An odd disturbance at the head end
March 25, 2016 8:17 AM   Subscribe

Archaeologists who scanned the grave of William Shakespeare say they have made a head-scratching discovery: His skull appears to be missing.
posted by beerperson (59 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
ALAS POOR BILLY
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:19 AM on March 25, 2016 [115 favorites]


So...dare I ask, is this the end of zombie Shakespeare?
posted by Atreides at 8:19 AM on March 25, 2016 [16 favorites]


Maybe he never had one, and had to write amazing plays as a way to compensate.
posted by otherchaz at 8:20 AM on March 25, 2016 [35 favorites]


Check Hamlet's backpack.
posted by thivaia at 8:20 AM on March 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


(Fade in from black, close up of AGING WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE crouching on top of a speeding carriage)

SHAKE: I'm Billy Shakespeare, and this is Yon Mule!

(carriage speeds into tunnel that turns out to be slightly lower than expected)

(SHAKESPEARE is roughly decapitated)

(a giggling BAM MARLOWE rushes into frame, pointing at the head and saying "oh shit!" repeatedly while theme song fades up)
posted by cortex at 8:23 AM on March 25, 2016 [15 favorites]


Have they checked the Edward de Vere's grave?
posted by Bromius at 8:26 AM on March 25, 2016 [3 favorites]



ALAS POOR BILLY

this needs more favorites. I did my part.
posted by zutalors! at 8:26 AM on March 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


Check Hamlet's backpack.

Apparently, that Tales from the Crypt episode was a bit more prescient than previously realized.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:27 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


it's frozen in a jar inside the Matterhorn
posted by beerperson at 8:28 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


*squeals with delight* If I had the skills I would write love poems to Ground Penetrating Radar. It's so awesome! Only seismic reflection has a larger place in my heart for subsurface imaging.

Now GPR has discovered that one who did have the skills is missing his skull. How bonkers cool is that! That is the shit!

I don't know why this just feels me with delight but it does, like 2 things that needed to be brought together have been. Like I just witnessed the OTP I've never known I've always wanted: Shakespeare and GPR! *beams*
posted by barchan at 8:28 AM on March 25, 2016 [34 favorites]


And for those interested, this is one of the images they got (from the Guardian).
posted by barchan at 8:33 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


You'd think Will would have willed his skull to his theater company, like a guy named Tchaikowsky did In 1982. (Which, ultimately, didn't work out.)
posted by LeLiLo at 8:34 AM on March 25, 2016


Looks like he'll never be the head of a major corporation.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 8:35 AM on March 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


You'd think Will would have willed his skull to his theater company, like a guy named Tchaikowsky did In 1982.

He did leave them his "second-best skull," but unfortunately in probate that was deemed to just mean Christopher Marlowe's head. (OOOOH)

Anyway, the most interesting thing about this discovery is the strong support it offers for what have hitherto been thought farfetched antiquarian legends about Shakespeare getting into a climactic fistfight with Keanu Reeves on top of a speeding subway train.
posted by No-sword at 8:42 AM on March 25, 2016 [12 favorites]


What does this do for the urban legend that Shakespeare didn't actually exist and was in fact, Francis Bacon?

(Fun story, I was once recounting that legend to a few friends and accidentally said "Yeah Shakespeare was totally Kevin Bacon..... What? It's just an urban legend....oh"

I still haven't lived that down and it was 8 years ago.
posted by Twain Device at 8:46 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's something rotten in the state of Denmark.

(Surprise: It's Hamlet's grave robbing habit.)
posted by Deeleybopper at 8:51 AM on March 25, 2016


Have the missing heads of William Shakespeare and Robot Philip K Dick ever been seen in the same room together?

This is just the start, people. This is just the start.
posted by Devonian at 8:57 AM on March 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


Very little Latin, less Greek, and no head.
posted by maxsparber at 8:59 AM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


BUT TWO SKULLS IN MARLOWE'S GRAVE
posted by klangklangston at 9:04 AM on March 25, 2016 [11 favorites]


A couple hundred years ago, there was a pub in London called Shakespear's Head. Maybe they had it?
posted by njohnson23 at 9:06 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


That's not surprising at all. The big question is where did the rest of the body come from, since there never was a person named William Shakespeare to begin with, and his supposed literary works were in fact written by the Countess of Pembroke.
posted by Naberius at 9:11 AM on March 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


Clearly someone wanted the most metal Yorick skull possible.
posted by madajb at 9:12 AM on March 25, 2016 [6 favorites]




We have been here before. According to the Monthly Magazine in 1818:
Notwithstanding the anathema pronounced by the Bard on any disturber of his bones, the church-wardens were so negligent, a few years ago, as to suffer the sexton, in digging the adjoining grave of Dr Davenport, to break a large cavity into the tomb of Shakspeare. Mr ---- told the writer, that he was excited by curiosity to push his head and shoulders through the cavity, that he saw the remains of the Bard, and that he could easily have brought away his skull, but was deterred by the curse which the poet invoked on any one who disturbed his remains.
But according to another account, Shakespeare's skull had already crumbled away to dust by the time the grave was opened:
A few years since, as some labourers were digging to make an adjoining vault, the earth caved in, so as to leave a vacant space almost like an arch, through which one might have reached into his grave. No one, however, presumed to meddle with his remains, so awfully guarded by a malediction; and lest any of the idle or the curious, or any collector of relics, should be tempted to commit depredations, the old sexton kept watch over the place for two days, until the vault was finished, and the aperture closed again. He told me that he had made bold to look in at the hole, but could see neither coffin nor bones; nothing but dust. It was something, I thought, to have seen the dust of Shakespeare.
posted by verstegan at 9:15 AM on March 25, 2016 [12 favorites]


it's being kept alive in a cyrogenic vat where it continues to dictate more plays - unfortunately, willie's brain has slowly gone downhill and nothing he's written after "my mother, the car" has been acceptable
posted by pyramid termite at 9:19 AM on March 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


Oh whoops. My bad, forgot to put that back the last time I was in Stratford-upon-Avon. Next trip I'll bring it back - promise.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:25 AM on March 25, 2016


"They Saved Shakespeare's Brain" starring Vincent Price
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 9:27 AM on March 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


Haydn also might sympathize. As could paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope, although his wandering skull was partially due to his own design.

Looking for a link about Haydn's skull led me to discover this wonderful Wikipedia category page: Individual human heads, skulls, and brains. It appears somewhat incomplete, though.
posted by barchan at 9:28 AM on March 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


Someday, the Skull and Bones club is going to piss off the wrong person, and we'll find out how many important people's remains they have actually stolen, which from the boasting would include some of the worlds revered and famous. Whenever it comes out that a body of someone famous is missing a head, I wonder if they grabbed it to add to their collection.
posted by Blackanvil at 9:31 AM on March 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.
posted by telstar at 9:35 AM on March 25, 2016 [9 favorites]


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
posted by Gelatin at 9:37 AM on March 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


FWIW, Shakespeare still had his head when he was summoned from the dead to help a struggling TV writer in a Twilight Zone episode.

Sadly, the return of Shakespeare wasn't even the coolest thing about that episode as he was totally upstaged by Burt Reynolds as "Rocky Rhodes" doing his Marlon Brando impression. (Sorry, but I don't know how to link to a specific point in the video here, but the fun starts around 35:00)

What're you? A Tennessee knocker?
posted by Naberius at 9:46 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


unfortunately, willie's brain has slowly gone downhill and nothing he's written after "my mother, the car" has been acceptable

BITE YOUR TONGUE - STREETHAWK, COMPUTERMAN AND MANIMAL WERE BRILLANT!
posted by Smart Dalek at 10:00 AM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Do we have any idea how William Shakespeare's headless remains came to be wedged in these archaeologists' scanners or why?
posted by srboisvert at 10:03 AM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Argh, wish I'd checked Metafilter before doing this week's [spoiler] News Quiz.
posted by Flashman at 10:06 AM on March 25, 2016


Interesting conference where this is probably being discussed.
posted by Wordshore at 10:22 AM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


It drifts through the evening sky, trailing tendrils of ectoplasm, looking for Oxfordians to steal life-force from.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:40 AM on March 25, 2016


this wonderful Wikipedia category page: Individual human heads, skulls, and brains. It appears somewhat incomplete, though.

I saw what you did there.
posted by datawrangler at 10:46 AM on March 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


I like the play. It's just that you're deficient in the head division, to the tune of one.
posted by Mchelly at 10:47 AM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Look, I can't divulge any of the details of how it was extracted or the black magic rituals that it was used to invoke, but I think everyone can agree that Transformers: Dark of the Moon was worth it.
posted by graymouser at 10:47 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


It goes to show that writing plays is a tough racket. A guy just can't get a head.
posted by mule98J at 11:00 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I hope we find out Bertolt Brecht or whoever is missing his ribcage next, and it turns out somebody is out there building an undead playwright Voltron
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:02 AM on March 25, 2016 [22 favorites]


You'd think Will would have willed his skull to his theater company

You're making me want to rewatch Slings and Arrows.
posted by thivaia at 11:41 AM on March 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


Shakespeare's head has been stolen by a sociopathic technical genius and wired up to control a spacecraft. It has assembled a ragtag crew of rogues and castaways, and is prowling the galaxy looking for ways to strike back at, and ultimately overthrow, the oppressive interplanetary government (led by the enigmatic Walsingham AI). Season 1 starts this fall: look out for SHAKES 7.
posted by Pallas Athena at 12:00 PM on March 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


HEADLESS MAN FOUND IN TOPLESS BARD
posted by chavenet at 12:25 PM on March 25, 2016 [36 favorites]


That skull had a tongue in it, and could sing once
posted by Wallace Shawn at 1:27 PM on March 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


a giggling BAM MARLOWE rushes into frame

...with a dagger still sticking out of his eye from the previous scene.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:21 PM on March 25, 2016


The Skull and Bones society stole it in 1948, the members who went on to be Presidents have been inflicting Shakespeare's curse on America ever since.
posted by benzenedream at 4:02 PM on March 25, 2016


You people are just snarking and snarking and none of you are helping to look for it.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 4:07 PM on March 25, 2016 [9 favorites]


If I had the skills I would write love poems to Ground Penetrating Radar
barchan, I'm certainly no Shakespeare and I haven't used GPR very much, but, well, I couldn't resist.

In ages path the surface of the Earth
Presented an impenetrable veil
Myriad secrets of enormous worth
Hid deep beneath the dirt of hill and dale

But underneath the penetrating rays
Of radar waves, the ground is as the air
Sand, soil and rock are swept aside like haze
Their structure and their contents all laid bare

The layered histories of a great ice sheet
The twisting contours of a hidden cave
The conduits beneath a city street
And now, still sleeping in his ancient grave

The greatest bones to e'er be GPR'd
The headless body of the peerless Bard.
posted by fermion at 4:18 PM on March 25, 2016 [9 favorites]


barchan: "If I had the skills I would write love poems to Ground Penetrating Radar. It's so awesome! Only seismic reflection has a larger place in my heart for subsurface imaging. "

Heh, clearly you and I have had to deal with entirely different results with GPR. The poems I would write about GPR would mostly be along the lines of "So much money spent, such terrible results in return!" -- except they'd rhyme, of course.
posted by barnacles at 5:47 PM on March 25, 2016


FWIW, njohnson23, there are at least three or four pubs in London called The Shakespeare's Head.
posted by motty at 7:58 PM on March 25, 2016


It was removed because nobody could deal with the forehead ridges.
posted by stevis23 at 8:32 PM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


He willed his second best bed to his wife. Find out who got his best bed and you'll find his head.
posted by b33j at 8:57 PM on March 25, 2016


Someone call The Library!
posted by Mezentian at 6:56 AM on March 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


>A couple hundred years ago, there was a pub in London called Shakespear's Head. Maybe they had it?

There still is a pub called the Shakespeare's Head in London (possibly more than one). It's a Wetherspoons and one of the funny things about it is a large group of deaf people meet there from time to time, so occasionally you walk in and it's just an awful lot quieter than you would expect.
posted by Cassettevetes at 7:35 AM on March 26, 2016


Ben Jonson is often connected to Shakespeare's grave - both via his eulogy in the first folio and also he is thought by some to have written the verses on the monument by the tomb containing Shakespeare's bust. So here's one for the conspiracy theorists:
CAR. But have you arms, have you arms?

SOG. I’faith, I thank them; I can write myself gentleman now; here’s my patent, it cost me thirty pound, by this breath.

PUNT. A very fair coat, well charged, and full of armory.

SOG. Nay, it has as much variety of colours in it, as you have seen a coat have; how like you the crest, sir?

PUNT. I understand it not well, what is’t?

SOG. Marry, sir, it is your boar without a head, rampant. A boar without a head, that’s very rare!

CAR. Ay, and rampant too! troth, I commend the herald’s wit, he has decyphered him well: a swine without a head, without brain, wit, anything indeed, ramping to gentility. You can blazon the rest, signior, can you not?

SOG. O, ay, I have it in writing here of purpose; it cost me two shilling the tricking.

[...]

CAR. ’Slud, it’s a hog’s cheek and puddings in a pewter field, this.

SOG. How like you them, signior?

PUNT. Let the word be, ’Not without mustard’: your crest is very rare, sir.
posted by iotic at 12:32 PM on March 26, 2016


Note also that the monument can be interpreted as saying "the earth covers the truth", and that the "curse" on the tomb only warns against moving the bones - you may be blessed if you spare the stones but you're not cursed if you move them. I say we have a peek :)
posted by iotic at 12:36 PM on March 26, 2016


You can take that conspiracy theory stuff right back to the sub-par Dan Brown novel it belongs in.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:50 PM on March 26, 2016


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