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The following is an imagined account from the life of William Basse, a English poet who is best known for his elegy on William Shakespeare.


As soon as I heard that Master Shakespeare had died at his home in Stratford-upon-Avon, I thought he should be buried in the Abbey. After all Chaucer and Spenser are there, and it was only a few weeks since Francis Beaumont had joined them – a fine writer especially when he worked with Will’s great friend, John Fletcher, but look what Shakespeare accomplished – two great poems, a wonderful book of sonnets (even though it didn’t make much of a splash when it came out) – and all those plays! –histories, comedies, and above all tragedies – he was the greatest of them all. So I made the case in my little poem, and lots of people agreed with me and have told me that they copied it into their notebooks. Of course surly old Ben Jonson made fun of it in the poem he wrote for the big collected book of plays, but I still think Shakespeare deserved a place in the Abbey, whether along with his great predecessors or under a monument to him alone.

Anyhow, in case you haven’t read it, here goes: 

Renownèd Spenser, lie a thought more nigh 
To learnèd Chaucer, and rare Beaumont lie 
A little nearer Spenser to make room 
For Shakespeare in your threefold, fourfold tomb. 
To lodge all four in one bed make a shift
Until Doomsday, for hardly will a fifth 
Betwixt this day and that by fate be slain
For whom your curtains may be drawn again.
If your precedency in death doth bar
A fourth place in your sacred sepulchre,
Under this carvèd marble of thine own
Sleep, rare tragedian Shakespeare, sleep alone,
Thy unmolested peace, unsharèd cave,
Possess as lord, not tenant of thy grave,
That unto us and others it may be
Honour hereafter to be laid by thee.

Cast: Nic Fulcher, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

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