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196 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 Stephanie Nolen. Shakespeare=s Face Alfred A. Knopf, Canada. xvii, 366. $39.95 Shakespeare=s Face is a book destined rapidly to become a curiosity. The bulk of it consists of the work of a journalist, Stephanie Nolen, who broke the story of the portrait that may or may not be the earliest image we have of Shakespeare to the Globe and Mail in May 2001. Nolen came across it because it happened to be in the possession of a neighbour of her mother=s, one Lloyd Sullivan; it had been in his family for many years, and they believed it to have been painted by an ancestor, John Sanders, an actor in Shakespeare=s company, and, as a label on the back helpfully states, a portrait of Shakespeare done in 1603. Unfortunately, however, the professional genealogist hired to trace Sullivan=s family line back to Sanders was unable to find a direct link, so that the very name attached to the painting, >the Sanders portrait,= is as speculative as almost everything else about it. Nolen is obviously a woman of great persistence and persuasiveness. In order to get together a book=s worth of material about this portrait, which almost no one from the vast array of scholars and experts called upon to pronounce upon it will actually confirm to be that of Shakespeare, she has traced in considerable and chatty detail the various processes by which she and Lloyd Sullivan have attempted to authenticate it, interspersing her own chapters between those of several eminent Shakespearean scholars and other experts. Thus Stanley Wells, Andrew Gurr, Jonathan Bate, and others write essays which supply a variety of reasons why this might be a portrait of Shakespeare. Wells and Gurr, for instance, suggest that 1603 might have been a particularly good time for Shakespeare to get his portrait painted; Marjorie Garber thinks that what she characterizes as >the male minx in the Sanders image, with his knowing eyes and flirtatious, up-curved mouth= is just the sort of cultural fantasy that suits our current notion of the portraitfunction , although for Alexander Leggatt it is the sitter=s oblique gaze that better suits our image of Shakespeare. Alexandra Johnston and others from the REED project allow that >there is nothing in the label that disproves the ascription= to Shakespeare. In other chapters art historians Robert Tittler and Tarnya Cooper examine the painting=s visual vocabulary and consider that it portrays a promising young man, and its emotional expressiveness, uncommon in English portraiture of this period, would be appropriate for the face of an actor. (Jonathan Bate, interestingly, queers the whole pitch by suggesting that it might have been a portrait of Fletcher.) Nolen=s essays spell out the difficulties faced by amateurs trying to prove the date and origins of what was essentially a family heirloom about which someone had a hunch: the discouragement of gallery curators, the cost of investigation by professional archivists and conservators, the sheer amount humanities 197 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 of time and devotion required. This is probably the most interesting part of the book. The success of Nolen in getting her discovery, along with the dogged efforts of the portrait=s owner, Lloyd Sullivan, written up at such length, with the bolstering of a galaxy of experts, testifies more to the power and vitality of the Shakespeare industry than to the significance of the portrait in its own right. Nolen and Sullivan long so desperately for this to be the real Shakespeare that they are dismissive of experts mentioned who pronounce definitively negative views, surprisingly few, it seems. But in the end this book=s chief value will be as a footnote. (SANDRA CLARK) Margo Swiss and David A. Kent, editors. Speaking Grief in English Literary Culture: Shakespeare to Milton Duquesne University Press. 365. US $60.00 The title of this collection of twelve essays promises a topic with an exciting potential for enhancing our understanding of Renaissance literature. >To speak grief= tears through the ligatures binding subjectivity and society together. Its dangerous...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 196-197
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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