What Did Shakespeare Really Look Like?

Greetings, folks!  Just finished up a new Bookworm History episode over on the YouTube channel!  This one’s all about the various portraits and pictures thought to depict the Bard of Stratford-on-Avon, William Shakespeare and whether any of them accurately illustrate what he looked like.  Check it out!

Do you think any of these images actually depict Shakespeare?  Leave your thoughts in the comments!

13 thoughts on “What Did Shakespeare Really Look Like?

    1. Hi Jean-Pierre! Thanks for the great question! Thinking back to when I made this video, I believe that the reason I didn’t include the Sanders portrait was that the works I used to put the episode together were written before much of the scientific testing was done on the portrait. By provenance alone I wouldn’t have felt the portrait worth including, but considering the battery of tests that have been performed on it recently it would be. Were I to do that video today I would certainly include it.


      1. Jean-Pierre Doucet

        Many thanks for your rapid answer. Time will show that the Sanders painting is the authentic Shakespeare portrait done during his lifetime. For that matter in addition to all the scientific testing our study has shown a very close link between the famous Droeshout engraving of Shakespeare and the Sanders painting.


    1. Hi Jean-Pierre! Sorry I took so long to get back to you. I’ve only just got back in town after travelling for work. Your work is interesting, and the idea to use facial recognition software on such an ancient question is an fascinating method. The similarities are striking, but it is perhaps worth mentioning that similar experiments have been done before with more ludicrous results: http://sirbacon.org/The-Prank-of-the-Face-Unmasking-the-Droeshout-Portrait-of-William-Shakespeare.pdf . It is certainly possible that the Sanders portrait is authentic and was the basis for the Droeshout engraving, but it would be incredibly difficult to prove by comparisons, as this implies a photographic level of accuracy in the two works.


  1. Jean-Pierre Doucet

    Many thanks for your answer Daniel! In the reference regarding the superposition of the Droeshout engraving over the Queen, the pictures were adjusted to he same eye separation as we did in our study. So it is identical at the level of the eyes but in other areas,as Miles pointed out: ”notably the jaw line, and the position of the mouth, it is clear that the two portraits diverge”.

    We have kept working on the Sanders painting and recent unpublished data shows that an impressive similarity confidence value of 97.7% was obtained for the superposition of the Droeshout engraving over the Sanders portrait. But as you suggest the question mark still remains! With my best regards/JP


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