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Alas, Poor William: Despite Shakespeare’s Warning, Was His Tomb Disturbed?
April 19, 2016  | By David Hinckley  | 1 comment
 

Most TV specials and documentaries on dark, troubling, long-unsolved historical mysteries end up like Geraldo Rivera’s infamous special on Al Capone’s vault: They ride in with a loud splashy come-on and end up revealing a great big fistful of nothing.

Shakespeare’s Tomb, a PBS production airing Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET (check local listings), does a little better.

While it doesn’t solve the mystery it lays out, it does preserve good evidence there is at least a legitimate mystery there.

Airing a few days short of exactly 400 years after the greatest playwright in the English language shuffled off this mortal coil, Shakespeare’s Tomb addresses one of the many intriguing loose ends about his life and work.

The inscription on his tombstone, presumably composed by the writer himself, ends with the ominous warning, “Curst be he that moves my bones.”

To modern ears, it sounds just plain weird. As Shakespeare contemplated the specter of death at the relatively young age of 52, was his biggest concern really grave robbers?

The experts here, who include archeologists and

historian Helen Castor, explain that in the early 17th century, disinterment was indeed an issue.

Grave robbing was not uncommon, with skulls often removed as mementos. Of what, maybe we shouldn’t ask.

Equally significant, because there seemed to be a shortage of cemetery space, people were often buried in a kind of macabre rotation. You’d stay buried for a w

hile, then a bunch of new people would die and you’d be

dug up and thrown away so they could have your space.

That may explain why Shakespeare and his family were buried inside the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford, or more specifically, in a burial vault under the church. That would tend to provide some security against relocation or intrusion.

But not total protection. It has been noted for centuries that Shakespeare’s tombstone was only about half the length of his body. This defied tradition and led to all manner of speculation, even before the Internet.

Reports began surfacing some years later that his grave had been opened and his skull removed, which of course is exactly what he didn’t want to happen.

It also couldn’t be confirmed, since Holy Trinity has resolutely followed his orders and rejected all requests to open the grave.

These days, however, archeologists can examine a grave with what’s loosely called ground-piercing radar. Radio waves ping back the location of whatever is in the grave. Or in this case, perhaps, what isn’t.

The radar trick gets approval from the church, since it involves no physical violation of the grave.

We won’t spoil the findings here, and in any case, the team stresses they are not definitive or conclusive. But something does seem to be potentially amiss down there under Holy Trinity.

The show’s conclusion: We won’t know for sure until equipment gets more sophisticated. But for once, a deep dark historical secret might really be a deep dark secret.

No disrespect to Al Capone

 
 
 
 
 
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1 Comments
 
 
Mike Conway
Could you alert us to the real reason Michael Strahan is leaving Kelly Ripa?
Thanks.
http://www.ew.com/article/2016/04/19/michael-strahan-good-morning-america-kelly
Apr 19, 2016   |  Reply
 
 
 
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