An English Carved Ivory Bust of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) on an ebony plinth
First Half 19th Century
Size: 15cm high - 6 ins high (including ebony socle)
Although Shakespeare was arguably the greatest dramatist of the English language, nothing is known of his beginnings as a writer, nor when or in what capacity he entered the theatre. The first printed allusion to him is from 1592 in the pamphlet ‘Greenes Groats-worth of Witte’, its mention of an ‘upstart crow’ who ‘supposes he is well able to bombast out of a blanke verse as the best of you’ and who ‘is in his owne conceit the onely Shakes-cene in a country’ suggests rivalry, and parody of a line from Henry VI shows that Shakespeare was established on the London literary scene. He was a leading member of the Lord Chamberlains Men soon after their re-foundation in 1594. With them he worked and grew prosperous for the rest of his career as they developed into London’s leading company, occupying the Globe Theatre from 1599, becoming the King’s Men on James I’s accession in 1603 and taking over the Blackfriars as a winter house in 1608. London became Shakespeare’s professional base, but his family and home remained in Stratford where he is buried in the Holy Trinity Churchyard.