Famous portrait ‘not Shakespeare’

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This is hardly a shock. Actually, if you google for the Grafton portrait, the first hit is the Norton site claiming it’s Marlowe. This is another example of the way that Shakespeare gets romanticised. We seem to want to possess him, and an authentic portrait (and a diary, letters, laundry lists etc) would help. But it isn’t going to happen. Why anyone would think this had to be Shakespeare is beyond me. The attribution is based on the flimsiest evidence – the sitter is the same age Shakespeare would have been, and…er, that’s it.
Having said that, the reasons advanced as to why it can’t be WS are just as pathetic. The expert says “it is very unlikely that in 1588, Shakespeare would have been able to afford a costume of this type.” OK, I’m sure that’s true – but wouldn’t people have dressed up for a portrait? Or couldn’t the painter have imagined some clothes? And if WS was so poor, how come anyone thought he’d be able to afford his portrait in the first place?
I wish we could accept that we will never know that much about Shakespeare. We seem to be able to accept this lack of knowledge with other great literary figures (Homer, Chaucer for instance) so why not WS?

CC BY-SA 4.0 Famous portrait ‘not Shakespeare’ by Dr Rob Spence is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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