This 1850s painting by John Faed is known as Shakespeare and His Friends at the Mermaid Tavern and features a “Tudor hall of fame.” Shakespeare, seated in the centre dressed in black, resembles the First Folio engraving of him by Martin Droeshout. Ben Jonson’s biographer Gifford wrote that around the year 1603 Sir Walter Raleigh “instituted a meeting of beaux esprits at the Mermaid, a celebrated tavern in Friday Street. Of this club, which combined more talent and genius, perhaps, than ever met together before or since, [Jonson] was a member; and here, for many years, he regularly repaired with Shakespeare, Beaumont, Fletcher, Selden, Cotton, Carew, Martin, Donne, and many others, whose names, even at this distant period, call up a mingled feeling of reverence and respect.”
Is that Beaumont and Fletcher waiting in the wings for their turn on stage and Sir Walter Raleigh leaning on the “lovely boy” to Shakespeare’s left, the Earl of Southampton? There are far too many men sporting pointed beards to tell, but the best candidate for Donne is the head above and to Shakespeare’s right. However, there’s no evidence that Donne knew Shakespeare and it’s unlikely that these men of letters were ever in the same inn at the same time, let alone in the storied Mermaid Tavern. For more on what Shakespeare looked like, a good place to start is Stephanie Nolen’s book Shakespeare’s Face.