William Shakespeare Burton was an history painter, the son of the dramatist William Evans Burton (1802–60).
Burton studied at the Government School of Design at Somerset House, and then at the Royal Academy Schools. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1846 until 1897, and was a member of the Hogarth Club. Through his friendship with Tom Taylor he was offered work designing capital letters for Punch. In 1852 he won a gold medal for his Delilah Begging the Forgiveness of Samson in Captivity exhibited at the Royal Academy. His Wounded Cavalier (exh. 1856; Guildhall Art Gallery, London), which was well received by critics, was closely related to the sentimental historical subjects of John Everett Millais.
From 1868 until 1876 Burton lived and worked in Italy. On his return to England, ill-health forced him to give up painting for a time until the late 1880s. He later turned to religious subjects with some success.
Dibdin, E. Rimbault, ‘William Shakespeare Burton’, Magazine of Art, vol. 23, 1899, pp. 289–98; Gaunt, William, ‘The Lesser-known Pre-Raphaelite Painters’, Apollo Annual, 1948, pp. 5–9; Staley, Allen, The Pre-Raphaelite Landscape, Oxford, 1973; Parris, Leslie (ed.), The Pre-Raphaelites, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London, 1984; Elkan, Jenny, 'William Shakespeare Burton', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, http://www.groveart.com (accessed 2 August 2002).