Within Shakespeare's lifetime there was already some curiosity about what the writer of such brilliant poems, sonnets and plays looked like. Yet like so much else about him, Shakespeare's appearance is mysterious.
Why is it so difficult to find images of him that were definitely made during his life? Which images are most likely to have been made by those close to Shakespeare, and why do these differ from each other? Also, why do newly `discovered' images claimed as representations of the playwright emerge with such regularity?
Shakespeare scholar Katherine Duncan-Jones examines these questions, beginning with an analysis of the tradition of the `author portrait' before, during, and after Shakespeare's life. She provides a detailed critique of the three images of Shakespeare likeliest to derive from life-time portrayals: the bust in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon; the `Droeshout engraving' from the First Folio edition of Shakespeare's plays published in 1623; and the `Chandos portrait', painted in oil on canvas in the early seventeenth century. Through a fresh exploration of the evidence and groundbreaking research, she identifies a plausible new candidate for the painter of `Chandos'. This also throws new light on the last years of Shakespeare's life.
This generously illustrated book also examines the afterlife of these three images, as memorials, in advertising and in graphic art, together with their adaptation in later commemorative statues: all evidence of a continuing desire to put a face to one of the most famous names in literature.
Katherine Duncan-Jones is an Emeritus Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford. She has written biographies of Sir Philip Sidney (1991) and Shakespeare (2001; revised edition, 2010); and has edited Shakespeare's Sonnets (1997) and (with H.R. Woudhuysen) the same writer's Poems (2007), both for the Arden Shakespeare series.