If one examines the first engraving presented of the portrait of William Shakespeare in the 1623 Folio publication of plays one will note there are several anomalies and incongruities in its execution and overall appearance. For example the eyes of the subject are clearly asymmetrical, that is he has two left eyes staring to the right, similarly the shoulders of the subject, judging from the seams of the jacket he is wearing, are the left hand view of the back shoulder and the right hand view of the front shoulder. Moreover, the face itself resembles an impassive mask with the line of the jaw from the ear as well as the accentuated hairline over the forehead suggesting a type of actor’s mask concealing what one must assume to be the real identity of the person. Printed by Isaac Jaggard and Edward Blount on the adjoining page to the first page it is described as follows:
Furthermore, the collar appears to resemble a semi-circular plate or some commentators have suggested an axe-head engraved with lines that suggest the initials T.T. several times. The initials are that of Thomas Thorpe who published Shakespeare’s Sonnets in 1609 but they are also a Masonic symbol secretly denoting a megalithic dolmen, the zodiac sign of Gemini, which rules writing and communication. While researchers studying the Folio portrait have not been able to find that style of collar in the fashion archives of Europe suggesting that its design and shape were deliberately concocted and could be a rebus for some secret message. In the Chandos portrait the figure identified as William Shakespeare is not only wearing an earring but also wearing a plain collar which clearly identifies him as a commoner. In Shakespeare’s time elaborate lace collars were solely worn by nobles of the aristocracy and laws existed to apprehend and prosecute anyone who attempted to wear anything inappropriate to their class or status.
It should be noted that the copper engraving was altered by Martin Droeshut or some other artist/s several times after it was first printed, then much later it was removed entirely from future print productions. The changes made by Droeshout are a decrease in the eye highlights, the superimposition of a shadow leading to the right which lifts and stabilises the head on the strange collar. Much later it was polished and toned to refine the features. Several examples were printed from 1623 to 1685 and now only four remain, one of which is in the Folger Library another in the Bodleian Library.
Aside from the 36 plays, the edition also contains a 2-page dedicatory address to the Earl of Pembroke, William Herbert and his brother Phillip Herbert, the Earl of Montgomery. There is an epistle dedication signed by Heminges and Henry Condell. This is followed by an address to the great variety of readers urging them to purchase the volume; again signed by John Heminges and Henry Condell, with the following page depicting a catalogue list of the 36 plays included and finally a two-page poem by Ben Jonson memorialising Shakespeare, his life and his work. Also included is a sonnet by Hugh Holland, two eulogies by Leonard Digges and someone who signs themselves I.M (possibly James Mabbe or John Marston?) and, as was quite common for the time, a list of the principal actors who played at the Globe Theatre.
The links to my publications “Shakespeare’s Qaballah”, a Companion to Shakespeare Studies and my anthology of poetry, “Pathenogenesis” are as follows: