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

William Shakespeare
associated with John Taylor
circa 1600-1610
NPG 1

Playwright
Poet
Financier

William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Dramatist and poet.

William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language but he was also a highly successful poet and playwright in his own lifetime. His work was so profitable that he was even able to lend money to his fellow citizens in Stratford-upon-Avon and documents from the time show he was prepared to take legal action to recover any outstanding debts. In 1604, he sued a neighbour, Philip Rogers, for not repaying a loan of 35 shillings and in 1608 he pursued John Addenbrooke in the courts for a debt of £6, to which he added 24 shillings in damages.  So it seems that Shakespeare was prepared to go to the courts to recover even a small sum. However, in 1608 he may have been in need of additional income as all the theatres had to be shut down due to an outbreak of the plague.

On display in Room 4 at the
National Portrait Gallery

Find out more about this portrait

Find more portraits of Shakespeare

Take our Shakespeare quiz

Discover other Elizabethan writers

Explore other portraits which feature earrings

This was the first portrait in the Gallery’s Collection. Find out more about the Gallery’s history

Visit From Your Armchair

Self-portrait as My Father from the series Encounter  by Silvia Rosi © Silvia Rosi

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize

An online exhibition celebrating the very best in contemporary portrait photography.

Visit now

Hold Still

Hold Still

Explore our community photography project, which presents a personal record of the UK during lockdown.

Explore the exhibition

Margaret Thatcher by Spitting Images Productions Ltd painted plastic, 1985

Sculptures in 360°

See sculptures and fascinating objects from our Collection from all angles.

View the 360s

David Hockney: Drawing from Life

Watch highlights from our special exhibition, which had to close early in March 2020 due to lockdown.

See the video