William Shakespeare


Good friend, for Jesus' sake forebeare
To digg the dust enclosed heare;
 Bleste be the man that spares thes stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones


William Shakespeare is buried in the Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-on-Avon, Warwickshire, England. The church stands on the banks of the River Avon in a charming location.

Shakespeare's Grave
photo by Sinéad Kent

It is thought that Shakespeare was born in Henley Street in Stratford in 1564  – the son of John Shakespeare (a successful glove maker) and Mary Arden. He was christened on the April 26 – but it is assumed that he was actually born three days earlier on the 23 April. It is likely that he attended the King Edward VI Grammar School in Stratford where he would probably have received tutoring in Latin and Greek.

In 1582 he married Anne Hathaway – who was already pregnant at the time – and their daughter Susanna was born in 1583. The couple later had twins – Hamnet and Judith in 1585 - but unfortunately Hamnet died at the age of 11 in 1596.

By the end of the century, Shakespeare is known to have moved to London and was pursuing a career as an actor and a playwright. In 1598 he appeared in Every Man in His Humour by Ben Jonson and later he joined the Lord Chamberlain's Men working alongside the actor Richard Burbage.

Shakespeare, like his contemporaries Marlowe and Jonson, is chiefly remembered for his dramatic works - yet he was an inspired poet. His sonnet sequence - consisting of 154 separate poems - is arguably the finest collection of love poems in the English language. It is also one of the most mysterious as, even today, after intensive study, we still do not know the identity of  'Mr W. H.' ( 'the onlie begetter of these insuing sonnets') - nor that of  the 'Dark Lady' or young man who inspired them. His other major poems include: Venus and Adonis (1593), The Rape of Lucrece (1594) and A Lover's Complaint (1609).

Shakespeare's last play The Tempest was performed in 1611, though he collaborated on 3 others after that date. He probably retired to Stratford in 1613. 

It is said that Shakespeare contracted a fever following a drinking binge with Ben Jonson and Michael Drayton. It is also rumoured that, on his deathbed, he reverted to catholicism.

He died on his birthday - the 23 April 1616 (St George's Day) at the age of 52. 

Grave of Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

He had the honour of being buried within the Holy Trinity church chancel, because he was a lay-rector of the parish and not because he was a famous playwright. His wife and several other members of his family were buried alongside him. 

A bust of Shakespeare was made in 1623 by Gerard Jansen and can be seen in the church. It is said to be a good likeness as it was commissioned while Anne was still alive.

In 1740 a memorial statue to Shakespeare was erected in 'Poets' Corner', Westminster Abbey, London.

See also Shakespeare's Line.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which  alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever fixèd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring barque,
Whose worth's unknown although his height be taken.
Love's not time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
  If this be error and upon me proved,
  I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Sonnet 116

Read more of Shakespeare's poetry






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