A Historian May Have Found The First Authentic Image Of William Shakespeare, And If So, Then Our Favorite Bard Was Kind Of A Hottie
Ever wonder what Shakespeare really looked like? Well, historian and botanist Mark Griffiths may have discovered the first authentic image of William Shakespeare. Botanist, you say? Yep. That’s right. The portrait was said to have been part of an engraving found in a 1,484-page book on plants called The Herball, published in 1598 by botanist John Gerard.
This “true face of Shakespeare” was revealed Tuesday in Country Life magazine, whose editor Mark Hedges touted it as the “only known verifiable portrait of the world's greatest writer in his lifetime.” Hedges praised Griffiths as “an expert in the role of flora in the literature of the English Renaissance,” which, Hedges said, made him “uniquely qualified” to make this discovery.
According to Country Life, Griffiths’ discovery was made by cracking a “many-layered Tudor code,” to figure out that the portrait was of William Shakespeare. But if you’re imagining a Da Vinci Code-style adventure right now, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Cracking this code seems to have entailed a lot of up-close staring at the portrait and probably a lot of raiding the library stacks’ Shakespeare section. Griffiths claims that the it’s the “camouflaged figures, coded plants and ciphers” in the engraving by William Rogers on the title page of the botany book that proves that the portrait is of William Shakespeare. A full account of how Griffiths “cracked the code” to Shakespeare’s portrait will be revealed in Country Life magazine Wednesday, May 20th.
Some Shakespeare experts aren’t buying it, like director of the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham Professor Michael Dobson, who said, “I can't imagine any reason why Shakespeare would be in a botany textbook.” Dobson also noted that Griffiths “hasn't been talking to anybody I know of in Shakespeare studies. They would have been better taking it to a Shakespeare expert than a botanist. I don't think very many people are going to take this seriously.”
According to BBC, Edward Wilson, emeritus fellow of Worcester College, Oxford, has worked with Griffiths and said that they have consulted with Latin and Shakespeare scholars for the past five years. "We do not think anyone is going to dispute this at all," said Wilson.
But let’s leave the debate to the botanists and historians. We can at least all agree with Hedges who dates this supposed Shakespeare at 33 years old in the portrait and credits him with “a film star's good looks." If this is actually an image of the famous bard, it’s definitely a step up from the balding, collared guy (who, let’s be real, suffers from a slight case of creeper-face) in the portraits that have been popularly accepted as Shakespeare’s image. So… a literature nerd can hope. Otherwise, we'll just have to go back to loving this guy...
Images: Getty Images (3)