Shakespeare my butt!

March 10, 2009

HUGE news in the literary world! A newly discovered portrait of William Shakespeare is being billed as the only authentic image of him painted WHILE HE WAS ALIVE.

Because of my background in arts and science, they asked me to authenticate it.

I told them this man is NOT Shakespeare, based on the sporty necktie and modern suit. But it turns out they meant the dude on the left, with the doily on his shoulders.

Oh. In that case, I think it is very probable the portrait WAS done while Shakespeare was alive.

A painting even a few years after his death would look different. Most of the skin would be gone, there would be worms in his eye sockets… He would be like the skull in “Hamlet,” Shakespeare’s most famous movie.

There it is, my expensive professional opinion. Please send me what I believe you call a CHEQUE, British people.

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Chairman of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stanley Wells, with a newly discovered portrait of William Shakespeare, in London March 9, 2009. REUTERS/ Luke MacGregor

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Apart from the “witty” narration, why is this odd?…

Posted by Alex | Report as abusive

A little known fact about Shakespeare…he actually strangled to death because of the doily around his neck…

Posted by K | Report as abusive

You don’t think Shakespeare looks a little odd in that picture? He’s got no neck and he’s wearing make-up!

Posted by JD | Report as abusive

That’s true, K. And after his freak strangulation death while eating, men began storing their doilies on a “doily cart” before dinner.

This name was later borrowed by a successful opera company.

And they say this blog isn’t educational.

Posted by Robert Basler | Report as abusive

Shall I compare thee to an old man with sporty necktie and modern suit?

Posted by naz | Report as abusive

I believe that I remember this from my Shakespeare study in High School:

‘The worm crawleth in! The worm crawleth out! Into yon eye, and outwards from his snout!’

Posted by tim | Report as abusive

And the variation:

‘The worm doth play pinochle on yon snout!’

Posted by tim | Report as abusive

Right, Tim, as if you went to high school. Don’t try putting on airs here, sport.

Posted by Robert Basler | Report as abusive

My Basler,

I did too graddiate from High School!

I think that the phrase, pertinent to this, goes something like this:

I believe that thou doth protest too muchly, Oh Dude of Many Letters!

And I yell at people that pick on you, as you may well remember. Not that you couldn’t easily deflect such smears against the fine artistry of making a living while snickering loudly.

So? When are you going on vacation? As if this really promotes burn out?

I think that I could come up with many fine ideas to fill in for you, whilst you are taking a break from such back breaking labor.

Your biggest fan!


ps Don’t be looking at that movie ‘Misery.’ I wouldn’t want you to get the wrong idea.

Posted by tim | Report as abusive

The so called picture of Shakespeare is extreamly similar to the picture shown for First Lord of Baltimore George Calvert.. in the book “The Library of American Biography” Conducted by Jared Sparks Boston, Charles C. Little and James Brown, MDCCCXLVI (1846) Second series Vol. IX

I can send a scan of the page if interested.

Posted by Gary Calvert | Report as abusive

its probably because they wore the fashionable clothes of their time: ert,_1st_Baron_Baltimore

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive

I am a published writer of two books on genuine primary historical research into the real ‘Shakespeare’ behind the pseudonym. The man in the portrait cannot be ‘Shakespeare’ – to start with, he is much too young! If the portrait was painted in 1610, then Shakespeare would have been 46 years old. I suggest you go to the National Portrait Gallery’s website and compare this portrait with those of Shakespeare’s known contemporaries, esp. that of Ben Jonson, painted when he was 44 years old. The harshness of the times, lack of dietary and medical knowledge meant people aged prematurely in those days, as you will see. This man, however, would be a young 35 year old, even by modern, developed-world standards. I suggest the sitter in 1610 would have been 26 years old at the most!

Posted by Brenda James | Report as abusive

Brenda, have you considered the fact that the portrait was painted from a photo of Shakespeare taken when he was younger?

Gary, I would love to have a scan of that page please. (mmmppphh!)

Posted by naz | Report as abusive

That is a picture of John Cusack!

Posted by Bill | Report as abusive

Hi naz! Good point. I must admit I had only considered the possibility that the Hollywood rejuvenation process had gone into operation far earlier than we have been led to believe. The 1609 Virginia Company sure was ahead of its time!

Posted by Brenda James | Report as abusive

Brenda, nearly all portrait painters from that time would make the subjects younger in the portrait. They would also make them appear healthy and if balding, would paint them with a full head of hair!

Naz, Shakespeare died in 1616, Photography was first invented in the late 1800s -the first ever picture was created in June/July 1827 (taking around 8 hours to expose)


Posted by David | Report as abusive

D’oh! I’m afraid David has made a brilliant catch about that invention of photography thing. Indeed, the lack of cameras – and even camera phones – in the 1600s meant nobody could have a driver’s license or a Facebook profile.

Posted by Robert Basler | Report as abusive

If I would wear that, i would also die…


Anedotas e muito humor em
Presentes para toda a familia em

Posted by UmNome | Report as abusive

David, you cannot be serious – we were all joking! However, serously now, you’re wrong about painters making subjects look younger in Jacobean portraits. This was not the case, especially in Protestant, Reformation England – you’ll see what I mean if you look at the National Portrait Gallery’s website.

Posted by Brenda James | Report as abusive

Thank you all, so much! This is exactly the level of intellectual discussion I always hoped for in my blog….

Posted by Robert Basler | Report as abusive

When Shakespeare once was painted
The artist nearly fainted –
He’d never been
With such a dream
Aged forty-six acquainted!

Posted by Brenda James | Report as abusive

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford… The “real” Shakespeare.

Posted by Lord Great Chamberlain | Report as abusive