William Shakespeare's body will not be disturbed

Why William Shakespeare’s Head May Have Been Stolen

William Shakespeare is widely regarded to be the most celebrated English playwright in the world, with his works being translated into 80 languages, including Klingon, the language used by Star Trek characters. Born in April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, William Shakespeare is credited for his significant contributions to the English language as we know it today, with approximately 300 words and numerous common phrases being ascribed to him. That said, he died on April 23, 1616, at the age of 52.

Shakespeare wrote thirty-seven plays, however, no one can know for certain. The types of Shakespeare's play was comedies, tragedies and histories. The 5 best known plays that Shakespeare wrote was ' Hamlet ' ' Romeo and Juliet ' ' Macbeth ' ' Julius Caesar ' ' Much Ado About Nothing '

A post shared by William Shakespeare (@__william_shakespeare__) on

On how he died, this is still a mystery, with numerous scholars attributing his death to ailments ranging from cerebral hemorrhage to fever, following a drinking binge with Michael Drayton and Ben Jonson, his close associates and fellow playwrights.

At a time, the average life expectancy in London was 35 years. And a melange of ailments such as the plague, typhus, dysentery, syphilis, smallpox, tuberculosis, scurvy, toothaches, and malaria drastically reduced life expectancy. William Shakespeare is considered to have done exceptionally well health-wise to reach such an age. William Shakespeare was buried at the Church of the Holy Trinity, Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom.

However, a puzzling discovery in March last year gave new credence to a centuries-old tale alleging that the playwright’s head had been stolen by grave robbers. This was following radar scans of William Shakespeare’s grave by archaeologists. The Argosy Magazine reported in 1879 that his skull had been snatched up, but this has always been considered to be a rumor as no one has dared, at least officially, to exhume his body for examination due to the ominous curse written on his epitaph. It reads, “Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forebeare, To digg the dust enclosed heare; Bleste be the man that spares thes stones, And curst be he that moves my bones.”

You can check out an image of the message here. The following was the statement offered by Kevin Colls, who led the investigation. “This is the first archaeological investigation ever of Shakespeare’s burial, and what we found was quite surprising… Our equipment could identify a change of material in the burial. It is very likely to me that the skull is not there.” This is as reported by CNN.

So, why would anyone be interested in William Shakespeare’s skull? Well, according to Colls, it was, during Shakespeare’s time, normal for people to seek the skulls of geniuses and popular people. This was so they could analyze them to try and find out what made them unique. According to the Argosy report, William Shakespeare’s head was stolen by a local doctor and his gravedigger accomplices in 1794. The report appears to be true as details correlate closely with the findings of the investigators, including the depth of the grave.

Phrenology, a field of study that was popular in the 1700s is said to have led to an increase in the demand for skulls. It involved studying the skull of a person in a bid to get insight on his personality and traits such as intelligence. Some “resurrection men,” who specialized in selling corpses to doctors and anatomists were reportedly so eager to make money that they didn’t wait for people to die.

William Hare and Brendan Burke, are two documented grave robbers who allegedly killed 16 people so they could sell their bodies to an anatomist in London in 1828. It is still worth noting that William Shakespeare’s missing head may never be confirmed. According to Rev Patrick Taylor, the vicar of Holy Trinity, exhuming his body for examination is not an option, and the sanctity of his grave will continue to be respected in accordance with his wish. This is as reported by the Guardian.

[Featured Image by Oli Scarff/Getty Images]

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