No. 2: SEEING DOUBLET
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].”
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.”
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.
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?
To be continued ….