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How did Shakespeare Die?

Learn about the circumstances of Shakespeare's death and the curse on his gravestone.

Shakespeare's burial is recorded in Stratford's parish register on 25 April 1616. We do not know the cause of Shakespeare's death. 

He made a will on 25 March, almost a month before he died, in which he describes himself as 'in perfect health & memorie, god be praysed'. This was a typical phrase and does not necessarily mean he was not already experiencing symptoms of an illness which later proved fatal. This version of his will is, apparently, a re-drafting of one made in the January before, which could be taken as an indication of illness over a longer period. However, the Tudors placed some emphasis on making preparations for death, so Shakespeare could simply have been ensuring his affairs were in order in accordance with the conventions of the day. 

On Shakespeare's monument, still standing inside Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, we read that he died on 23 April. His gravestone, below the monument, does not bear his name, but was believed to be Shakespeare's from at least 1656, and is the first in a row which commemorates other members of his family. His gravestone reads, ''Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare, To digg the dust encloased heare, Blest by the man that spares these stones, And curst be he that moves my bones.'

Listen to our podcast 'How Did Shakespeare Die?' to hear experts discuss the rumours and stories surrounding Shakespeare's death, and other evidence about what his death would have been like.

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