Home > Slide Shows/Photo Galleries > What’s in the Face?

What’s in the Face?

By Mikaela J. Sumulong [II AB Psychology]

A slide show gallery/annotated bibliography of William Shakespeare’s portraits throughout history.

            After centuries, due to the swift advancements in technology William Shakespeare’s transmedial reach has successfully turned the beloved bard into a cultural and global icon. As an icon, it’s no wonder how his portraits have been recreated and re-envisioned for years.

When we delve into the life of Shakespeare, we will discover that little is truly known about him. Actually, one of the many mysteries surrounding the bard will have something to do with his appearance.

When we type “William Shakespeare” in search engines, most of the pictures we’ll see there is not actually Shakespeare. Rather, the pictures are attempts to visualize what he looks like.

Below are famous portraits that we might have come across at one point or another. Portraits that “attempted to visualize” Shakespeare:


Currently, among all the portraits that portray the illustrious William Shakespeare, only two are considered to be authentic. The first is the Droeshout portrait which was published in the First Folio (seen in the link above). Second, the most recent find, is the Cobbe portrait of 1610 (Mackey, R. “Portrait of Shakespeare Unveiled, 399 Years Late”. March 9, 2009.):


            So it seems, authenticity about Shakespeare does not only end in the controversial rumors depicted, for example, in the 2011 film “Anonymous”. Authenticity has also been a big question mark in all aspects of Shakespeare whether it is about his works, his life, and/or his face.


“I’m like Disney — imagined and dreamt by men.”


  1. http://www.artsology.com/shakespeare_portraits.php
  2. http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/09/portrait-of-shakespeare-unveiled-399-years-late/
  3. http://www.canadianshakespeares.ca/multimedia/imagegallery/m_i_13.cfm
  1. kurtjah
    October 14, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    The disneyfied image of Shakespeare is thought-provoking; it provides anyone going through more than a cursory viewing of it some dialogue between two very important [and imperial] figures of the Western conquest of global imaginations. A suggestion would be, if possible, to take a look at global Southern appropriations of image that may demonstrate some dynamics of relationality or resistance? Portraits do depict more than the man that is painted.

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