Marie’s Musings:

THE BIG REVEAL (… but first, an Aside or Two!)

by Marie Delgado Travis

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That every word doth almost tell my name…. — William Shakespeare Sonnet 76

Before ”The Big Reveal” on the Shakespeare Authorship Question, let me “double” back to the Droeshout portrait of Shakespeare in the First Folio, Mr. William Shakespeares [note the lack of apostrophe] Comedies, Histories & Tragedies (1623).

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In recent posts, I discussed one of John M. Rollett’s theories in William Stanley as Shakespeare: Evidence of Authorship by the Sixth Earl of Derby (2015): that part of Shakespeare’s doublet in the First Folio portrait by Martin Droeshout is facing the wrong way!

Source: Wikipedia.
All images for Educational Purposes Only.

The lefthand side of the doublet (Shakespeare’s chest) faces forward in a traditional pose. But to our right, the view is of his back shoulder, with his arm moving away from us.

This reminded me of the motto of my alma mater, CCNY: Respice, Adspice, Prospice, which encourages us to learn from the Past, as we look at the Present, and towards the Future—plain enough, except that at least one of the figures, surprisingly the Present, seems to be blind. Upon further reflection, she has closed her eyes to “see,” as it were, with her inner eye. It is an allegory, a cryptogram, to be deciphered, in order to reveal its hidden meaning.

Seal of The City College of New York. Source: Wikipedia

There was also a seemingly “throwaway” reference in Ben Jonson’s tribute in the First Folio, ”To the Memory [emphasis mine] of My Beloved, the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare,” comparing Shakespeare, among others, to two ancient Roman poets / playwrights,“Paccuuius, Accius….”

Sadly, only fragments of Pacuvius and Accius’ works survive, underscoring the urgency to preserve Shakespeare’s work, particularly while the actors, and fellow writers like Jonson, familiar with his work were still alive to vouch for the First Folio’s faithfulness to the “originall” [sic].

But I also recalled reading that among Pacuvius and Accius’ distinctions, was their age difference. One was elderly, the other young, and they met on only one occasion—a literary “changing of the guard” between them.

Rereading classical accounts of that meeting, I realized it was precisely the kind of story that a man in his humor like Ben Jonson, would have relished—and not without mustard. I’ll paraphrase:

Upon being introduced, the older poet-playwright, Pacuvius, complimented young Accius on his work. But he couldn’t resist adding, “… although it’s still a bit green.”

The younger poet admitted he had a lot to learn, but said that at least his work wasn’t “overripe,” i.e., old-fashioned, decaying. Humorously, as a result of this acerbic “review,” Accius is considered one of the first literary critics.

Roman Theater. Source: Wikipedia

These and other “musings” led to the realization that Droeshout’s “bizarre” (as it is often described) engraving is actually a composite of two poet-playwrights— one younger and “emerging”; the other, a “time-honored” master of his craft, but departing, or indeed, departed— yet both writing under the same commercially successful pseudonym, William Shake-Speare.

This thought settled (— at least for me) a host of mysteries, some trivial, others of major consequence, e.g., the lack of apostrophe on the title page of the First Folio, “Shakespeares,” implying more than one; why Jonson states that Droeshout had a “strife with nature,” and struggled “to out-doo the life”; the patchwork quality of the portrait; why the figure in the portrait seems to be wearing a mask and to have two right eyes. I used to think that it might be a pun on tbe word righteous (“right-eye-ous”) and that may be true, as well. We are being taught by Droeshout and Jonson that things need not be “mutually exclusive.”

Above all, it explains some of the stylistic differences in Shakespeare’s work, a subject I’ve “mused” a lot about and hope to elaborate on in a future post. The key, however, is that we’re dealing in two’s, as the anagram in Jonson’s poem “To the Reader” seems to confirm:

I am grateful to for the underlying graphic. Markings mine.

Does that give the lie to Rollett’s contention that the actors’ anagram spell “William Shakespeare es [is][William] Stanley,” as discussed so insistently in my previous posts? — Not at all, because the actors are simply asserting that “William Shakespeare IS [William] Stanley,” at the time of the publication of the First Folio (1623). They’re not claiming that he always WAS Shakespeare.

So who could this second (and possibly primary) author of the Shakespeare canon be? Note that I am not ready to call them “co-authors.” I believe that a younger poet—a fair youth, if you will— was literally “heir” to an older writer’s “invention.

Could it be William Shaxpere from Stratford-upon-Avon? He certainly fits the bill in some respects: his name and association with the Globe, the theater built in part to present Shakespeare’s plays. Or is that simply not enough? What, after all, is in a name?

Will Shaxpere, and a number of authorship candidates, will be the subject of future posts, as the Muse dictates. But let’s hear what Ben Jonson has to say for himself.

As was the case with the list of actors, Jonson’s prefatory poem, ”To the Reader” is a cryptogram, with apparent references to William Stanley’s title, ”Derby” / “Earl of Derby.”

Are cryptograms valid? Well, if they weren’t, I doubt Lord Burghley and Sir Francis Walsingham would have bothered to employ codebreakers like Thomas Phelippes and Sir Francis Bacon [who wrote about “ciphersin The Advancement of Learning (1605) and De Augmentis Scientiarum (1623), and is considered, among others, Father of the Scientific Method, as well as of the Binary Code].

With Bacon’s validation of cryptography in general, let’s quickly review our previous findings in Jonson’s poem:

Derby Anagrams

As we can see, the very first and last lines form a kind of ”frame” around Jonson’s poem: derbi = Derby. We’ll point out other Derby “sightings” as we move along. But does Jonson refer to a second author, and if so, whom?

Believe me, it gives me no joy to reveal whom else is ”hit” (“hid” /“hidden”) in the poem. The person is not, as we say in Spanish, santo de mi devoción, “Saint of my devotion,” and I’ll divulge why eventually.

Yet one of the biggest compliments given to Prince Harry in Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part One comes from a character, Vernon, who considers Harry an enemy. Vernon’s praise, therefore, carries far more weight and credibility than if one of Harry’s friends had uttered it.

De Vere Anagrams

His name in almost every word, indeed! Here is a line by line analysis:

This Figure, that thou here feeft put,

Figure – ure = Vere, if the ”e” is repeated. If not, there are other letters “e” in the same or nearby line. This is true whenever I reuse a letter.

Note, too, that the letters u, v and w (literally ”double u” or “vv”) are interchangeable, e.g, IVLIVS = Julius.

thou here – uere = Vere

It was for gentle Shakesfpeare cut;

was for gentle – vvree = Vere

Note that the figure is literally “cut”— in two— as he is half one person, half another.

Wherein the Grauer had a ftrife

Wherein – vvere = Vere

Grauer – ruer = Vere

Note, too, Jonson’s pun: the “engraver” as “graver,” the latter suggesting that someone has died (— otherwise Jonson wouldn’t need to ”call” a grave-digger).

with Nature, to out-doo the life :

with Nature – vvure = Vere

O,could he but hauedrawne his wit

havedrawne (written together in the poem, thereby “drawing” our attention) – avedrawe = Edward de Vere

This “mention” appears physically near the center or heart of the poem. It’s also the first of two instances in the poem (by my calculation), that both names appear together:

but havedrawne his – bedrei = derbie = Derby

As well in braffe, ashe hath hit

well in brasse – vvere = Vere

The word “hit” evokes how the engraver ”sculpsit,” i.e., strikes with his tools to achieve (“hit”) the model’s resemblance (— or “dissemblance,” as in “pretense” / “counterfeit”— a composite drawing, in this case).

The word “hit” is similar to “hid” (a hard “d” sounds much like the letter ”t”), and the word is curiously followed by “hisface” in the next linethe words “merged” together like the two playwrights.

That is, “He” [the engraver, but also the graver, who deals in Death] hath “hid” / “buried” his [the true Shakespeare’s / Shakespeares’] face.”

(In the case of more than one Shakespeare, the singular word, “face” would be a synecdoche, a literary figure in which a part represents the whole).

The words ”as he” are also written together, resulting in “ashe”: ”ash hath hid his face,” i.e., Death / Mourning (“Remember, man that thou art dust …”), but also Repentance / Penance (e.g., “sackcloth and ashes,” Ash Wednesday).

In addition, ashes are also used to Disguise (in 1 Kings 38, 41, for example, a prophet hides his identity by applying ashes to his eyes / face (e.g., in the Great Bible, Bishops, Geneva and King James Bibles of Shakespeare’s general timeframe. The Catholic Duoay Rheims used “dust,” and most modern translations refer to “bandages.”

Hisface; the Print would then furpaffe

would then furpaffe – vvudeurae = Edward de Vere

All, that was euer writ in braffe.

euer – ever = Vere

Incidentally, every (excuse the pun) Vere ”sighting” is usually positioned near a word with a “th” in it, which may represent the ”d” in ”de Vere” (similar sound), but I won’t insist on that too much, at this time.

But, fince he cannot, Reader, looke

But, since he cannot, Reader – ueereder = de Vere

bieereder = Derbie, Derbee = Derby

Not on his Picture, but his Booke.

Picture – ure = Vere

Reader … but his Booke – redrbibe = Derby

Derby is William Stanley’s title. Is de Vere’s title, Earl of Oxford / Oxenford, in Jonson’s poem as well? While there is no letter X in the poem, it can be transliterated based on sound, and in fact, spelling rules in tbe printing trade weren’t standardized until the mid-seventeenth century, well after the publication of the First Folio, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

”O Rare Ben Jonson”
Speaking of word play, Jonson’s epitaph at Westminster Abbey can also be read
”Orare” (Pray)
Photo: Wikipedia

The well-educated, well-read Jonson certainly knew how Oxford was spelled— he was even granted honorary degree by both Cambridge and Oxford Universities— but he would not have wanted his anagram to be “too” obvious. We find, therefore, the following anagrams of de Vere and Stanley’s titles:

Title Anagrams

It was for gentle Shakefpeare cut;

tasforelskc = earl of ocksfort = Earl of Oxford

O,could he but hauedrawne his wit

oldebaudri – earl ov derbie = Earl of Derby

But, fince he cannot, Reader, looke

(s)fceatrdlokearl of ocksford / earl of ocksenford = Earl of Oxford, Earl of Oxenford

bfieaordl – earl of derbie = Earl of Derby

In summary, ”LOOK” is the operative word. You’ll find Edward de Vere’s name within Jonson’s poem, “To the Reader,” but also in the title of his above-mentioned poem, ”To the Memory of My Beloved, the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare.”

ervdaw = Edward de Vere

oerfldask – earl of oksford = Earl of Oxford

“Edward de Vere” is present, too, in the epigraph at the beginning of this post:

That every word doth almost tell my name….

aevrwd = Edward de Vere

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 76 (Published 1609)

But, oh dear, Derby may be lurking there, too!

Muses can be fickle that way….

In Jonson’s poem, “To the Reader,” however, the de Vere anagrams outnumber the Derby references 2:1, indicating that the former is the principal author. Born in 1550, de Vere was eleven years Derby’s senior (see Pacuvius and Accius above).

Blue = de Vere
Red = Derby

I purposely skipped a couple of interesting references, but will try to catch them next time. Hopefully, the point has been made: two anagrams would have been a coincidence, but so many is a calculated pattern.

Except where the two names overlap, the de Vere anagrams (in blue) tend to skew left, while Derby’s (in Lancaster red) generally skew to our right. This positioning is clever, if we visualize what happens once the book is shut, and Jonson’s poem and Droeshout portrait of Shakespeare “press” together.

The Derby anagrams (on the righthand side of the poem) would close directly over the forward facing (i.e., “alive” at the time of publication) portion of Shakespeare’s torso (the figure’s chest, lefthand side of portrait).


By contrast, the de Vere anagrams would cover most of the engraving, but in particular, that section of the body that moves away (departed / deceased).

And vero (in truth / truly), Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, whom some consider the true author of the Shakespeare canon, had passed away almost twenty years earlier, in 1604.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.
Source: Wikipedia

De Vere was survived, among others, by his daughter Elizabeth Stanley (née Vere), Countess of Derby, and his son-in-law, William Stanley, Sixth Earl of Derby.

Elizabeth Stanley (née de Vere), Countess of Derby. Source: Wilipedia

The de Vere’s family motto, Vero Nihil Verius, is generally translated as “Nothing is Truer than Truth,” though that deserves its own philosophical discussion at another time.

The English Secretarie by Angel Day (1586), featuring the de Vere coat of arms.

Then this is all as true as it is strange: 
Nay, it is ten times true; for Truth is Truth 
To the End of Reckoning.
— William Shakespeare Isabella, Measure for Measure, 5.1 [emphasis mine]

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Mo’ Musings soon!

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Marie’s Musings:


Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

by Marie Delgado Travis

In my previous post, I discussed— and hopefully added dimension to— John M. Rollett’s theory in William Stanley as Shakespeare: Evidence of Authorship by the Sixth Earl of Derby (2015), that the anagram formed by the actors’ names in the First Folio (1623) reveals the true author of the Shakespeare canon.

The first name, William Shakeffpeare [Shakespeare] is followed by nine actors whose last names end, “es [is William] Stenley [Stanley].”

Source: Wikipedia.
All Images for Educational Purposes Only.

Making an analogy to what Rollett described as the mismatched embroidery on Shakespeare’s doublet in the portrait by Martin Droeshout the Younger, also in the First Folio, I added that the remaining actors’ names are arranged in less obvious patterns, but provide Stanley’s title, “Sixth Earl of Derby.

Source: Wikipedia

Rather than repeat the entire exercise, I invite you to read the previous article below. It’s difficult to dismiss the actors’ “testimony.”

We’ll write more about William Stanley’s credentials in future posts, but there are two references to his ”penning plays for the common players” in the Calendar of State Papers – Domestic (30 June 1599), “clues” to be explored in due course.

Today, however, let’s return to Shakespeare’s strange aspect in the Droeshout Portrait, and the equally curious poem by “B.I.” [Ben Jonson], which faces it.


Puzzled critics have excused the portrait as the product of a young and inexperienced engraver. Born in 1601, Droeshout would have been about 22 years old at the time of the First Folio’s publication. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, however, states that Martin came from a family of respected engravers, goldsmiths, and painters, some of whom learned their trade in the Low Countries, before emigrating to England. Droeshout’s early work on the National Portrait Gallery’s website also demonstrates that he was quite accomplished.

I believe, therefore, that it was no “accident” that Shakespeare’s portrait in the First Folio is a bit, shall we say, ”le strange.” It was meant as parody, and indeed, a picto- or crypto-gram. After describing the picture in somewhat mocking terms, for instance, Ben Jonson concludes we shouldn’t even to look at it, which is precisely why we should examine it—and what he says about it—curiously.

Source: Wikipedia

I’ll let Mr. Jonson do most of the talking. Does he validate the anagram formed by the actors’ names in the First Folio? The answer would seem to be ”Yes,” e.g., in no particular order:


There may be others, especially if one considers a ”p” an upside down ”b” or ”d,” but as we say in Spanish, con un botón basta, ”a button is enough.”

Note that these examples are arranged from the center to the righthand side of Jonson’s poem. That’s perhaps because some rather interesting things are happening throughout the rest of the poem, beginning on the left.

I’ll start with perhaps the most interesting of all:

Now what do you suppose ”B. I.” (as in Two, Twice, Both) meant bi TWO and his silly couplets re Shakespeare’s doublet?

Hmmm …

To be continued ….

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Marie’s Musings:

WILL the REAL ”W.S.”


(Previously published as ”Enter Stage Right” and ”An Aside”).

by Marie Delgado Travis

Marie is an award-winning poet and writer, with Masters degrees in Literature, Fine Arts and Law. 

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[The] greatest matters are many times carried in the weakest ciphers.”— Sir Francis Bacon

In his 2015 book, William Stanley as Shakespeare: Evidence of Authorship by the Sixth Earl of Derby

… the late British scholar John M. Rollett called attention to a “revealing” acrostic in the list of “Principall Actors” in Shakespeare’s First Folio: Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories & Tragedies (1623).

The acrostic appears to reveal the identity of the real author of the Shakespeare canon— the true W.S.— and once seen, it can never be unseen.

Source: Wikipedia
All Images For Educational Purposes Only.

Let’s examine the list of actors and a few related considerations, step by step:

First, as Rollett noted, the actors’ names are not presented in order of ”rank.” Condell, for example, is almost an afterthought, although he should be featured near the top with his business partner, Hemmings.

At the ”head” of this shuffled arrangement of “Principall Actors” is “William Shakeffpeare,” a relatively minor actor, but presumably the author of the plays in the collection. But is he?

The two letters ”f” embedded in his name represent the letter ”s” (Shakes Speare, Shakespeare). But “ff” happens to be the abbreviation for ”folios following,” suggesting his relationship to the First Folio that “follows.” Folios are also “pages.” The double meaning of the word (leaves of a book, and servants / followers) invites us to look at what follows Shakeffpeare’s name on the list.

Shakeffpeare’s name, for example, is followed by nine actors, whose last names end in the following letter sequence:



(which might be read as ”is”)








That is, William Shakeffpeare (Shakespeare) = William Stanley, [Sixth Earl of Derby (1561-1642)]

2. Derby, you may recall, is pronounced Darby in England (e = a), and since the actors’ names were unlikely to end in ”a” or ”i,” minor letter substitutions were necessary.

Keep in mind that it isn’t just “anyone” making the above identification of Stanley as Shakespeare. It is—at least purportedly— the actors who performed Shakespeare’s works, living and dead. The actor / shareholder William “Shakspere”(as he seems to refer to himself in the perplexingly few and inconsistent examples of his handwriting that exist) had himself been dead seven years (1564-1616), by the time the First Folio was published (1623).

Source: Wikipedia

3. The first column of actors’ names ends with a decorative footer or ”trim” of three successive letters:




This triple ”e” design is almost mirrored at the foot of the second column, but a pesky letter ”n” gets in the way:





The result is still six letters ”e,” presumably for “Sixth Earl.But the intervening ”n” also forms nee / née from the French naitre (”to be born as”).

We are familiar with née to introduce a woman’s maiden name. But there is also a masculine form, né, e.g., writer-philosopher Voltaire (né François-Marie Arouet). Voltaire was his nom de plume (pen name), and if indeedthe pen is mightier than the sword,” it was also arguably his nom de guerre. Could ”Shakes Speare” have been a nom de plume / guerre, as well? We’ll consider that possibility in a future post.

Interestingly, the interloping letter ”n” is also present in the first column of the actors’ names, just not in the same vertical pattern we saw with “Stenley.” In fact, probably intentionally, it forms the shape of a ”knee.”




(né and née)

This insistence on ”birth name” suggests that the William Shakeffpeare on the first line is doing double duty. It subsumes the name of the actor Shakspere, but it also serves as a ”fictional” name for a hidden author, who perhaps is using the actor as a cover or “front man.” It was, after all, considered unseemly for a nobleman to write for commercial purposes, and playwrights and players were held as little more than vagrants and vagabonds.

Indeed, if we look closely at the strange portrait of Shakespeare by Martin Droeshout in the First Folio, we can see a curious outline around his face. The figure seems to be wearing a mask, which along with a “harlequin” effect mentioned by Rollett, suggests we are dealing with “theater,” or if you will, a carefully orchestrated “Comedy of Errors,” complete with doubles / doppelgängers (W.S.)

Source: Wikipedia

And it wasn’t that Droeshout couldn’t draw. Consider the detail in this engraving from the 1630’s:

Source: Wikimedia

4. There are other parallels between the list of actors and Droeshout’s odd portrait of Shakespeare in the First Folio. Rollet refers to a 1911 article by an observant tailor, who noticed “gaps”in the pattern of embroidery on the doublet and that in fact, one side of Shakespeare’s doublet is facing the wrong way. It seems to represent the back shoulder of the garment, rather than the front / chest.

We’ll have more to say about this curious effect at a future time. For now, let’s say that, like the differences in patterns in the two columns of actors’ names, the two sides of the doublet make an “IN-comparable paire.”

5. The second or righthand column of actors’ names offer a number of references to Earl / Earle / Erle (remembering that spelling had yet to be standardized), e.g.,

SAmuEL GiLbuRnE = Earl, Earle, Erle

WiLLiAm OstLER = Earl, Erle

Coincidence? We shall see too many examples below to call it that.

6. And although others have discovered the last name of the dramatist Edward Dyer in the second column, why not the place, Derby, which is more on point, given the first column’s Stenley / Stanley?






DYERD = Derdy

“Stenley” is written vertically and straightforwardly, so as not to be missed. But the second column simply follows a different pattern, not unlike Shakespeare’s patchwork doublet, in which there are irregularities, and sometimes, back is front.

7. Note how William Stanley, Sixth Earl of Derby, signed his name:

Thanks to Michael Prescott for preserving this image which had ”disappeared” from Wikipedia.

Since b = d, why not b = d, particularly given the constrictions posed by the actors’ names?

8. But if you don’t believe your eyes, look again:



DERDY = Derby

A derdy trick indeed!

9. The ”f” in Eccleftone serves a second function, as well. The ”s” in Ecclestone, of course, but also the ”of” in Earl of Derby.

10. Continuing down the list,



give us both the ”of” and

YRBED = Derby (this time with a proper ”B”)

— not to mention the title ”LORD,”as Earls were customarily addressed.

William Stanley’s full Coat of Arms
Source: Wikipedia

11. Again, looking curiously at




we see a number of combinations of Earl, Earle and Erle, including the imperfectly perfect




12. Humorously, the word ”Erle” is not only an alternate Middle English spelling and homonym for the title Earl. ”Erle” also signifies ”Bee,” the sometimes missing “B” in Derby.

13. But there is another clue regarding the author’s true identity in the list of actors. Richard Burbage’s last name—famous because of his role as both a leading actor and theatrical empresario— is purposely misspelled “Burbadge.” That is, he is wearing a ”badge,” as followers of noblemen wore to indicate their allegiance. And to whom is Burbage professing allegiance? Certainly not to William Shakspere, a lesser actor than himself. The cryptogram provides the answer— to William Stanley, the Sixth Earl of Derby.

Study the list and you’ll see that the ”Slye” comedian Will Kempe is well-“Kempt” on the occasion of the Folio’s introduction, and there’s even a “Taylor” in the procession— one who really needs to mend Shakespeare’s doublet. Sorry, love puns!

Richard Burbage. Dulwich College.
Source: Wikipedia
Will Kempe.
Source: Wikipedia

14. Badges, incidentally, were usually ”heraldic” in nature. But who can forget the passion and import of the white and red roses in William Shakespeare’s Henry VI Part One? Shakespeare’s War of the Roses trilogy is intimately connected with the Stanley family history.

Stanley—as well as his father Henry, and older brother, Ferdinando—also had a long history of involvement with the theater. More than patron, William Stanley is described in a pair of intercepted letters in the Calendar of State Papers – Domestic (June 30, 1599) as “busy penning plays for the common players”— all aspects we’ll delve into soon.

Scene in the Temple Garden by Henry Payne (1908). Source: Wikimedia

15. Speaking of heraldry, note the similarities between William of Stratford’s coat of arms (upper) and William Stanley’s (lower). One would think a writer would display a bit more creativity. Or was he honoring Stanley, too?

Shakespeare Coat of Arms
Stanley Coat of Arms

In reviewing the validity of William Shakespeare’s 1596 application for his coat of arms about a century later (ca. 1700), he is referred to as an actor, not as a poet / playwright, which is strange, wouldn’t you say?

Folger Shakespeare Library
MS V.a. 350 p. 28

Someone also famously inserted a comma in his motto, changing it from Non Sanz Droict (“Not without Right”) to Non, Sanz Droict (“No, without Right”). Was a cheeky clerk at the College of Arms also trying to tell us something?


Are we having fun yet? Oh, we’re just getting started. I’ve yet to tell you the rest of the story. More Musings soon! In the meantime … just a thought!

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