Tarnya Cooper, Curator of Sixteenth Century Collections, National Portrait Gallery in London, curated the exhibition, Searching for Shakespeare, and edited the catalogue. She also wrote an essay for Shakespeare’s Face: Unraveling the Legend and History of Shakespeare’s Mysterious Portrait (Free Press, 2004). The desire to find an authentic portrait depicting William Shakespeare in his lifetime is a quest that dates back to the mid-seventeenth century. Many hundreds of portraits have been presented as possible contenders reflecting the emotional longing to encounter the hallowed author face to face. The issue has been directly influenced by the art market and questions of personal and institutional reputation. This talk will explore some of the claims and counter claims, starting with what we know, rather than what we want to know. More importantly this talk will chart the art historical issues at play in the historical identification of sitters and the conventions of and contexts for the production of author portraiture at this date, looking at lifetime images of John Donne, Ben Jonson, Nathan Field and others. Her paper will open a discussion to explore why we seem to need to know what Shakespeare looked like.
Julia Reinhard Lupton (Professor and Interim Chair of English at the University of California, Irvine) will then present a paper on “Believing in Shakespeare / Shakespeare’s Beliefs: Religion and the Dilemmas of Drama.” Lupton is author of Citizen-saints: Shakespeare and Political Theology (University of Chicago Press, 2005) and Thinking with Shakespeare: Essays on Politics and Life (University of Chicago Press, 2011). She will ask: how has the desire to establish a particular faith community for Shakespeare (as Catholic, or Protestant, or humanist / free thinker) shaped our readings of plays? And how does a plurality of positions keep coming back into such readings, both because of the mixed and uneven character of religious reform during the Tudor and Stuart period and because of the inherently dialogic nature of drama itself, which tends to compare and overlay rather than select view points?
Lupton will point to biographers’ identification of key moments in Shakespeare’s plays of withdrawal, reserve, conversion, double consciousness, casuistry, disavowal, or other forms of “having it both ways” (faith and skepticism, the old religion and the new). She will review exegetical forms of construing biographical turns that are deeply embedded in the conversionary dynamics of biblical typology associated with St. Paul and the life-writing traditions coming out of Paul (from Augustine to Bunyan and beyond). These forms of conversion themselves contain layering tactics, at once evocative and equivocal. Her paper will note exemplary moments in the criticism that reflect these dynamics and then show how such moments of double consciousness and conversionary rotation among distinct times and possibilities resonate in key life-writing moments in the plays (such as Othello’s final autobiography).