MYSTERY-UPON-AVON

Will the Real Shakespeare Please Stand Up?

This week’s unveiling of the first contemporary portrait of William Shakespeare has The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik asking: really? Gopnik revists the existing works—and goes back to obscure texts—to see if this new portrait is all that. The two portraits we know are of Shakespeare are an engraving from the First Folio and a bust at Holy Trinity Church (both drawn posthumously) and are thought to be more conceptual than literal. Gopnik points, however, to under-publicized images of Shakespeare that may have been circulated before he died: one crazed Cambridge student (and Romeo and Juliet mega-fan) said: “O Sweet Master Shakespeare, I’ll have his picture in my study at the court,” raising the possibility that there were indeed images of everyone’s favorite playwright floating around. But to Gopnik, this sounds a little fishy: “This presents a problem, since it is a rule of life that undergraduates don’t put pictures of bald, funny-looking guys up in their dorm.”