Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University

THE FIRST FOLIO PORTRAIT


This is the engraving on the title page of the First Folio, done by Martin Droeshout, an artist who was 15 years old when William Shakspere died. The poem facing this page in the Folio, by Ben Jonson, instructs us: "Reader, looke / Not on his Picture, but his Booke."

Oddities include: the general plainness and lack of embellishment in the portrait, unlike most title pages of the period for productions of the caliber of this Folio; the strange disengagement of the head from the body; the right front of the doublet depicting what should be the left rear of the doublet; what some have determined are two right eyes; a chaos of shadowing and goofy perspective; and the peculiar line running from the left ear to the chin, designating no such anatomical line but suggesting a mask.



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