Impossible doublet video announcement

Watch this video!

Anyone who still thinks the First Folio proves William of Stratford wrote the works of William Shakespeare should watch this video, embedded at the right. The video shows clearly that the man depicted in the famous Droeshout engraving of Shakespeare in the First Folio is wearing an impossible garment! Once analyzed, it's clear that the engraving shows him wearing a doublet in which the right front is actually the left back of the same doublet shown on his left front. As explained in the video, this is not something that could have happened by accident. For some reason, the engraving was designed as a ridiculous caricature. Watch the video and see for yourself, and then please forward the link to others. Every Shakespeare scholar, student, actor and reporter should see this video. The professional production, narrated by Debbie Radcliffe, makes it very clear. Our literary “emperor” is wearing ridiculous clothes! Just look at him!

The Droeshout engraving

The best-known image of William Shakespeare is the iconic Droeshout engraving on the title page of the First Folio collection of his plays, published in 1623. The First Folio was an expensive production and an unprecedented tribute, so it has always seemed odd that its publishers included such a strange engraving. It is odd in several ways, as even orthodox scholars acknowledge. Most blame the young engraver, Martin Droeshout, and attribute the oddities to amateurish incompetence; but the publishers did not have to accept it and could have hired someone else for such an important project. The fact that they didn't implies they were satisfied.

Now we know that the oddities were deliberate and must have been required by the publishers to alert readers, right on the title page, not to trust what followed. In 1911, a tailor published an article pointing out that the right side of the front of the doublet (his garment) in the engraving is obviously the left side of the back. He wrote that it was “not unnatural to assume it was intentional and done with express object and purpose.” Since what is obvious to a tailor is not obvious to others, most Shakespeare scholars have ignored it; but now an analysis by Dr. John Rollett, a highly observant scientist, makes it much harder to ignore. Rollett's analysis* makes it clear that the doublet consists of the left front and left back of the same garment — a sartorial absurdity. The engraving depicts the author with two left arms! Rather than amateurish, it turns out to be a very skillfully-executed ridiculous caricature. “Shakespeare” is apparently being mocked!

The video concludes that “by clothing the figure in a ridiculous and nonsensical garment, the publishers were most likely indicating that the person ostensibly depicted, Shakspere of Stratford, was not the true author of the plays that followed.” Rather, the video asserts, the engraving “seems deliberately designed to alert observant readers, right on the title page, to be skeptical about taking everything in the Folio at face value, and to keep an eye out for other anomalies.” If so, there are in fact many other anomalies in the First Folio that call the attribution of the plays to Shakspere of Stratford into question, as has long been well known. For example, on the page facing the Droeshout engraving is a ten-line poem by Shakespeare's fellow playwright Ben Jonson addressed “To the Reader.” It begins:

This Figure, that thou here seest put
It was for gentle Shakespeare cut

Rather than a picture of Shakespeare, we see a “Figure” that was cut “for” him. A frontispiece engraving of an author should be of him, not a figure created for him. The poem ends by saying “Reader looke/ Not on his picture, but his Book.” Rather than affirming the authenticity of the engraving (its ostensible purpose), it undercuts its own message, telling the reader that the engraving should be ignored in favor of the plays, where the real Shakespeare is to be found. Since we now know the Droeshout engraving is in fact a ridiculous caricature, this interpretation has strong support. Jonson evidently knew the engraving was bogus, so he said to ignore it.

Orthodox scholars say no one questioned Shakespeare's identity until the mid-19th century (a claim that is totally false — several people hinted that they had doubts during Mr. Shakspere's lifetime), but here we have Jonson and the publishers of the First Folio undermining the attribution to the Stratford man right up front in the First Folio, ostensibly the strongest evidence in his favor. Nor does his coat of arms appear on the title page — an egregious omission. That could have been an oversight, but the “Impossible Doublet” could only have been deliberate. If there is any other way to interpret the engraving, we would like to know what it is.

Again, please share this video widely.

— John Shahan, Chairman, SAC

*Rollett's analysis appeared here in 2010, then in Shakespeare Beyond Doubt?, and in William Stanley as Shakespeare. Back to main text