Author Claims Shakespeare Had Secret 'Bastard' Son

William Davenant would go on to become the poet laureate of England
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Suggested by jgmann
Posted Feb 16, 2016 8:18 AM CST
Author Claims Shakespeare Had Secret 'Bastard' Son
A detail of the newly discovered portrait of William Shakespeare, presented by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, is seen in central London on March 9, 2009.   (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

William Shakespeare wasn't necessarily a doting husband: In his will, he famously left his wife Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children, his "second best bed." Now a new biography of the Bard of Avon suggests the playwright had a son with a married tavern mistress, and that the "bastard" was none other than poet and playwright Sir William Davenant, who would go on to become the poet laureate of England before his death in 1668, reports the Australian. In the new book Shakespeare's Bastard: The Life of Sir William Davenant, biographer Simon Andrew Stirling links the two through not only their shared propensity for the written word, but certain physical characteristics, most notably a droopy left eyebrow.

It's not the first time the link has been made, notes the Los Angeles Times. Novelist Samuel Butler apparently once said that Davenant thought he wrote "with the very same spirit that Shakespeare [did]," and that he "seemed content enough to be called his son." Davenant was, in fact, Shakespeare's godson, though notes that rumors of the day suggested that was just a cover for the biological connection. Stirling argues that Sonnet 126, in which Shakespeare writes of his "lovely boy," is actually about Davenant. But not everyone's buying it. Art History News reports that a droopy brow isn't exactly proof positive, and it doesn't quite see the trait anyway in side-by-side portraits here. The site says its "nonsense detector goes off when people start seeing medical 'symptoms' in historical portraits." (Shakespeare had another illegitimate child in the form of a play.)

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