Church Stops Clergy From Digging Up 'Shakespeare Skull'

Clergymen wanted conjecture settled once and for all
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 22, 2015 1:10 PM CST
Church Denies DNA Test of 'Shakespeare Skull'
A detail of a portrait of William Shakespeare, presented by the Shakespeare Birthplace trust, is seen in central London, Monday March 9, 2009.   (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Like to size up the cranium that once held the brain behind Macbeth, Hamlet, and roughly 1,500 words we still use today? Well, it's bad news for you—and anyone who believes William Shakespeare's skull is lying under a small village chapel in England, the Birmingham Mail reports. Seems a clergyman at St. Leonard's Church in Beoley, Redditch, asked to have the skull there removed for a quick DNA test and saw his request denied. "The curiosity as to the skull at Beoley has no factual base whatsoever to justify exhumation, removal, or investigation," says church lawyer Charles Mynors, who issued the denial in a nearly 7,000-word report. "The whole enterprise is entirely speculative." Shakespeare scholars are on his side, but local folklore and two mysterious articles tell a different tale.

Dated 1879 and 1884, the anonymous articles claim that a doctor dug up Shakespeare's skull to win a reward offered by an art historian in 1769, the Telegraph reports. But after the doctor couldn't get his money, the skull was buried in a vault under St. Leonard's Church. With the Rev. Paul Irving's request for a DNA test now denied, area clergymen are licking their wounds: "There is this skull sitting there on its own and we would love to know who it is," says a reverend who oversees the Beoley church. "The problem for us now is that the failure to conduct a detailed investigation will result in a higher level of uninformed speculation." As it happens, Shakespeare's tombstone epitaph at Stratford-upon-Avon includes a warning against grave-robbers: "Bleste be the man that spares thes stones," it reads in part. "And curst be he that moves my bones." (Researchers have credited Shakespeare with a new play.)

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