have been written by the son of a glover," Lord Templeman said.

But if Abraham Lincoln only went to school for a year and had written the Gettysburg Address without the help of ghost writers such as those who now haunted the White House, he added, there was no reason why the son of a glovemaker from Stratford-upon-Avon should not have written the plays.

Lord Ackner, presiding, said: "Surely it would have been apparent to anyone connected with the theater, and to his fellow actors in particular, if he (Shakespeare) was not the creator of the plays."

The Lords, members of the upper house of Parliament who sit as Britain's supreme court, held the discussion to raise money to rebuild the Globe Theater by the Thames, where Shakespeare's plays were originally performed. The "moot" is thought to have raised at least $18,300.

Lord Templeman said there was clear evidence Shakespeare had been an active actor manager, first in the Lord Chamberlain's company, then in the King's company, and that he acted in Ben Jonson's and other plays. Lord Oliver, also agreeing, said genius was unpredictable.

The argument for the earl has been pressed by Charles Vere, a 23-year-old descendant and student at Oxford University.

The judges heard the arguments of witnesses and two senior lawyers, Lord Robert Alexander advancing the case for the earl and Sydney Kentridge for Shakespeare.