Is this mask the real face of Shakespeare?

"GOD has given you one face and you make for yourselves another."

Shakespeare may have known something when he wrote the above lines which appear in one of his most famous plays, Hamlet.

His own face - or rather, faces - have been at the centre of a long-running academic debate which some scholars believe may now finally be over.

It was reported yesterday that German academics from Mainz University believe they have found new evidence to prove what Shakespeare really looked like. Analysis of the playwright's death mask has revealed a series of facial marks and idiosyncrasies that correspond to those found on busts and portraits.

Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel, professor of English at Mainz University, has been examining the death mask since 1995. She said scientists working at the Technical University of Darmstadt had used a photographic technique to measure three-dimensional surfaces of the mask to create an accurate model of Shakespeare's face.

They used the same technique on a marble copy of a bust of Shakespeare, kept at Charlecote Park in Warwickshire. Through this analysis they discovered three small marks on the left eyelid which could be matched to marks on the death mask. Further tests have matched the facial dimensions of the mask with two portraits of Shakespeare, one of which hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London. The portraits also show a slight swelling in the left eyelid, possibly caused by a rare cancer which affects the tear duct. "We did not have a single authentic image of Shakespeare but now, all of a sudden, we do have a true likeness of the bard," said Ms Hammerschmidt-Hummel.

However, the death mask has long been considered by many experts to be a fake. It was bought by a German who visited London in 1775.

The controversy surrounding Shakespeare's face is likely to continue for some time. Both of the portraits are of unknown provenance, and critics might argue they were based on the (fake) death mask.

Richard Proudfoot, professor of English at Kings College, London, said while Shakespeare died in April 1616, the interest in his biographical details did not begin for another 50 years.

"This whole area is fraught with danger. The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC used to have scores of items reputedly carved from the mulberry tree in Shakespeare's garden. Someone pointed out that for them all to be genuine there would have to have been a whole forest in his garden - not just one tree."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
football

Arts and Entertainment
music
Life and Style
tech

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind'

News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album