The Curse of Shakespeare’s Grave

Shakespeare was buried in Holy Trinity Church, his local parish church in Stratford upon Avon, in which he was also baptised on 23 April 1566, with Mr and Mrs Smith as his godparents.

It was not customary to be buried inside the church (rather than in the surrounding graveyard), but in 1605 one William Shakespeare, the son of a local glove-maker, had bought a tithe, a contribution of £ 440 to get the right to have a grave in the chancel of the church.
A tithe (so called because it was the tenth part of something) was paid as a contribution to the Church.

And now William Shakespeare is buried there between his wife Anne Hathaway and Thomas Nashe (his granddaughter Elizabeth’s first husband), near his son-in-law John Hall and daughter Susanna Shakespeare.

Despite his sudden demise, Shakespeare supposedly had the time to pen his own epitaph, which is carved into the stone slab covering the grave.

The verse reads:
GOOD FREND FOR IESVS SAKE FORBEARE
TO DIGG THE DVST ENCLOASED HEARE
BLESTe BE Ye MAN Yt SPARES THES STONES
AND CVRST BE HE Yt MOVES MY BONES

In modern spelling:

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.

In this epitaph he begged people not to disturb his final resting place and cast a curse against those who would dare to move his bones, in order to scare the numerous relic hunters or grave robbers who plundered England’s cemeteries at the time.
It was also a warning addressed to the sexton, a church official who in the ordinary pursuit of his duties periodically opened graves to make room for further burials. This was a common practice in Shakespeare’s day, when gravediggers dug up the bones of previously buried bodies in cemeteries and burned them to allow new inhumations. Not even the parishioners buried inside the church were left to rest there eternally.

Therefore, one of the reasons for writing this verse incantation was to avoid a possible eviction. The fact that Shakespeare’s stone was left in place suggests that the curse worked well, even with the compliance from parish authorities.
A lot of changes have been made in the chancel and many of the tombstones placed there for the people who had paid for the privilege have been moved or covered up. However, the five Shakespeare stones have remained in the same place since the mid-seventeenth century.

La maledizione della tomba di Shakespeare

Shakespeare fu sepolto nella Holy Trinity Church, la sua chiesa parrocchiale di Stratford upon Avon. in cui era stato anche battezzato il 23 aprile 1566, con i coniugi Smith come padrini.

Non era consueto essere sepolto all’interno della chiesa (piuttosto che nel cimitero circostante), ma nel 1605 un certo William Shakespeare, figlio di un guantaio locale, aveva acquistato una decima, un contributo di £ 440 per ottenere il diritto di avere una tomba nel coro della chiesa.
Una decima (così chiamata perché era la decima parte di qualcosa) veniva pagata come contributo alla Chiesa.

E ora William Shakespeare è sepolto lì tra sua moglie Anne Hathaway e Thomas Nashe (il primo marito della nipote Elizabeth), accanto al genero John Hall e alla figlia Suzanna Shakespeare.

Nonostante la sua improvvisa scomparsa, Shakespeare avrebbe avuto il tempo di scrivere il suo epitaffio, che è scolpito nella lastra di pietra che copre la tomba

Il testo recita:

BUON AMICO, PER AMORE DI GESÙ, ASTIENITI
DALLO SCAVARE LA POLVERE QUI RACCHIUSA.
BENEDETTO SIA L’UOMO CHE RISPETTA QUESTE PIETRE,
E MALEDETTO CHI MUOVERÀ LE MIE OSSA.

In questo epitaffio supplicava la gente di non disturbare la sua ultima dimora lanciava una maledizione contro chi avrebbe osato spostare le sue ossa, allo scopo di spaventare i numerosi cacciatori di reliquie o ladri di tombe che all’epoca saccheggiavano i cimiteri inglesi.
Inoltre era un monito rivolto al sacrestano, un funzionario ecclesiastico, che nell’esercizio ordinario delle sue funzioni apriva periodicamente delle tombe per far posto a ulteriori sepolture. Questa era una pratica comune ai tempi di Shakespeare, quando nei cimiteri i becchini scavavano le ossa dei corpi precedentemente sepolti e le bruciavano per permettere nuove inumazioni. Neanche i parrocchiani sepolti all’interno della chiesa erano lasciati a riposare là per l’eternità.

Pertanto, uno dei motivi per scrivere questa condanna in versi era quello di evitare un possibile sfratto. Il fatto che la pietra di Shakespeare sia stata lasciata al suo posto suggerisce che la maledizione ha funzionato bene, anche per in consenso da parte delle autorità parrocchiali.
Sono state apportate molte modifiche al presbiterio e molte delle lapidi collocate lì per le persone che avevano pagato per ottenere quel privilegio sono state spostati o coperte. Tuttavia, le cinque pietre tombali delle famiglia di Shakespeare sono rimaste nello stesso posto dalla metà del XVII secolo.

Image Wikimedia Commons, David Jones

66 thoughts on “The Curse of Shakespeare’s Grave

  1. So, without being able to read all your posts on Shakespeare with the attention they deserve Luisa, it seems to me that he spent as much time in Stratford-on-Avon as he did in London. In those days travelling between the two places wouldn’t have been that easy, so was he torn between his family life and his work I wonder.

    His brother Edmund is buried in Southwark Cathedral near to where the Globe Theatre was, and I wonder whether he lost the appetite for London or whether Anne Hathaway was the real love of his life. What do you think?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Another brilliant post which adds to the deep magick and mystery of the man formerly known as William Shakespeare! Thank you Luisa. Your Shakespeare themed posts are such fun to read and this was no exception. It’s all so curious! Love and light, Deborah.

    Like

      1. Oh, I hope you’re feeling much better as the day passes Luisa. Perhaps a couple of days of rest are in order for your eyes now? Or, I have a switch on my laptop which dulls down the screen down and reduces the light if needed, perhaps you could do this on your computer too? It may help your eyes recover from your operation. Sending much love and light across the oceans between us, Deborah.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve always thought Shakespeare must have a big tomb in a mausoleum kind of structure. I wonder why I got that image. It is so much better to have a simple tombstone.

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