The Final Years


Shakespeare retired from writing around 1613. He moved back to New Place to take care of his business concerns and his family. On April 23, 1616, at the age of 52, Shakespeare died after what is believed to be a brief illness. Church records show he was interred at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 25th, 1616.


Shakespeare had put his will into its final form on March 25, 1616. There were gifts bequeathed to friends and neighbors; the poor of Stratford; and fellow actors Hemmings, Burbage and Condell to produce remembrance rings. After a bequest to Judith, who was now married, Shakespeare’s daughter, Susanna, and her husband, Dr. John Hall inherited most of his estate, including New House. John would effectively become head of the family upon Shakespeare’s death.


His wife, Anne, famously was left “...the second best bed…” This was most certainly not a slight on Shakespeare’s part. It was, in fact, quite a sentimental behest. One third of Shakespeare’s estate would automatically revert to his widow upon his death as a matter of course. The second best bed most probably referred to their shared marriage bed, as their “best” bed would have stood in the parlor for use by guests. This was a loving tribute to a dedicated wife and a long marriage.

Holy Trinity Church, which houses William and Anne Shakespeare’s bodies in its chancel (in front of the altar), is probably England’s most visited church today. His father John and his son-in-law John Hall are buried beside him. Here Shakespeare was baptized, worshiped and was buried. His children are also buried here. Shakespeare wrote the epitaph that is on his grave:

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.


A funerary monument to Shakespeare hangs on the wall just above his grave. Created sometime between 1616 and 1623, it is carved out of pale blue limestone and thought to be the work of Gerard Johnson, a Dutch sculptor. There is scant evidence of this (one mention in a book by Sir William Dougdale in 1656), however ,the Johnson family workshop was near the Globe Theatre in London, so the families could have know one another.


The monument contains a demi-figure dressed in a jerkin with a scholar’s robe. He holds a feather pen and a piece of paper sits on a cushion before him. The monument has been repaired, refurbished and repainted many times. It is said that the feather quill is replaced every year on Shakespeare’s birthday.


Both Leonard Digges (a contemporary and fan of Shakespeare and a man of sciences and poetry) and playwright Ben Johnson make mention of the monument to Shakespeare in their First Folio dedicatory poems:


...when that stone is rent,

And Time dissolves thy Stratford Monument,

Here we alive shall view thee soon.

Leonard Digges

Thou art a Monument, without a tomb,

And art alive still, while they Book doth live.

Ben Johnson

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