We love it when an announcement is made that a new portrait of Shakespeare is discovered. These stories are popular because everyone wants to see what the author of “Hamlet” and “Romeo and Juliet” looked like. The problem is that there is no definitive portrait out there. Every portrait must endure incredible scrutiny from scientists and scholars and, no matter the results, the experts will fall into one of three camps: yes, no, and maybe.
Compare two stories about recent discoveries of Shakespeare portraits. One is from Discovery News titled “Two New Portraits of Shakespeare Found” by Rozella Lorenzi, posted 12 February 2014. It’s the online news arm of the television folks who bring you Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel. Think about these questions based on the short article. Are there other portraits with competing claims of authenticity? The one scholar mentioned in the article is in the yes camp. Are there others who are in the “no” or “maybe” camp? Is it possible these portraits are not authentic? Who is the author?
A second article is from Science Daily, titled “Lifetime Portrait of Shakespeare Discovered?” based on material from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, posted March 10, 2009. Think about these two articles. What differences do you notice in how the information is presented? See Science Daily’s About Section on the page (scroll to the bottom). Which is a more reliable source of information: Science Daily or Discovery News?
Both articles make for interesting reading for the general public. But, as a college student, you have to carefully consider the sources you use in your work and don’t be afraid to question what you read.