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Shakespeare and his Friends

Artist: Engraving by James Faed (1821-1911), Scottish; From a painting by John Faed (1820-1902), Scottish
Year: ca. 1870
Medium: Line, stipple and mezzotint engraving on paper
Size: Height - 25.8", Width - 31.8"
Original Location: Upstairs

James Faed was one of three Scottish brothers who became well known for their artwork. James would engrave many of the works done by his brothers John and Thomas. He also became very well known for doing portrait engravings. John Faed painted Shakespeare and a group of his contemporaries at the Mermaid Tavern on Friday-street in London.

The members of this group are (from left in back) Sylvester, John Seldon Earl of Dorset, Francis Beaumont, (seated at table from left) William Camden, Thomas Sackville, John Fletcher, Sir Francis Bacon, Ben Jonson, John Donne, Samuel Daniel, Shakespeare, Sir Walter Raleigh, the Earl of Southampton, Sir Robert Cotton, and Thomas Dekker.

Historians cannot be sure if Shakespeare actually met with the group at the Mermaid Tavern. He did do business with William Johnson, the proprietor, so it is likely he was there at one time of anther. Sir Walter Raleigh is the one given credit for assembling the group; he is at Shakespeare’s left leaning against the Earl of Southampton. Both Raleigh and the Earl would later be imprisoned in the Tower of London for high treason against Queen Elizabeth. Next to them is Robert Cotton who had the richest private collection of manuscripts at the time. To the far right is Thomas Dekker, also a prolific play writer. Seated behind Shakespeare is another important figure, Ben Jonson. Jonson and Shakespeare are famed for their battle-of-wits debates. Seated across the table from Jonson are two additional figures worth noting, John Fletcher and Francis Beaumont. Fletcher and Beaumont lived together for some time and collaborated together and with Shakespeare. In the print Fletcher supports his head in his hand and looks up towards Beaumont behind him. Beaumont also has his hand outstretched in an offering like gesture. Shakespeare and Fletcher’s most famous collaboration was Henry VIII.

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