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Shakespeare Connected - Shakespeare Among Readers

8. Portrait of Mary Harvey - Oil on oak - 1622

Mary Harvey was a relative of Dr. William Harvey, discoverer of the circulation of the blood. It shows a young lady in a black dress and hat with a lace collar and cuffs adorned with pearls holding a prayer book in her right hand. Prayer books contained daily prayers and devotional readings for private and communal use. Gentle women were often portrayed holding prayer books as a reference to their piety. The book she is holding is probably a copy of The Book of Common Prayer. The influence of this little book on Shakespeare’s work still needs to be further examined.


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