Shakespeare Connected - Shakespeare Among Readers
2. Death and the Maiden - English School - c. 1570
The painting is an example of a Memento Mori. The skull, held out of her view but reflected on the mirror, is a reminder to the young and
beautiful lady that 'Death is the thing which is last in line' (Mors ultima linea rerum est). In front of her, two books - possibly music books - lie on a table. The open book suggests the rhythm and flow of life. The closed book suggests the closure that death brings. The inescapability of time and the certainty of death are constant themes in Shakespeare’s work.
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