The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 16, 2014

Our Readers Speak — Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Investigate death of William Shakespeare

After 400 years, a deep “cover-up” still lingers: to preserve the lofty image of our bard, William Shakespeare, it has been necessary to assert that the bard was an unknown quantity. Like the ax which was taken to his mulberry tree at New Place (his estate), the hatchet used to attack Will’s reputation was wielded by extremists.

For examples: Delia Bacon, who championed Francis Bacon as the “real” Shakespeare, came from a family of New England Puritans; Thomas Looney, argued that the Earl of Oxford was the author of the plays, belonged to a proto-fascist sect called the Church of Humanity. So we find three tangled myths — that Shakespeare the “demi-god” existed; that nothing is known about Shakespeare; and the Alternative Authorship conflict — all coming into being against a backdrop (according to modern author Simon A. Stirling) of political, religious and literary jealousy and rivalry.

Buried at Holy Trinity Church on 25 April 1616 (age 53), he died, it is stated 23 April, the same day of his birthday. His grave, meant to not be disturbed, was a full 17 feet deep, and bore a curse to keep vandals away.

At a “merry meeting,” three poets met: Shakespeare, Ben Jonson and Michael Drayton; but only two would survive the night. Was it murder? No shots rung out, but what might have happened?

There were “wit combats” between mostly Will and Jonson (who was extremely envious of Will’s fame and fortune). It is said that Jonson was bested and this helped to inflame his not always silent hatred envy. Now time has mellowed their lives into fond affection. Time can lie.

There is thus a presumed murderer (Ben Jonson), a motive, and the means. Instead of dying from a “fever,” did the greatest genius of our literary language die from a blow, or blows, delivered to his face by a villainous rival? Now the inquiring eye of science would like to dig him up and compare his skull to the death mask that was done, in order to determine if foul play was involved. But skull and bones have vanished, and may be buried beneath a private family vault and chapel at Beoley (12 miles from Stratford).

So to settle the death of Shakespeare we need his skull. One might think that this whodunit mystery would be solved by forensic pathologists or some modern Sherlock Holmes! And will we ever know what occurred that most fateful night in a tavern? At least two poets took their guilty consciences’ (perhaps) to their graves. The dead tell no tales? Do you believe it. They speak epics!



Lonnie Bailey

Pineville