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Is this what Shakespeare looked like at the age of 14?

London SE1 website team

Every year teenagers across the country sit exams on the works of William Shakespeare, but what did the playwright himself look like at 14?

Is this what Shakespeare looked like at the age of 14?

To mark the launch of Globe Education's winter season, The Young & Shakespeare, a series of public events for all ages, the Globe together with the Metropolitan Police artist Cathy Charsley have created an image of Shakespeare as he may have looked as a 14.

"I spent quite a lot of time studying the Droeshout engraving of Shakespeare that is so well known and also the 'Chandos' portrait," explains Cathy.

"I have been trained in age progression for my job, so I worked in reverse, deciding how the face would be different if aged 14, and what features were important, Young Will is my personal interpretation, based on my knowledge of faces and how they change."

The first stage to creating the image was to input a description of the features into an e-fit computer database, normally used to make a facial likeness of a suspect by working with the witness to a crime.

"The computer produced its 'first face' which was nothing like my idea of Shakespeare, so I then began a search for the 'right' eyes, nose, mouth and face shape, always comparing the face on screen to the two pictures. There were a lot of different possibilities and permutations, which I worked through, until I finally I felt I had achieved something of Shakespeare's 'spirit'.

"It took some time to find a hair style that did not appear to be styled, but rather just cut to be practical, and straight but with a hint of curl. I decided to give him an earring as a reference to the portrait even though it was not likely a 14-year-old would have worn one!"

At this stage Photoshop was used to make various improvements to the face, in particular adding a marked 'cupid's bow' to his lip and making the nose more prominent. The young Shakespeare's hair was made slightly messier to give him more of a schoolboy look and small alterations were made to his face shape and features to imitate the portraits.

Patrick Spottiswoode, director of Globe Education at Shakespeare's Globe, who commissioned the image, added: "We asked Cathy Charsley to imagine what Shakespeare may have looked like at 14 – the very age that all students in England and Wales have to sit a Shakespeare exam. The result is fascinating but disturbingly like Harry Potter."

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