William Shakespeare (1564–1616) is buried in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-on-Avon.
At least, most of him is.
In the 1800s there was a rumor that his skull had been stolen from his grave. That was dismissed as a myth for more than century.
But now, four hundred years after the bard died, archaeologists believe that claim is true. Using ground-penetrating radar to scan the grave, it appears that there is no skull with the rest of the skeleton. And there are signs that indicate the grave has been tampered with—“a mysterious and significant repair.”
Said archaeologist Kevin Colls from Staffordshire University:
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.”
[A local legend that a skull in a church in Beoley, 20 miles away, was Shakespeare’s has also been proven false. That skull belongs to a woman.]
The good vicar of Holy Trinity was not swallowing it:
We now know much more about how Shakespeare was buried. We are not convinced, however, that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that his skull has been taken.”
Whassisname’s grave actually has an inscription warning would-be thieves:
Good friend, for Jesus sake forbeare,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.
The warning seems not to have worked; some “cursed” one had the gall to appropriate WS’s skull.
Skulls, apparently, were worth collecting, especially those of geniuses. BTW, Shakespeare’s own Hamlet is depicted as holding a skull while musing on death.
Or, it may have been removed to be reburied with a loved one.
Said Chris Laoutaris, of the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute:
In an age in which high mortality rates meant that death was a far more vivid and ever-present reality than today, reacquainting oneself with the relics of the dearly departed in this manner may have seemed less strange, and was not in fact unheard of. The most well-known example is that of Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor under Henry VIII and England’s greatest humanist scholar, whose head was believed to have been lovingly preserved after his execution in 1534 by his devoted daughter Margaret More Roper.”
One thing is for sure: Shakespeare died. And is still dead.
Not many who died are living today, with a physical body that is. I know of only one.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received,
that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
and that He was buried,
and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time,
…; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles;
and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me [Paul] also.
1 Corinthians 15:3–8
And so, like Shakespeare’s missing head, Jesus buried body is missing—his tomb is empty!
To the women who went to anoint Jesus’s body on Sunday morning, an angel at the tomb said:
“Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified.
He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.”
He is risen! He is risen, indeed!