Letters: 'Hamlet' Skull
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And now a little note on our story yesterday about Hamlet and human skulls.
(Soundbite of movie, "Hamlet")
Mr. LAURENCE OLIVIER (Actor): (as Hamlet) Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio.
BLOCK: That's Laurence Olivier playing Hamlet.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Yesterday, we noted that Jude Law is the latest actor to insist on holding a real human skull when addressing poor Yorick. He's currently playing Hamlet in London. We also mentioned that people have willed their skulls to be used in productions of Hamlet.
BLOCK: Well, J. Dennis Robinson of Portsmouth, New Hampshire wrote to point out the remarkable story of one of those skulls. He takes us back to the 1800s. Mr. Robinson writes: The most famous real Yorick skull prop still sits in the bedroom of tragedian Edwin Booth at the top floor of the Players', a men's club he established in New York City. Edwin reportedly inherited the skull from his father, Junius Brutus Booth. We should note, both of those Booths were Shakespearean actors.
SIEGEL: Our listener's story continues: Junius, legend says, was willed the skull by a famous thief known as Fontaine, with whom he once shared a jail cell. Fontaine was hanged, and at his request, his head shipped to the Booth family home in Baltimore. Mother Mary Ann Booth was apparently shocked on opening the package. But alas, poor Mary, she was even more horrified when her youngest son, John Wilkes, later assassinated President Lincoln. Edwin never spoke his brother's name again, but kept a photo of him in his bedroom, not far from Yorick's skull.
BLOCK: We called the Players' Club today to confirm that tale, and we just add to Mr. Robinson's account that on the skull is written the quote: "And the rest is silence."
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