The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

Shakespeare and his Contemporaries

Shakespeare and his Contemporaries cover

Charles Nicholl is the author of nine books, including The Reckoning , an investigation into the murder of Christopher Marlowe, and Somebody Else , a study of the poet Rimbaud. A regular contributor to radio, television and newspapers, his most recent book is a biography of Leonardo da Vinci (2004).


210 x 140mm, 112 pages
80 illustrations, 20,000 words
ISBN 1 85514 367 4
£9.99 (hardback)
Published October 2005

This product is supplied by the National Portrait Gallery Company Limited. For more information on the Company, click here. Every purchase supports the National Portrait Gallery.

National Portrait Gallery Insights
Shakespeare and His Contemporaries

Charles Nicholl

William Shakespeare and his contemporaries helped create not only a new kind of theatre but also a new form of language. In an age of religious and political warfare, they found expression for what it means to be human. Yet although Shakespeare's life is well researched, the lives of his friends are less well known.

This new book argues that far from being a lone genius, Shakespeare belonged to a talented and influential group of writers, poets and dramatists, including Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, John Donne and Sir Walter Raleigh. Illustrated throughout with portraits, engravings and printed documents, it demonstrates how Elizabethan society valued literary talent as well as how these writers saw themselves.

But can we be sure that the images we see are who we think they are? Charles Nicholl delves deep into the archives of the National Portrait Gallery to investigate the portraits and lives of over twenty subjects, from playwrights to pamphleteers, as well as their patrons, actors and lovers. He describes what motivated these men and women to write, who paid them and who provided their inspiration. The result is an essential counterpart to the recently acclaimed biographies of Shakespeare, providing new perspectives on a sixteenth-century renaissance in English literature and a rich legacy to the English-speaking world.

The book is published to coincide with the National Portrait Gallery's Searching for Shakespeare exhibition from 2 March to 29 May 2006.

National Portrait Gallery Insights
New series

National Portrait Gallery Insights is a new series of illustrated books on literary and artistic personalities and themes, based on the collections of the National Portrait Gallery. Commissioned to demonstrate the significance of portraits when discussing history, art history and biography, each book has been beautifully designed by leading international design consultancy Pentagram Design and features over eighty exquisite stunning illustrations.

This innovative new series aims to explore the ways in which groups of people are drawn together - whether by birth, via education or through their artistic and intellectual vision - to make a powerful impact on cultural history. Written by well-known authors in their field, this exciting series provides a compelling way of exploring British history and biography.


Make a donation

Support our Make History appeal and help us transform the Gallery.

Help us make history

Online shop

A unique range of books, accessories and gifts. Every purchase supports the Gallery’s work.

Shop now

Bring a familiar face home

Refresh your home gallery with a huge selection of custom art prints .

Buy a print