Parting from this skull is such sweet sorrow.
William Shakespeare’s skull may be missing from his Stratford-upon-Avon tomb, scientists revealed Wednesday after the first ever archaeological study of his grave.
A ground-penetrating radar scan at the Bard’s gravesite in Holy Trinity Church seemed to confirm a long-dismissed 1879 short story about graverobbers who lifted the skull from the shallow tomb in 1794, according to British public TV station Channel 4.
Scientists scanned William Shakespeare’s gravesite in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, in a study to be broadcast on British public TV.
“We have Shakespeare’s burial with an odd disturbance at the head end and we have a story that suggests that at some point in history someone’s come in and taken the skull of Shakespeare. It’s very, very convincing to me that his skull isn’t at Holy Trinity at all,” said lead researcher Kevin Colls, a Staffordshire University archeologist.
Colls and leading geophysicist Erica Utsi also disproved a legend that claimed the true skull of Shakespeare is about 15 miles away at St Leonard’s church in the Worcestershire village of Beoley. Channel 4 will present the team’s research in “Secret History: Shakespeare’s Tomb,” set to air Saturday night.
The ground-penetrating radar showed an “odd disturbance” where Shakespeare’s skull should be, researchers said.
“The amazing project team, using state of the art equipment, has produced astonishing results which are much better than I dared hoped for, and these results will undoubtedly spark discussion, scholarly debate and controversial theories for years to come,” Colls said. “Even now, thinking of the findings sends shivers down my spine.”
The greatest writer in the history of the English language was laid to rest on April 25, 1616, two days after Shakespeare’s death at 52, according to Holy Trinity records. The bodies of his wife Anne Hathaway, his daughter and his son-in-law later joined Shakespeare’s at his hometown church.
Patrick Taylor, Holy Trinity’s vicar, praised the study but said he doubts there is “sufficient evidence to conclude that his skull has been taken.”
“We intend to continue to respect the sanctity of his grave, in accordance with Shakespeare’s wishes, and not allow it to be disturbed,” Taylor said. “We shall have to live with the mystery of not knowing fully what lies beneath the stone.”
Shakespeare was buried in 1616 at his hometown church, according to records kept by Holy Trinity Church.
The vicar referenced the grave’s famous inscription, which says, “Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear, To dig the dust enclosed here. Blessed be the man that spares these stones, And cursed be he that moves my bones.”
The famed gravedigger scene in Act V of Hamlet features the Danish prince talking about mortality while holding the skull of the late jester Yorick.
A circa 1600 portrait shows the greatest writer in the history of the English language, the playwright and poet William Shakespeare (1564-1616).
“Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft,” the lines read. “Where be your gibes now? You gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now, to mock your own grinning? Quite chap-fallen.”
With News Wire Services.
Follow on Twitter @tobysalkc
ON A MOBILE DEVICE? WATCH THE VIDEO HERE.