The Portrait of Mr W.H.
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The Portrait of Mr W.H.

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  481 ratings  ·  24 reviews
In 1609, the first edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets was published, featuring the mysterious dedication: “To Mr W.H.” Ever since, the identity of Mr W.H. has been the subject of a series of fascinating theories—but none quite so ingenious as that of Oscar Wilde’s The Portrait of Mr W.H. Cambridge scholar Cyril Graham spent his days performing in Shakespeare’s plays, and, be...more
Paperback, 104 pages
Published February 1st 2003 by Hesperus Press (first published 1889)
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An enjoyable story in which Wilde brings to fiction the theory that Shakespeare's sonnets were addressed to a Willie Hughes, a young male actor in Shakespeare's company.

The theory was actually first presented by Thomas Tyrwhitt in the an English scholar living in the 18th century. In his theory, however, William Hughes may have been a musician for the Earl of Essex as there is no evidence of a William Hughes in list of actors found in the First Folio of the plays.

Though we may never know the id...more
The fact that William Shakespeare’s Sonnets are dedicated to one Mr W.H. has been the source of much speculation. Eighteenth century critic Thomas Tyrwhitt suggests that the sonnets are written for a person known as William Hughes. He bases this theory on his interpretation of the Sonnets, lines like “A man in hue, all Hues in his controlling” (the 20th sonnet) where the word ‘Hue’ is capitalised and italicised and the multiple puns on the name ‘Will’ found in the sonnets.

The Portrait of Mr. W.H...more
Chad Schimke
The Portrait of Mr. W.H. by Oscar Wilde is a great compact little book. It’s not really a book, but more like a novelette. Longer than a short story, shorter than a novella. There are two pieces contained within. FIRST - The Portrait of Mr. WH. It advances the idea that Shakespeare’s Sonnets are dedicated to Willie Hughes (Mr. WH). The intrigue centers on a purported portrait of an effeminate male actor depicted in female roles. Not unusual in Shakespeare’s days, since only males were allowed to...more
Great little academic mystery peppered with Wildean wit. Recommended for anyone suffering a passionate love/hate relationship with literary criticism. Also, you will experience these lines in context:

"Martyrdom was to me merely a tragic form of scepticism, an attempt to realise by fire what one had failed to do by faith. No man dies for what he knows to be true. Men die for what they want to be true, for what some terror in their hearts tells them is not true."

"Or was there no permanence in pers...more
As with much of Wilde's fiction, this is less a story than an exploration of an idea. Here, the exploration has to do with obsession, the fallacy in much literary theory when someone wants to prove the point of their obsession, and how that obsession can disappear as quickly as it came once the idea has been shared with someone else. Perhaps others might find the ending sad or even tragic; I thought it was funny in its absurdity, which I venture to say is what Wilde was probably going for.

The lo...more
La Stamberga dei Lettori
Non fatevi ingannare dal titolo, Il ritratto di Mr W.H ha poco a che vedere con l'opera più famosa di Oscar Wilde, Il ritratto di Dorian Gray. Se il dipinto dell'eternamene giovane Dorian mostrava la vera natura del suo soggetto, quello del misterioso W.H. è una bugia costruita ad arte per supportare una presunta verità.
La verità è quella sulla misteriosa identità di W.H., l'uomo a cui Shakespeare dedicò i suoi Sonetti, presumibilmente lo stesso Fair Youth che il poeta ammira con tanta passione...more
The charm of this little short story mainly resides in Wilde's ability in turning a piece of literary criticism in a compelling mystery with gothic hues.

The mystery is known and is a real one: to whom were Shakespeare's sonnets dedicated? Who is Mr W.H.? The protagonists of Wilde's story sponsor the theory proposed in real life by eighteenth century critic Thomas Tyrwhitt, who suggested the sonnets were written for a one William Hughes, an actor in Shakespeare's company, according to our heroes....more
This might be obvious, but I’d definitely recommend only reading this book after perusing Shakespeare’s sonnets to at least some extent – both the poems themselves and the theories surrounding them. Wikipedia will do, I dare say! While relevant quotes and some context are given, they are assumed knowledge and brushed over as quickly as might be expected for a book of roughly 50 pages.

The story proposes what I believe to be a rather compelling theory of the true nature of the Fair Youth to whom S...more
Nikolina バタフライ Lamešić
Apsolutno odlična stvar! Uhvatih se kako prekopavam internet uzduž i poprijeko tragajući za podatcima o W.H.-u te okretanjem stranice po stranicu kojima mi je Wilde obznanjivao nove spoznaje sve više tonem u potragu dok mi želja za istraživanjem i čitanjem Shakespearea raste neminovnom brzinom. Ukoliko zaglibim u knjižnici sumanuto iščitavajući Williamove sonete i prtljajući po povijesti Elizabetanskoga razdoblja, kunem se da ne zamjeram nikome i ničemu. Štoviše, jedva čekam!
Fantastično oblikova...more
Viji (Bookish endeavors)
It feels as if I've done a week's sudoku in a single hour.. It was an interesting,puzzling read. Much more interesting and mysterious than the usual detective books even,I must say. The book is about the real person behind Shakespeare's sonnets,Mr.W.H. It has been a matter of debate for centuries.. This book leaves you with the puzzle still in your mind,it doesn't give you a definite answer. So most probably the next thing you do will be read those sonnets.
Je n'ai pas été déçue par ce texte-ci: j'avais peur de lire une étude assez terne, austère et très "professionnelle" en quelque sorte, mais ça tient davantage du récit, et ça m'a beaucoup plu. D'ailleurs, j'aime beaucoup la façon dont il l'a écrit: je l'imaginais tout à fait raconter cela de cette manière dans un salon, au milieu d'aristocrates et d'autres mondains. Je me suis laissée emporter par son récit et j'en venais moi-même à croire à cette théorie qui, malgré le manque de preuve matériel...more
Rachael Eyre
A clear forerunner to The Picture of Dorian Gray, this goes with the theory that the "onlie begetter" of the Sonnets was a beautiful, gifted boy actor called Willie Hughes. This being Wilde, there's ho yay aplenty, whether between the Bard and his purported muse, Erskine and Cyril Hughes or Erskine and the narrator. Indeed, the theory seems to act as a catalyst, forcing the men to acknowledge their inclinations.

While not in the same league as The Canterville Ghost (hands down my favourite Wildea...more
Abrar Alnasiri
It was a book that made each line wrote by shakespeare worth to stop at either to admire the passion it carries or to be considered as a part of the great mystery that is related to the great reason behind shakespeare's inspiration
A mini-book containing a short story and a poem by Oscar Wilde.

The Portrait of Mr W.H.
A story of three men's obsession with the identity of the man to whom Shakespeare's sonnets were dedicated.

The Ballad of Reading Gaol
The famous poem about a guardsman under sentence of death, written while Wilde was himself in prison.

I know not whether Laws be right,
Or whether Laws be wrong;
All we know who lie in gaol
Is that the walls are strong;
And that each day is like a year
A year whose days are long.
Magistral cuento-ensayo, un "drama filológico" en el cual el lector se sumerge en el misterio de descubrir la verdadera identidad de Mr. W.H., a quien William Shakespeare dedicó sus sonetos. Perfecta ejemplificación de esa capacidad de Wilde para poner lo ya establecido de cabeza con su manera única de ver el mundo.
Andrew Gaulke
A delicious dissection of the fallacies of belief and obsession. Those who think it is just about a literary theory miss the point entirely, it is about ideas, how they spread, how they take hold of the mind. Delivered with Wilde's sense of flair and beauty in language it is a thoroughly entrancing read.
Wilde and Shakespeare – what a perfect combination! While the book is indeed about Shakespeare’s Sonnets and the man behind the “fair youth”, it is also about the ideas and thoughts of Oscar Wilde. His witticisms shine through the entire essay, which makes it a fun if demanding read.
A delicious story by the always brilliant Mr. Wilde regarding the dedicatee of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Yes, this gives my love for metatext a big twitter.
Julie Rylie
never really got to finish it. B-O-R-I-N-G

it's perfect for someone who actually is really interested on shakespeare, otherwise, forget it.
INteresting look at Shakespeare's sonnets and who he wrote them to. It is still a mystery today!
Definitely not my favourite book by Wilde. If you don't have to read it, skip it.
Nicole Engard
The Portrait of Mr. W. H. (Classic, 60s) by Oscar Wilde (1996)
Teala Mangano
Teala Mangano is currently reading it
Jul 21, 2014
Gabriel marked it as to-read
Jul 08, 2014
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Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish playwright, poet and author of numerous short stories and one novel. Known for his biting wit, and a plentitude of aphorisms, he became one of the most successful playwrights of the late Victorian era in London, and one of the greatest celebrities of his day. Several of his plays continue to be widely performed, especially The Importance of Being E...more
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“No sooner, in fact, had I sent it off than a curious reaction came over me. It seemed to me that I had given away my capacity for belief in the Willie Hughes theory of the Sonnets, that something had gone out of me, as it were, and that I was perfectly indifferent to the whole subject. What was it that had happened? It is difficult to say, perhaps, by finding perfect expression for a passion I had exhausted the passion itself. Emotional forces, like the forces of physical life, have their positive limitations. Perhaps the mere effort to convert any one to a theory involves some form of renunciation of the power of credence. Perhaps I was simply tired of the whole thing, and, my enthusiasm having burnt out, my reason was left to its own unimpassioned judgment. However it came about, and I cannot pretend to explain it, there was no doubt that Willie Hughes suddenly became to me a mere myth, an idle dream, the boyish fancy of a young man who, like most ardent spirits, was more anxious to convince others than to be himself convinced.” 0 likes
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