Was Shakespeare a hottie? Was Homer a hunk? John Milton: six-pack abs? Dante: hot or not? You would think, from recent coverage of the portrait newly claimed to be of Shakespeare (a claim front-paged by the New York Times early last month) that these are valid literary questions rather than evidence that the culture of celebrity has irretrievably corrupted literature. Fortunately, the Times story was written by the redoubtable John Burns, who included a good dose of skepticism. Nonetheless, the piece did quote the promotional brochure that is to accompany an exhibition of the “newly discovered” Shakespeare portrait that opens at the Stratford-on-Avon Shakespeare Center on April 23, the bard’s birthday. The quotation tells us everything that is wrong with Shakespearean biography—indeed, with most literary biography—and reminded me of the recent profoundly clueless sexsational controversy over the singularity of Hitler’s testicle.
more from Slate here.