German Professor Claims Shakespeare Died of Cancer

Posted on February 24, 2006

Has any author continued to generate such controversy over his works so long after his death? The Shakespeare controversies heated up again when a German academic announced that she has now authenticated four new images of the playwright that she says accurately represent what the Bard looked like. The Telegraph reports that she also announced that Shakespeare died of cancer, as evidenced by a lump on his forehead.

As the National Portrait Gallery planned to reveal that only one of half a dozen claimed portraits of William Shakespeare can now be considered genuine, Prof Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel said she could prove that there were at least four surviving portraits of the playwright.

Startlingly, she said swellings close to Shakespeare's left eye, which she says are clear in several of the contested portraits, are evidence that he had lymph cancer. By dating the portraits, she said, it was likely that he had suffered for around 15 years in increasing pain and died from it.

She also says, "The cancerous growths grow bigger as the dates progress. Everybody else has missed them but how else would an artist know they were there unless they had seen Shakespeare."

The Telegraph says Prof Hammerschmidt-Hummel, who teaches English literature at Marburg and Mainz University, is using forensic tests used by German detectives to study the morphology of paintings and sculptures claimed to be of Shakespeare.She has been measuring facial features to show identical characterisits in two paintings and a contested death mask of Shakespeare.

Prof Hammerschmidt-Hummel will be publishing a book about her findings in April. Stanley Wells, Emeritus Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Birmingham University, was not amused and called Professor Hammerschmidt-Hummel's conclusions "rubbish." We don't have a clue whether her findings are rubbish or not, but they certainly are interesting.

More from Writers Write