From The Weekly Standard: What We Know of Shakespeare from His (Known) Portraits

Blake Seitz at The Weekly Standard reviews Portraits of Shakespeare by Katherine Duncan-Jones, an absorbing study, we are told, by an author who flouts the rule that tells us we cannot judge a book by its cover. Or if we cannot judge Hamlet from its cover, we can at least make a judgment about its characters, for whom the play itself serves as a kind of cover. Shuffling the syllogism (something Shakespeare learned to do very well, though this is not something that can be divined from his selfie), we understand that it is valuable to speculate (thousand words max)what Shakespeare’s appearance tells us about Shakespeare.


There are only three images of the man that are likely contemporaneous with him. But Katherine Duncan-Jones, emerita fellow at Somerville College, Oxford, here provides the historical background for each of the three images in forensic levels of detail and offers a compelling original thesis about the authorship of one of the three images. She also gives her appraisal of the images’ artistic merits and what they tell us about Shakespeare.

The images that historians are confident were created during (or near) Shakespeare’s lifetime have been viewed by his admirers with great disappointment. Two are technically amateurish, and they do not give the viewer much insight into Shakespeare’s personality or life. Only one, the so-called Chandos portrait, seems to do justice to the greatest playwright of all time.

A danger we can easily anticipate comes in the taking of this physio-know-me beyond its proper limits; but we are assured that the author is a tactful scholar whose analysis does not go beyond the forensics.

Read his full post at The Weekly Standard



cdossett posted on February 13, 2017 at 1:54 pm

I want to know more about his sweet earring

zakbos posted on February 14, 2017 at 10:11 am

Some interesting background on stud’s hoop: “Some lusty courtiers and gentlemen of courage do wear either rings of gold, stones or pearls in their ears whereby they imagine the workmanship of God to be not a little amended. But herein they rather disgrace than adorn their persons.” (from

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