Problematic Portraiture

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)



Today William Shakespeare was baptized and officially became William Shakespeare. Huzzah!


I will admit, I really don’t like Romeo and Juliet, it’s right down there with As You Like It for ones I Don’t Like! But they’re oh so quotable. Like the seven ages of man speech:


All the world’s a stage,

 And all the men and women merely players,

 They have their exits and entrances,

 And one man in his time plays many parts,

 His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,

 Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.

 Then, the whining schoolboy with his satchel

 And shining morning face, creeping like snail

 Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,

 Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad

 Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,

 Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,

 Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel,

 Seeking the bubble reputation

 Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice

 In fair round belly, with good capon lin’d,

 With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,

 Full of wise saws, and modern instances,

 And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts

 Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,

 With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side,

 His youthful hose well sav’d, a world too wide,

 For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,

 Turning again towards childish treble, pipes

 And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,

 That ends this strange eventful history,

 Is second childishness and mere oblivion,

 Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

As You Like It (II, viii)



Cameo based on the Chandos portrait

So, another piece of information we don’t have about Shakespeare is- what did he look like? It cracks me up when people use the ‘it doesn’t look dashing, romantic, clever, handsome, poetical, whatever enough’ to really be Shakespeare argument against the most likely portraits. Seriously? (You could even argue that the more low level official looking a guy was the better he’d have to be at sonnets!)


This pendant is based on the Chandos portrait. (It was on wrappers from chocolates I got in England so was handy and a good type of paper to use with the sealant! Esteemed history, I know…) It is claimed to be a portrait of Shakespeare painted from life between 1600 and 1610. There is no concrete evidence that the portrait is indeed Shakespeare, bit this far it is believed to have the best claim. Partially because it generally agrees with the Droeshout engraving.


The Droeshout engraving for the First Folio

The Droeshout engraving was for the cover of the First Folio, and was vouched for by Ben Jonson. The biggest argument against it is the poor artistic quality of the engraving (which is a weak argument, I doubt many of the most artistically beautiful portraits look much like their sitters!) and the fact that Jonson wouldn’t be the first person to okay something without actually checking it out first. But both that image and the one at his graveside were at least created while people who knew him lived, and they were certainly intended to be him.


There’s a Hilliard portrait some believe is meant to be Shakespeare, but the man in the portrait appears to be of a significantly higher social status. But it is a gorgeous painting.


I also used the Chandos portrait in a helmmail charm bracelet I made for myself awhile ago. Every other image is from a play, and each charm refers to a specific quote. See how many you can catch.


Filed under Crafts, Historical Facts and Trivia

5 responses to “Problematic Portraiture

  1. There was another portrait which cropped up recently (by which I mean several years ago now) as another possible Shakespeare. But I cannot for my life recall which it is, who it was by, or how the claim ended. :/ Fat lot of use that is…

    The National Portrait Gallery in London had earrings made based on the one worn in the Chandos portrait. I seriously considered getting them — on aesthetic/collector terms alone — but they were a little pricey. I don’t know whether they still have them now.

    As for the quotations for the charms:

    1. I’m afraid I can’t recall the specific quotation from Macbeth for this one, but the painting is of Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth by Sargent.

    2. ‘Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy…’ from Hamlet.

    3. I… can’t quite make out the picture. >.< It looks as though it might be from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Or even The Merry Wives of Windsor.

    4. ‘O, the cry did knock Against my very heart!’ or ‘O, brave new world! That has such people in’t!’, from The Tempest

    • Nice!

      Yep, I think it’s Lady M’s screw his courage to the sticking place part, but not positive.

      Is this a dagger which I see before me…


      Providence in the fall of a sparrow. (Plus quote charm I couldn’t resist.)

      Rose by any other name.

      Bottom and fairies scene.

      These are pearls that were his eyes…

      Again, I think it’s supposed to be the cry scene.

      I remember the thing you were talking about, and remember about as much. That was one of the ‘it’s not very likely but this is what he should have looked like and that’s authenticity of a different kind’ argument ones. *insert eyeroll*

  2. Oh, drat, it’s just occurred to me: I actually missed the charms themselves, ha. I mistook the images for the charms, until I re-read your last paragraph.

    ‘Is this a dagger I see before me?’ from Macbeth
    ‘To thine own self be true’ (of course), from Hamlet
    I expect the rose is the quotation with which you began this post? 🙂
    ‘Those are pearls that were his eyes’, from The Tempest.

  3. “let me play the fool…with mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come and let my liver rather heat with wine than my heart cool with mortifying groans…”
    cheers to you and The Bard!

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