The Droeshout Etching
as a Revolutionary Renaissance Work of Art

An essay by WJ Ray


Since its first appearance as the frontispiece of the First Folio of Shakespeare plays, the Droeshout etching has been an embarrassing enigma. It is so repulsive, disappointing and idiotic, that no one has been able to explain why it prefaces an august and magisterial work of art.

On the contrary, the Droeshout etching is a masterpiece of Renaissance artfulness, whose purpose was obviously not portraiture but was meant to protect a sensitive truth about the author of the works of “Shakespeare”. That sensitive truth was fated to be discovered long after 1623: the name, title and lineage of the true author.

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