Shakespeare’s Skull? MIA
Shakespeare’s Head? Take a right where Panache used to be.
How odd it is that this April, as we celebrate the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, we learn that prior rumors and conspiracy theories may have been true — the skull of the literary genius may have been stolen from his grave in the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Archaeologists using ground penetrating radar over the gravesite — permission to excavate has been denied — have discovered that “His head end was completely different.” Radar cannot detect bone material but does reflect disturbed soil, results that these experts know how to interpret. Why would someone have stolen Shakespeare’s skull? (NYT 3.24.16)
The late 18th century marked the early years of phrenology, a pseudoscience that looked for clues to intelligence in the size and shape of people’s heads.
“There were a lot of thefts of famous people’s graves in an attempt to see why that person was a genius,” Mr. Colls said. “I imagine that Shakespeare would have been a very worthy target.”
From the recent PBS broadcast of “Secret History: Shakespeare’s Tomb” we learn that victims of this freaky trend included Jonathan Swift and Mozart.
Meanwhile, we have a Shakespeare’s Head right here in Providence. John Carter, a former apprentice to Benjamin Franklin, commenced printing of the colony’s first newspaper, the Providence Gazette, at this location in 1772. (Printing of the paper had begun elsewhere 10 years earlier.) According to architectural historian John Hutchins Cady,
The “Sign of Shakespeare’s Head,” carved out of wood and fancifully painted, was erected upon a high pole in front of the shop.
The former bookstore and post office is currently the Meeting Street headquarters of the Providence Preservation Society. Since the sign is no longer out front . . . Shakespeare’s head is now also missing! Probably in some college student’s dorm room.
(Don’t forget to visit the First Folio at Granoff through May 1st.)