Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Curses That Worked 1: The Curse of Shakespeare's Tomb

'Hello! My name is Buffy. Ask me about curses.'
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer,  episode 1, Season 6

William Shakespeare was buried in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford, on 25 April 1616. His tomb  is still there, on the floor of the church with a stone which bears this inscription:
Good friend for Jesus sake forbear

To dig the dust enclosed here!

Blest be the man that spares these stones,

And curst be he that moves my bones.      
 Since the 19th century, there have been various unconvincing  attempts at 'proving' that Shakespeare did not write the works attributed  to him. No serious scholar accepts these arguments - see

In his biography of Shakespeare, Anthony Burgess notes that a common failing of the doubters is to think that authors know all about any subject they write about - thus because there is quite a bit of Elizabethan law in the plays - so the theory goes - Shakespeare must have had great legal knowledge. Not so, says Burgess - Shakespeare did what all writers do, he picked up a book, asked a friend.
Similarly with the curse. The people who believe that Shakespeare the Stratford resident was not Shakespeare the London dramatist point to this curse as evidence - surely Shakespeare would have had some high-flown wonder of a poem rather than a piece of doggerel? Again not so, says Burgess.
The quatrain is a tool - a curse used to preserve his remains. Graves were often opened and their occupants buried in less popular spots. Shakespeare's curse prevented that happening. Far form being the work of an amateur hand it is a brilliantly crafted tool - a curse that worked.
 For the problems of restoring the stone see

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