What Does Shakespeare's Epitaph Read?


Quick Answer

William Shakespeare's epitaph 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." This epitaph is inscribed on a stone flagstone at the foot of the altar inside the Trinity Church, which is located on the banks of the River Avon in England.

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Full Answer

The warning contained within the epitaph appears to have been ignored, as his bones are no longer beneath the slab. This has led to speculation that they were stolen at some point, although they may simply have been carried away by the flooding of the Avon.

It is unknown whether Shakespeare himself wrote the epitaph. However, there are some clues that he may have done so. The epitaph makes its demands without any reference to Shakespeare's work. It has been suggested that anyone other than the playwright himself would not have made this omission. Scholars have also noted the similarities between the epitaph and some of Shakespeare's more recently discovered work, while at the same time lamenting its poor quality.

In a more figurative sense, the epitaph appears to imply Shakespeare's desire to be remembered for his work and not for the details of his life. There is a parallel with Antony's observation in "Julius Caesar" that "The evil that men do lives after them; / The good is oft interred with their bones."

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