Shakespeare's tomb in the church at Stratford-upon-Avon
Photograph Michael Best.

Shakespeare's burial is recorded in the Stratford Parish Register as occurring on 25 April 1616; he died on April 23.


The cause of his death is unknown. Some scholars have suggested that the signatures on his will indicate that he was already sick at the date of signing, 25 March 1616.

Shakespeare was buried on 25 April 1616 in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford, where he had been baptised just over 52 years earlier. His tomb, which lies beneath* the floor of the church inside the chancel rail, is covered by a stone* inscribed with a curse*:

Shakespeare is said to be buried 17 feet deep--further security for the sanctity of his bones!

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By the mid-eighteenth century, Shakespeare's original gravestone had sunk so far into the chancel floor that the town fathers replaced it with another stone bearing the identical inscription.

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It was common practice to open graves in order to make room for new burials, and to store the bones in the nearby charnel house. Whether or not Shakespeare composed the curse, it seems to have been effective--the charnel house has long since been torn down, but Shakespeare's bones have never been disturbed.

Several unsuccessful attempts have been made by scholars (mainly "Baconians") to have the grave opened.

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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.

Footnotes

  1. Deep burial

    Shakespeare is said to be buried 17 feet deep--further security for the sanctity of his bones!

  2. A sinking feeling

    By the mid-eighteenth century, Shakespeare's original gravestone had sunk so far into the chancel floor that the town fathers replaced it with another stone bearing the identical inscription.

  3. Why the curse?

    It was common practice to open graves in order to make room for new burials, and to store the bones in the nearby charnel house. Whether or not Shakespeare composed the curse, it seems to have been effective--the charnel house has long since been torn down, but Shakespeare's bones have never been disturbed.

    Several unsuccessful attempts have been made by scholars (mainly "Baconians") to have the grave opened.