Monday, April 23, 2007

Portrait of William Shakespeare

In honour of the accepted date of William Shakespeare's birth date, I have chosen the Grafton Portrait which has generally been discredited as a possible painting of Shakespeare, and yet it appeals to me in that it captures the tension of youthful uncertainty combined with the all perceiving eye. J. Dover Wilson used this for the frontispiece to his book The Essential Shakespeare: a Biographical Adventure (Cambridge 1932), but it is now seen to be more likely a picture of the young Marlowe if anyone.

The scholar Peter Beal (author of Index of Literary Manuscripts 1450-1700, and In Praise of Scribes: Manuscripts and Their Makers in Seventeenth-Century England) has recently reviewed a new book concerned with the authenticity of certain portraits of the bard: The True Face of William Shakespeare by Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel (Chaucer Press), and he ends his review with the following words: "By all means, let readers engage with this book and make up their own minds. Absolute truth, however, remains as elusive as ever."

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