Shakespeare Solved ®

Shakespeare Solved ® is a forthcoming series of novels that covers the Bard's entire life and work.

These novels solve the mysteries surrounding Shakespeare by transporting us back in time, to walk in his shoes, and see his world through his eyes.

Only when we see Shakespeare in his original historical context can we understand what his plays and poems really mean.

This blog explains some of my ideas and discoveries, to prepare for this series of novels.

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Articles Written For:

The University of Oxford's Bodleian Library & The Royal Shakespeare Company

Most Popular Posts:

1. Shakespeare's Shylock Solved 2. Shakespeare's Othello Finally Identified 3. Shakespeare In Love Sequel Solved 4. The Real Romeo and Juliet 5. Shakespeare's Malvolio Solved 6. Shakespeare's Real Petruchio

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Shakespeare and Daniel Day-Lewis

Why hasn't Daniel Day-Lewis done any Shakespeare on film?

You would think at one point or another that he would have participated in some Shakespeare film adaptation.

It is so easy to imagine him working with Kenneth Branagh and/or Ralph Fiennes.

I did some reading up on him and it came as no surprise that he did Shakespeare on stage -- he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in about 1983.

He played Romeo, and also Flute in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

In 1989, he played Hamlet at the National Theatre, directed by Richard Eyre. It was an uncut version of the play, and it ran about four hours long.

With Judi Dench as Gertrude

He was joined by Dame Judi Dench as Gertrude. Oh, they must have been terrific together.

As Hamlet

During a performance of this Hamlet, his emotions overcame him, and he couldn't go on. 

He didn't finish the run of the play.

For such a fine actor like him, it must have been quite a moment that brought on such an emotional response, and it must have been terribly excruciatingly difficult for him to decide against finishing the production.

Later he claimed in a TV interview that he had seen the ghost of his own father at that very moment. 

I'm not sure if we are supposed to believe this. I have a feeling that he was being provocative.

But I do find it interesting that he has never performed on stage since.

In any event, I think it is a crime that he has not done any Shakespeare since then.

Perhaps he has just not found the right Shakespeare to do.

I read recently that in 1991, Julia Roberts was going to play Viola in the film Shakespeare in Love. She insisted that the only actor who could play the part of William Shakespeare was Daniel Day-Lewis. 

But he was not interested. When she could not get him to do it, she pulled out of the film, which was set to begin only six weeks later!

It took several more years before Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes made the version that we know today.

I think he would have been remarkable as Shakespeare. But I have a feeling that he didn't want to portray Shakespeare as the film depicts him. He probably wanted to portray a more serious and dramatic Shakespeare.

And even though he has not done any Shakespeare in a very long time, he has done played many characters who are larger-than-life, and almost Shakespearean in their complexity and greatness.

Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York and Daniel Plainview in  There Will Be Blood come to mind.

There are so many great Shakespeare roles for him to play -- Macbeth, Richard III, Mark Antony in Antony and Cleopatra and/or Julius Caesar, etc. 

But I would love to see him most as Prospero. I think it would be something entirely unlike anything he has done before.

Also, when he is much older, can you imagine him as King Lear? That would be incredible.

But I would also love to see him in my Shakespeare Solved series of films, and seeing him in the world of William Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth, King James, and see how the plays were originally performed at the Theatre in Shoreditch and the Globe Southwark.

I ask you, is there a better actor for period movies? He seems to have an real passion for acting in different historical periods -- he must really enjoy living as another human being in a distant time and place for months on end. It’s a truly remarkable talent.

I think he would find the Elizabethan world every bit as fascinating as any other in which he has immersed himself.

There are several characters within this world that he could portray, but I would love to see him as one of Shakespeare's fellow actors, who eventually became the King's Men for King James.

I think he would find it a worthy challenge to communicate to us, the modern audience, the stories of struggle and sacrifice, triumph and failure of people like Shakespeare and his family and fellow actors.

I do hope that sooner than later he would lends his truly unique talent to doing some Shakespeare, and perhaps even bring my Shakespeare Solved series of films to life.

What do you think?

If you agree with me that he should do some Shakespeare, please show your support on facebookTwitterPinterestGoogle Plus or Tumblr.

Your support will really make a difference!

And your comments are always welcome!


David Schajer

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Shakespeare Globe's Dominic Dromgoole Muse of Fire Interview

I just watched a great interview with Dominic Dromgoole, the Artistic Director for Shakespeare's Globe theatre.

You can see it on the Globe Player -- here.

The documentary is part of the fantastic Shakespeare documentary, Muse of Fire -- which you can view on demand -- here.

Dominic Dromgoole at the Globe

Dominic Dromgoole is only the second Artistic Director since the Globe was established, after Mark Rylance (my thoughts on his own Muse of Fire interview here) and his efforts have made the Globe the largest Shakespeare organisation in the world, and he has brought it to new heights of success.

One of the greatest innovations from Dromgoole's Globe is the series of plays that have been filmed at the Globe, for distribution on DVD and in cinemas across the world. These are some of the very finest Shakespeare productions, and it is a real joy to see them, and watch them again and again.

You can see the Globe DVD shop -- here.

Or you can watch the plays on demand at the Globe Player -- here.

Roger Allam as Falstaff with Jamie Parker as Prince Hal
in Dominic Dromgoole's Henry IV

In this interview he talks about how he becomes "drenched in Shakespeare" while working at the Globe, and how overwhelming it can be to consider the history of Shakespeare, the history of how the plays have been performed, and all the academic work dedicated to Shakespeare.

Therefore, in order to make new productions of Shakespeare's plays, he has to be "brutally practical" and just get on with the job.

I thought it was interesting how he approaches each play, as if it is a newly written work, and he has to willfully ignore everything else.

It's very funny how he describes King Lear as if it was a brand new play -- a little rough, a little messy, but full of genius. Hilarious!

His approach to making the play modern, and accessible to a modern audience, is very interesting. I wish he had said more about this. 

Adetomiwa Edun as Romeo and Ellie Kendrick as Juliet, 2009

He is fascinated by the Globe itself, and he says that when they approach a play, often the theatre space itself helps to understand how the play should be performed, and gives him insights into why Shakespeare wrote the play and what the play means.

He also says that the theatre space emphasizes the audience.

This is a very important insight of his. When we see Shakespeare on screen, or in other theatres (especially when there are no lights in the audience, and the actors cannot see the people for whom they perform) we are disconnected from the play. There is a wall between us and the play. It is just not the same.

At the Globe, the audience is lit, and can be seen by the actors. The audience can also see how the rest of the audience reacts to the play. This creates an important connection between the audience and the performers.

There is more that can be done to bring the audience into the action, and I do hope that Mr. Dromgoole will continue to push the envelope.

Jamie Parker as Henry V,  2012

In his excellent Henry V (my review here) with Jamie Parker, there are moments when the audience is involved with the actors, and the action of the stage bleeds into the yard. 

These are great moments, but there should be far more. 

For example, in Act 3 Scene 7, when the Dauphin and Orleans, and the other French are gathered the night before the battle, there is a missed opportunity. 

There is really only one reason for these French characters to be on stage, as they brag about how they have the best armour and best horses, and how the English should "run away."

The reason for this scene is for the audience to hiss at them. 

Shakespeare's Elizabethan audience would have cursed them, and booed them, and thrown whatever they had -- apple cores, oyster shells -- at these arrogant Frenchmen.

Shakespeare must have realized that this moment is too good to do just once -- so he added another shorter scene, Act 4 Scene 2 -- which gave the audience yet another chance to vent their spleen at the French.

The productions of Shakespeare directed by Dominic Dromgoole are some of the very finest I have ever seen. He is clearly a very serious student of human behaviour, and his productions are very large-hearted. 

He reminds me of Frank Capra, whose attention to supporting characters are as important, perhaps even more important, as the leading characters. 

James Stewart's George Bailey, in It's A Wonderful Life, could not move you to tears of joy or sadness if it weren't for all of the other supporting characters.

Sam Cox as Pistol and Brendan O'Hea as Fluellen

Olivia Ross as Katherine, with Jamie Parker

When I watched Mr. Dromgoole's Henry V, he gave as much care and attention to Brendan O'Hea's Fluellen, Brid Brennan's Chorus, Sam Cox's Pistol, and Olivia Ross's Katherine, as he did to Jamie Parker's King Henry. 

This is unfortunately a rare talent to balance all of these characters, so we should consider ourselves very fortunate to have Mr. Dromgoole to interpret these plays, and as the custodian of the Globe.

I hope you watch this great interview, and continue to watch the other interviews produced for Muse of Fire, by Giles Terera and Dan Poole.


David B. Schajer

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Ian McKellen interview

Tom Hiddleston interview

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Shakespeare, Hamlet and "The Cocke Crows"

Happy Birthday William Shakespeare!

Today is the 451st anniversary of his birth!

In the last two years I have tried to do something special for the Bard’s birthday.

Two years ago, I encouraged you to make a Shakespeare Wish.

Last year, I solved the final pieces to the puzzle of the meaning of Shylock’s name. Yes, “Shylock” means “Shakespeare.”

This year, I have something very special to present to you.

Lately, I have been fascinated by Shakespeare’s fascination with birds.

Yes, birds.

The first reason is because Shakespeare’s name would have sounded like Shags-bird if spoken in his Early Modern English accent.

The second reason is because I recently solved the meaning of the name Malvolio, from Twelfth Night — who is constantly referred to as a stupid “gull” — which loosely translates as a “bird that can’t fly.”

Stephen Fry as Malvolio, with Mark Rylance as Olivia

So, this has become a very interesting area of investigation for me.

According to one Shakespearean researcher, Amanda Mabillard, Shakespeare wrote more about birds than any other poet.

It reminded me of the fact that a rival Elizabethan playwright, Robert Greene, insulted Shakespeare as “an upstart crow.”

It also reminds me of the wonderful researcher/blogger Sylvia Morris, who lives in Stratford-upon-Avon. 

She has written some very nice pieces (here, here, and here) about Shakespeare’s fascination with birds. She also seems to enjoy bird watching herself. 

From what she has written about bird-watching, it would seem that there is a long history of bird-watching in Stratford, and it would seem that Shakespeare had an unusually deep understanding and appreciation for birds.

Why would they fascinate him so much?

Perhaps it is because he loved Ovid, particularly his Metamorphoses, in which humans transform into animals — like “Nyctimene, Changed to an owl for her dark sins.”

Nyctimene “is so ashamed of herself that she will not be seen by daylight.”

Minerva transforms Nyctimene into an owl, Johann Wilhem Bauer, 1641

I can easily imagine William Shakespeare, seeing and watching birds every day of his life. With his observant and creative mind, he probably saw human characteristics in birds, and saw people who acted like birds.

And since he lived in such a rural area, before the modern world which has disrupted so much of the natural world and behaviour of birds, he would have heard birds. A lot. Like a rooster crowing at dawn.

I know nothing about birds, but I know enough that the morning belongs to them. I can hear them chirping and singing very loudly.

400 years ago, in Shakespeare’s lifetime, he would have seen, watched and heard birds in a way that most of us do not any longer.

He may have wondered to himself if the world was not in fact made for birds, and humans were just guests.

During Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, she was famous for her Phoenix portrait, and Pelican portrait. 

The Phoenix Portrait, attributed to Nicholas Hilliard, 1575

The Pelican Portrait, attributed to Hilliard, 1575

Shakespeare’s own Phoenix and the Turtle poem also compares her to the mythical bird that “symbolizes rebirth and chastity.”

The pelican symbolizes “self-sacrifice.”

In other words, Shakespeare lived in a time that was steeped in symbolism, especially regarding animals, including birds.

Not long ago, I explored the meaning of the name Portia, from The Merchant of Venice, and found that the name is derived from the Latin “porcus” or “porcius” which means “pig.”

So, was Shakespeare’s Portia good and merciful, or was she a gluttonous pig?

I recently saw a marvelous production of Merchant, where the actress Valerie Dowdle played Portia as a greedy diva. It works a lot better than Portia as a good princess.

With these thoughts in mind, I started looking at the plays for references to birds.

Immediately, Hamlet caught my eye.

In the first scene, the word “cock” meaning “rooster” is mentioned 4 times.

Shakespeare only used this word 31 times in his plays.

He used this same word 7 times in Hamlet.

The first time the word is written in Hamlet is in the very first scene, when the Ghost of Hamlet’s father appears:

“The cocke crows”

From the Olivier film of Hamlet

It struck me that this may be the one and only time in any Shakespeare play where he wrote — not as dialogue, but as a stage direction — a bird making a sound.

Is there another play where he wrote stage direction for a bird call?

Arguably the most famous bird in any Shakespeare play is in Macbeth, when Lady Macbeth hears the “owl scream” while Macbeth murders King Duncan.

But Shakespeare did not write any stage direction for the owl’s scream.

This suggests that there is may have not been a screaming owl. What if she heard a bird that was not there?

After all, earlier she says: “The raven himself is hoarse That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan Under my battlements.”

So, what does she mean when she speaks of birds?

Does she just likes to speak of birds, or is it something else?

In this dark psychological thriller, is she perhaps hearing bird sounds in her head in a dissociative manner similar to seeing blood stains on her hands that are not there — and similar to Macbeth’s seeing a dagger that is not there?

So, in Hamlet, why did Shakespeare include a rooster crow at all?

He could have left out any bird whatsoever.

Why was it important to have the Ghost appear at this time of the morning, the dawn, when the sun is about to appear?

Wouldn’t it make sense to have him appear at midnight? Or even a little later, when it is the darkest time of night, in the very dead of the night?

In the very beginning of Hamlet, Shakespeare seems to have created a riddle. He is challenging his audience to solve a puzzle.

Also, to make the puzzle even more challenging, when the play first begins, the clock has just “struck twelve” — midnight.

And then not long after that, about 130 lines later, a rooster crows -- marking dawn!

Of course, roosters can and do crow whenever they want, but that is in the real world. 

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is not the real world. Shakespeare is in command of the story, and it would appear that he decided to include the cock crow for a specific reason.

What makes this mystery a little more deeper is the fact that the word “cock” can also mean “God.”

Ophelia Goes Mad by Walter Paget

In fact, later in the play, Ophelia sings:

Indeed, la, without an oath, I'll make an end on't:
By Gis and by Saint Charity,
Alack, and fie for shame!
Young men will do't, if they come to't;
By cock, they are to blame.
Quoth she, before you tumbled me,
You promised me to wed.
So would I ha' done, by yonder sun,
An thou hadst not come to my bed.

“By cock” means “By God.”

“By Gis” means “By Jesus.”

In this moment, Ophelia is clearly mad, and even makes a bawdy pun at God’s expense, but it would seem that Shakespeare is drawing our attention to other meanings for this word.

Only one other time did Shakespeare use the word “cock” to mean “God.” In The Taming of the Shrew “Cock’s passion” refers to God.

Therefore, did Shakespeare want us to think of God when “The cocke crows?”

What religious significance does Shakespeare’s rooster have?

The first thing I think of is Peter’s denial of Jesus.

The Denial of Saint Peter, by Caravaggio, 1610

It is one of the most famous stories in the entire Bible, and would have been a very common subject in Elizabethan sermons. It was also the subject of much Renaissance art, such as Caravaggio's painting, above, which was painted only 9 years after Hamlet.

During the Last Supper, Jesus predicts that Peter will deny him three times before the rooster crows.

In the 1599 Geneva Bible: “I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before thou hast thrice denied that thou knewest me.”

There might be many reasons why Shakespeare included a rooster in Hamlet.

But it would seem that the most logical reason was because when Horatio, Bernardo and Marcellus talk about “the crowing of the cock” during a scene in which a Ghost is on stage, Shakespeare wanted his Elizabethan audience to think of Jesus, who was executed and who rose again.

But why?

When I wrote my version of Hamlet, I discovered how very political the play was when it was first written.

When we watch the play today, we don’t consider what it meant politically, in its original historical context. 

It’s a fascinating tragic drama, and has some of the greatest characters in literature and theatre. But that is just one level to the play.

My versions of Hamlet, Richard III and Merchant of Venice reveal the other levels to the plays.

When Shakespeare wrote and performed Hamlet for the first time in history, in late 1601, it was only a few months after the greatest political threat that Queen Elizabeth I faced in her long reign — the Essex Rebellion.

Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex

Her royal "favourite" the Earl of Essex, with 300 of some of the finest young men in the country, had tried to overthrow the queen and her court.

For his punishment, Essex was executed.

Essex had been Shakespeare’s friend and artistic patron. We don’t know how close they were, but it would seem that Shakespeare had been writing plays on behalf of and to politically promote Essex for almost his entire career to that point.

Essex appears again and again in Shakespeare’s plays — as Prince Hal and later as King Henry V, as Benedick, as Berowne, etc.


For many people, those people who knew him personally, and the public which adored this dashing, and heroic young man, Essex was the obvious heir to the queen, who in 1601 was 67 years old. 

By 1601, it was clear that her reign would not last much longer, and Shakespeare was like many people who believed that Essex, had he become a king, would “have proved most royally.”

After Essex was executed, the queen would “sit in the dark, and sometimes with shedding tears to bewail Essex" — like Nyctimene who was “so ashamed of herself that she will not be seen by daylight.”

Queen Elizabeth I, around 1601

In other words, night was falling on Queen Elizabeth’s reign, and Essex had represented the dawn of a new golden age.

But then he was executed.

I have a theory that Shakespeare, in his grief and fear and doubt about the future, channeled all that energy into writing Hamlet and performed it for the first time on the anniversary of Essex’s birth — 10 November.

If Essex could not have a public funeral, then Shakespeare's play would celebrate his life and his death, and serve as a funeral rite of sorts.

The Entombment of Christ, Caravaggio, 1602-3

So, why did Shakespeare put “The cocke crows” at the begging of the play?

Was Shakespeare creating an association in the mind of the audience between Essex and Jesus?

Jesus was resurrected. Shakespeare could not have meant that Essex would be physically resurrected.

But in the form of the Hamlet play that Shakespeare had written and was now performing, Essex would have a life beyond the grave.

Perhaps Shakespeare hoped that generations of audiences would remember Essex as they watched this play that would “Speak loudly for him.”

What do you think?


David B. Schajer

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Shakespeare and James McAvoy

Should James McAvoy do some Shakespeare again?

Of course!

He played Macbeth in 2013, and he played Joe Macbeth in Shakespeare ReTold in 2005, so it seems he likes Shakespeare.

But he should really do much more Shakespeare.

Of course he is very busy with his great film career, especially with his wonderful performance as the young Doctor Xavier in the X-Men films.

He will also soon be seen as Doctor Victor Von Frankenstein in a new film, co-starring Daniel Radcliffe and Jessica Brown Findlay.

As Macbeth in 2013

But what is fascinating about him as an actor are all of the less obvious films that he has chosen to make in recent years, like Filth, Trance, and Last Station, for example. He has a real courage as an actor, an almost a completely egoless desire to do interesting and diverse films.

I admire actors who challenge themselves like this. It is exciting to watch, since we never know what to expect from him in any given performance.

He also challenged himself once again by returning to the stage for the critically acclaimed run in The Ruling Class, also at Trafalgar Studios, and directed by Jamie Lloyd (who directed him in Macbeth). 

But what about James McAvoy and some more Shakespeare?

He would be great as Iago, Edmund although he would be fantastic as Edgar/Tom, Richard III, Petruchio and many more.

But what I would love to see him do is Hamlet. As much as Hamlet may be made too often, I think he would find a way to play the role that would be very unique. He has such a cunning intelligence that he would create a Prince of Denmark unlike anything we have seen before.

I remember when I first became aware of James McAvoy as an actor. I saw Rory O’Shea Was Here (2004) where he played a patient at a hospital who has muscular dystrophy. The film is well-made, well-acted and very moving.

But James McAvoy just jumps off the screen. Wow. His character, is in the tradition of Jack Nicholson’s R.P. McMurphy character in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), who is crazy but also the sanest man around. And James McAvoy had the same electric and charismatice intensity. You can’t take your eyes off him.

I have seen just about every film he has done since, and he never fails to entertain. 

One of the reasons why I think he has not done very much Shakespeare is because it is difficult to find a fresh and new way to do it. James McAvoy clearly enjoys a good challenge, and most of what can be done with Shakespeare has been done.

That’s why I think he should do some Shakespeare Solved.

It is not the same old Shakespeare. It is not a romanticized version of Shakespeare’s life and work. It is as real a story of the events of Shakespeare’s life as we may ever know — and it presents versions of the plays that decipher and unlock the meaning of the plays for the first time. 

Each film is a Shakespeare play, as seen for the first time in history, when Shakespeare and his fellow actors first performed them.

Imagine stepping back in time, time-traveling, and seeing the very first performances of Hamlet, Richard III, Othello

When we watch the plays this way, we can finally understand who the real Hamlet was, why Richard III was the play that launched Shakespeare’s career, and why Shylock is not the villain but in fact the hero of Merchant of Venice

With my forthcoming version of Othello, now we can finally understand why Shakespeare wrote the play, what it really means, and where Shakespeare got the name Othello in the first place.

Who could James McAvoy play in these Shakespeare Solved  film versions of the plays?

I would love to see him as one of Shakespeare’s fellow actors, as John Heminges, for example.

I think he would be fantastic to watch as he and other actors perform these plays, and bring them to life in a way that we have never seen before — because only when Shakespeare’s plays are seen in their original historical context do they make any sense.

But what would be even more exciting is if James McAvoy played the part of King James.

I think he would be amazing as brilliant and imperious King of Scotland who became King of England, and tried to unite the kingdom into Great Britain. He was called “the wisest fool in Christendom” and I can think of precious few actors who could capture that quality within the character of King James.

Also, the relationship between King James and Shakespeare has never been fully understood, and in these Shakespeare Solved films, we can finally see why Shakespeare wrote such classic plays like King Lear, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, and The Tempest,  for example.

I think for as courageous an actor as James McAvoy, this is exactly the right kind of challenge he would enjoy.

What do you think?

If you agree with me that he should do some more Shakespeare, please show your support on facebookTwitterPinterestGoogle Plus or Tumblr.

Your support will really make a difference!

And your comments are always welcome!


David B. Schajer

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Should We Open Shakespeare's Grave?

Should Shakespeare’s grave be opened?

Should we open it for the first time in history, and examine his remains?

Is there any good reason to open it?

Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon

In the days since King Richard III’s re-interring at Leicester Cathedral, there is a renewed request to open Shakespeare’s grave inside Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon.

There is one particular academic who has been calling for this investigation for many years.

Professor Francis Thackeray is an anthropologist and director of the Institute for Human Evolution at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and he would like to find out how Shakespeare lived and died, what he ate and drank, and if he smoked cannabis.

Did Shakespeare smoke weed? It is possible.

In the last few years, Thackeray has made some rather interesting discoveries about clay pipes which were dug up in the garden of Shakespeare’s house, New Place, that would suggest that the Elizabethans were experimenting with substances like cannabis and coca leaf (cocaine), to achieve health benefits.

Shakespeare's grave

As far as Thackeray’s desire to open the grave, he says “Given the extraordinary success of the study of the skeleton of Richard III, we recognise the potential of undertaking forensic analyses of the Bard.”

He says that the inspection could be done with great care: “We could … do high-resolution non-destructive laser surface scanning for forensic analyses, without moving a single bone.”

He goes on to say “Perhaps we may, one day, be granted the opportunity to study an extremely small sample of tooth enamel or dentine which could be analysed for DNA. Techniques for doing this have been developed, using extremely small samples.”

In a related and older interview, he also says that he would make a reconstruction of the body from the laser scan.

Also, Thackeray would like to examine the remains of Shakespeare’s wife, Anne, and his sister, who are also buried at Holy Trinity.

Perhaps the greatest mystery that such an examination could solve is Shakespeare’s cause of death, which is unknown.

Thackeray says his examination could result in a better understanding of Shakespeare’s health: “Growth increments in the teeth will reveal if he went through periods of stress or illness -- a plague for example, which killed many people in the 1600s.”

This proposal to examine his bones has some supporters it would seem, however reluctant, like Prof. Stanley Wells who was quoted by the Daily Mail “I would be happy if they did open it up because it could put an end to a lot of fruitless speculation."

Prof. Thackeray’s methods for examing Shakespeare’s grave and bones sound very reasonable and sound, even if his motives are peculiar. I too am fascinated by what could be learned from such an examination, but I could care less if Shakespeare smoked pot, or tobacco, or drank too much wine, or chewed his fingernails, etc.

I am sure that anyone who is allowed to disturb Shakespeare’s bones would do so with the greatest of care, and would never imagine doing any harm to his remains.

But if I recall correctly, as I watched the King in the Car Park documentary about the discovery of King Richard III’s skeletal remains, while an archeologist was digging him up she accidentally cracked his skull with her tool!

So you will excuse me if I am not impressed by claims that Shakespeare’s bones will not be affected by any examination.

I also think Thackeray’s comparison of the study of Richard III’s bones to Shakespeare’s bones is dishonest. King Richard’s bones were studied because they were lost, they were sought out and then discovered. Shakespeare’s bones are not lost. We know where they are. 

In my opinion, any examination of Shakespeare’s grave and bones is not archeology.

I am fascinated by the question of Shakespeare’s death. He was only 52 years old when he died. 

I would like to know how he died. But as curious as I am about every last detail of his life, work, and the world in which he lived, I do not need an answer. I think I can survive without knowing the answer. I have enough knowledge, and insight into his life, that I do not need an answer about his death. 

I have a rather good idea of what his last days looked like, and one day, hopefully sooner than later, I will share it with you. I think you will agree with me that mine is the most plausible explanation for his death.

Carved in stone covering Shakespeare’s grave is an epitaph:

Good frend for Jesus sake forebeare
To digg the dust encloased heare
Bleste be the man that spares thes stones
And curst be he that moves my bones.

It would be reasonable to assume that Shakespeare wrote this himself. Why? Because it is written "my bones." I doubt that another person would have used the word "my."

What did Shakespeare mean by this epitaph? It is clear that he doesn't want his grave opened.

I don’t think there is anything unclear about his desire not to have his bones disturbed.

Why did Shakespeare want to be left alone? 

Perhaps he feared that his bones could be stolen, for whatever reason. 

Many historical figures shared that fear. For example, Abraham Lincoln's body was almost stolen and ransomed by Chicago criminals, and was moved and put in a more secure place within his tomb. 

Also, Shakespeare’s lifetime was marked by enormous political and religious upheaval, with the Protestant Reformation, and the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Perhaps Shakespeare’s epitaph is a wish to find a permanent resting place in a country and a world that was increasingly impermanent.

I have a theory why Shakespeare wrote this epitaph. He did not want to be celebrated, in London’s Westminster Abbey, for example, in Poets' Corner. He did not want his bones in a tomb, for the public to see.

He had been a famous playwright and actor during his lifetime, and instead of seeking more fame, he wanted privacy.

He wanted to be buried in the place where he was born, where he fell in love with Anne, where he married her, where he built his home, where he raised his family, where he lost his son Hamnet, where he retired to when he was facing his death in 1616.

I have every reason to believe he loved London. I am sure the idea of being buried near Geoffrey Chaucer was very appealing to him.

But Stratford-upon-Avon was his home. That is where he wanted to remain. Forever.

William Shakespeare may have been a mysterious man while lived, and has become a very mysterious figure ever since. He never ceases to fascinate us.

But instead of prying into his grave and stealing a look at his bones to determine what he looked like and what he ate and drank, we should look to his plays, look to the history of his times, and create an image of the man that is fuller, and more meaningful.


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