What does it say on Shakespeare’s grave?

On the banks of the river in Stratford-on-Avon stands Holy Trinity Church, the burial place of the greatest playwright in the English language, William Shakespeare

Photo of Holy Trinity Church

Although there is no official record of his birth, we know that Shakespeare was baptised on 26 April 1564 in Stratford, so the date commonly attributed to his birthday is three days earlier, 23 April. On this same date in 1616, Shakespeare died.


It is not known what ended the life of the Bard but according to the diary of the vicar of Holy Trinity Church, John Ward, he contracted a fever after a heavy night’s drinking with his friends, Ben Jonson and Michael Drayton. Before his death, he penned his final verse: his own epitaph.

Fearing that his body would be dug up – either by someone wishing to pilfer his grave for another body or by a souvenir hunter – his four-line rhyme is a curse on anyone who disturbs his remains. It reads,

Good friend for Jesus’ sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here:
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones.


It did the trick; his body has been untouched for almost 400 years. And lying next to him is his wife, Anne Hathaway – not to be confused with the Oscar-winning actress.

This article was taken from BBC History Revealed magazine