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The Portrait of Mr W.H.

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3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  772 Ratings  ·  49 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, 88 pages
Published February 1st 2003 by Hesperus Press (first published 1889)
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(showing 1-30)
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Gabriela Silva
Dec 14, 2015 Gabriela Silva rated it liked it
Shelves: classics
I had no idea what it was about. I really liked, it was a good time.
Michael
Feb 12, 2014 Michael rated it liked it
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
Mark Hiser
Jul 19, 2012 Mark Hiser rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition


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
Luís C.
From the mysterious dedication of Shakespeare's sonnets, Oscar Wilde imagine a forger of history.
Anecdotal but original enough to be read without trouble.


Teresa
Jul 17, 2010 Teresa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Irina Yankulova
Sep 27, 2016 Irina Yankulova rated it really liked it
It is not surprising that The Portrait of Mr. W. H., written shortly before The Picture of Dorian Gray, caused a scandal when first published. Although only 88 pages long, in this "part work of fiction, part literary criticism", Wilde argues in an incredibly witty, elegant and above all - convincing way (none of this is a surprise, of course) that Shakespeare's Sonnets are in fact dedicated to an unknown Elizabethan boy-actor called Willie Hughes.

According to the theory, Hughes was in fact Shak
...more
Chad Schimke
Aug 05, 2011 Chad Schimke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
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
Elizabeth
Nov 26, 2012 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
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
Julia Leporace
Dec 30, 2016 Julia Leporace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
" Morir por una creencia teológica es el peor uso que el hombre puede hacer de su vida, pero morir por una teoría literaria me parecía imposible."
Li Sian
Jul 31, 2016 Li Sian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a brilliant combination of short story and literary criticism (though, let's face it, the lit crit bit of it is... bad if you take it seriously as lit crit, fantastic if you take it as an example of reading from the margins, but I suppose that was Wilde's point really), with some really lovely quotes, on pretending to be in love--

So, at least, it seems to have been with Shakespeare. He begins by pretending to love, wears a lover's apparel and has a lover's words upon his lips. What does it
...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
Valetta
Jun 11, 2014 Valetta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sarah
This story has an interesting topic: the mysterious male subject (Mr. W. H.) of Shakespeare's love sonnets. This is made even mroe interesting if the sonnets in question are read for good measure to give more of a context to the whole things. However, there are plenty of the typical Wildeisms to go around as well as many allusions to the Bard.

I have seen a few reviews on here that have classified Wilde's short stories as more of an explanation of an idea rather than a plot-based story. This is
...more
Kimberly Carson
Jun 15, 2016 Kimberly Carson rated it it was ok
Apologies in advance to Oscar - you're still my bae.

I read half of this without being aware of the conspiracy surrounding the identity of the "W.H." to whom Shakespeare dedicated his Sonnets. When I thought that all of this was the work of Oscar Wilde, I thought it was about the most brilliant work I'd ever read.
After becoming aware that the conspiracy of Willie Hughes is old and has been built upon for generations by a plethora of academic "experts," I was disillusioned.
It seems Wilde has real
...more
Emily
Jun 02, 2014 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Amandine
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
Caidyn
Jul 16, 2015 Caidyn rated it liked it
Shelves: classics
This book was 50% Wilde and 50% Shakespeare. Except, with the Wilde, there was no screaming wit or cynicism that I loved, so it felt like I was having the low-fat Wilde. As I said in one of my status updates, this was just a huge crack theory about Shakespeare. I have no problem with it, but this book just didn't work for me. I had expectations coming into it with past experience of Wilde, and this was none of it. Really, it read like an essay most of the story, with characters tacked on at the ...more
Isabel (kittiwake)
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.
Ana J. Jesus
Jun 29, 2014 Ana J. Jesus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"A arte,mesmo a de maior alcance e mais ampla visão, nunca nos mostra o mundo exterior. Tudo o que nos mostra é a nossa própria alma, o único mundo que realmente conhecemos . E a alma em si, a alma de cada um, é para nós próprios um mistério. Esconde-se na obscuridade, a meditar, e a consciência não é capaz de nos revelar os seus planos. A consciência, na verdade, é bastante desadequada para explicar o conteúdo da personalidade. É a arte, e apenas a arte, que nos revela a nós revela a nós própri ...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.
Ivy Au
Jan 05, 2016 Ivy Au rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Basically, Mr. Wilde uses this story as a base to present his theories on Shakesphere and his connection with the mysterious Willie Hughes; or if Mr. Hughes even existed for that matter. I found the story rather dull, due more to the reason that I was not interested in his theories dealing with Mr. W.H.
Kirsty Grant
Jan 21, 2015 Kirsty Grant rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a quirky little book. I learned something about the might Mr Shakespeare and although this is a fictional story, its a lot of fun. As conspiracy theories go, I'm all for this one. It is a very short story so a very quick read and i would recommend delving into this book and bringing the fiction to life. Loved it.
Jarasari
Apr 24, 2011 Jarasari rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 11, 2011 Andrew Gaulke rated it it was amazing
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.
Andrea Patruno
Nov 06, 2015 Andrea Patruno rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, classics
Wonderful story about the never-ending research of truth. Through the pages you understand more and more the characters slowly connecting with their beliefs.
Lovely story with a simple morale of never stop believing in yourself and to keep pursuing the real truth.
Marina
Jun 10, 2016 Marina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entre enquête sur les Sonnets de Shakespeare et essai littéraire. Wilde fait des remarques très intéressantes sur l'esthétique et la beauté, la transmission, l'amour etc. C'est un livre petit par sa taille (145 pages environ), dense par son contenu.
Annett
Oct 11, 2009 Annett rated it liked it
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.
Konrad
Lo, lit. crit. is as hokum as fiction - not just as a symptom of osmosis, years and years belayed to " such stuff / as dreams are made on " - but the whole & wide endeavor itself, born on a passion's belief -- a scandal = das canal.
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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.” 1 likes
“The greatest events of life often leave one unmoved; they pass out of consciousness, and, when one thinks of them, become unreal. Even the scarlet flowers of passion seem to grow out in the same meadow as the poppies of oblivion. We reject the burden of their memory, and have anodynes against them. But the little things, the things of no moment, remain with us.” 1 likes
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