Alas, the Skull In Shakespeare’s Tomb Belonged to a 70-Year-Old Woman, Not Shakespeare

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Portrait of Shakespeare
The Bard. Photo: Corbis

Shakespeare, fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy, has been dead for almost 400 years, and for the last 200 his skull has been missing. As a Channel 4 (U.K.) documentary explains, the skull that has been nestled atop Shakespeare’s skeletal remains in his tomb belongs not to the Bard but to a 70-year-old woman, whose identity remains unknown, but she is definitely not Shakespeare. (Shakespeare is the new Grant.) Chris Laoutaris, a Renaissance burial customs expert from the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute, has hypothesized that a loved one may be responsible for the disappearance of the playwright’s skull, tearing a page out of Hamlet and stealing it to keep it away from treasure-seeking grave-robbers. In the old days, people were not as grossed-out by human remains; when Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor under Henry VIII, was decapitated, his loving daughter preserved his head the way someone today might keep a picture on their desk. Hey, David Koepp, we have an idea for that new Indy movie

Who Stole Shakespeare’s Skull?