Shakespeare’s grave is famous for having a curse as an epitaph on its’ gravestone which Shakespeare himself wrote. Relic hunting was popular in Shakespeare’s day, and Shakespeare was aware his status as a leading writer may have meant his bones would be dug up by one of the hunters. The curse on Shakespeare’s grave warns:
Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.
Shakespeare died on his birthday – 23 April – in 1616, the day he turned 52, and was buried in his local parish church, Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-on-Avon. It was unusual for anyone to be buried inside the church (rather than in the surrounding graveyard), and Shakespeare managed this by buying a tithe deed for £440 which gave him the right to have a grave in the chancel of the church, to be buried alongside other family members.
In 1621 Shakespeare’s son-in-law commissioned The Holy Trinity Bust – a monument to The Bard made by Gerard Jansen which stands above Shakespeare’s grave in the church. It was made while Shakespeare’s wife was still alive, so is generally thought that it is a good likeness of the poet. The inscription on The Holy Trinity Bust by Shakespeare’s grave reads:
Judicio Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem
Terra tegit, populus moeret, Olympus habet.
Stay, passenger, why goest thou by so fast?
Read, if thou canst, whom envious death hath placed
Within this monument: Shakespeare, with whom
Quick nature doed; whose name doth deck his tomb
Far more than cost; sith all that he had writ
Leaves living art but page to serve his wit.
Obiit ano doi [anno domini] 1616. Aetatis 53. Die 23 Ap.
Picture of Shakespeare’s Grave
Visiting Shakespeare’s Grave
Holy Trinity Church is open to the public, so anyone can walk in and visit Shakespeare’s grave. Be sure to check out the opening hours of the church before you visit: http://www.stratford-upon-avon.org/opening-times
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