Nicholas Hilliard, who died on 7 January 1619, was one of the most important figures during the reign of Queen Elizabeth and King James.
|Self Portrait, 1577|
He was one of the principal artists of the time, and his paintings and miniatures captured the faces of some of the most important and significant people in history.
Here are some of his works, and as we look at these faces, we can come closer to understanding the people that Shakespeare knew.
Some of these people Shakespeare loved, and some he feared. Many of them Shakespeare turned into characters in his plays.
First and foremost is Queen Elizabeth I. Shakespeare repeatedly put her in his plays. For example, she is the inspiration for Portia in The Merchant of Venice.
|Queen Elizabeth, 1572 -- when Shakespeare was 8 years old|
|Queen Elizabeth, The Pelican Portrait, 1572|
|Queen Elizabeth, The Phoenix Portrait, 1575|
Around the same period of time, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, was Queen Elizabeth's "favourite." She favored him more than any other man at the time.
Shakespeare may have been thinking of Leicester when he created the character of Claudius in Hamlet.
|Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, 1572|
|Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, 1576|
|Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, 1575|
Leicester eventually married another woman, Lettice Knollys:
Essex was an inspiration for several of Shakespeare's characters, including Henry V and Hamlet.
|Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, 1588 -- the same year that Leicester died|
|Young Man Among Roses, believed to be Essex, 1588|
|Essex, c. 1587 -- I think this is actually much later, when Essex fought in Ireland in 1599|
One of Essex's closest friends was Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton. Southampton was also Shakespeare's patron, and is believed to be the Fair Youth in Shakespeare's Sonnets.
|Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton|
One of Essex's greatest foes at court was William Cecil, Lord Burghley. Shakespeare's character of Polonius is a caricature of him.
|William Cecil, Lord Burghley|
It was due to this battle between Cecil and his son Robert Cecil that Essex and Southampton led a failed rebellion in 1601. Essex was executed. Southampton was sent to the Tower.
As I will show in my forthcoming versions of Shakespeare's plays, most all of Shakespeare's next plays were written for, about and featuring characters based on King James himself.
|King James, 1603-9|