What Is Written on Shakespeare’s Tombstone?


Shakespeare’s gravesite in the Holy Trinity Church is marked with a cover stone bearing the inscription “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.” Many believe the inscription to be penned by Shakespeare himself. While the epitaph seems simply to be a curse, there are other interpretations of Shakespeare’s words.

In modern English, Shakespeare’s grave stone reads “Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forebear, To dig the dust enclosed hear, Blessed be the man that spares these stones, And cursed be he that moves my bones.” Many interpret these words as a simple curse against potential grave robbers. Others may take a broader stance and believe the curse includes his bones being moved to a charnel house. Charnel houses were vast storage facilities where many bones were moved after lying in grave sites for a period of time. However, this simplistic approach to Shakespeare’s epitaph does not satisfy many literary scholars. Alfred Corn, for instance, offers a much more in-depth interpretation of Shakespeare’s short, poetic epitaph in an article in the Hudson Review. Although the poem is not one of Shakespeare’s great works, Corn argues it is a work of Shakespeare and deserves as much literary analysis as his histories, tragedies, romances and comedies.