Country Life announced today that it had discovered a new portrait of conspiracy-theory magnet William Shakespeare after cracking an “ingenious Tudor code.” The picture appeared on the title page of a 16th-century book on plants. Editor Mark Hedges called it “the literary discovery of the century.” Others weren’t so sure. Shakespeare academic Michael Dobson told The Guardian he was “deeply unconvinced” that this portrait was of the bard. “It’s a man in a toga, holding a little bit of a corn on the cob in one hand and a fritillary in the other.”
“Next week, as a result of this discovery,” Country Life also teased, the magazine “will reveal a new play by Shakespeare.” Neither Jimmy Kimmel, William Boot, nor Dan Brown were offered as an explanation for this news story.
The sneers produced by Shakespeare academics after someone claims to have found a portrait or new exciting tidbit concerning the playwright are one of the discipline’s most celebrated contributions to the modern era. However, even if this sketch of what appears to be a Greek god who really loves corn isn’t Shakespeare, Country Life can take comfort in the fact that it appears to have found an ancient depiction of one of humankind’s crucial archetypes: Mr. Autumn Man, “His Excellency, the Duke of Fall,” the mustachioed inspiration for baristas first described by the Onion in 2012. The likeness is uncanny.