William Shakespeare - Westminster Abbey, London, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 51° 29.985 W 000° 07.636
30U E 699386 N 5709314
Quick Description: In the heart of Poets' Corner is a white marble memorial tableau to the great writer William Shakespeare. Shakespear is not buried in the Abbey but at Stratford-upon-Avon. The memorial was erected here in 1741.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 12/18/2020 11:18:44 AM
Waymark Code: WM13HFW
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member wayfrog
Views: 0

Long Description:

The inscription at the base of the statue reads:


Behind Shakespeare's head is a further inscription in Latin. It translates to:

William Shakespeare
124 years after
death by public esteem

The Westminster Abbey website has an article about William Shakespeare that tells us:

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was buried in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford upon Avon in Warwickshire. Shortly after Shakespeare's death there was some talk about removing his remains from Stratford to Westminster Abbey but the idea was soon abandoned.

But it was not until 29th January 1741 (1740 in Old Style dating) that a memorial statue to him was finally erected in Poets' Corner (although the Dean and Chapter had given leave to erect a monument to him back in 1726 at the request of John Rich. Perhaps funds were not forthcoming at this time).

The life-size white marble statue, shown in the dress of his period and wearing a cloak, was erected by the 3rd Earl of Burlington (Richard Boyle), Dr Richard Mead, Alexander Pope and Tom Martin. Charles Fleetwood of the Drury Lane Theatre and John Rich of Covent Garden Theatre gave a benefit to help raise funds for the public subscription. The monument was designed by William Kent and executed by Peter Scheemakers, and both signed it, with the date 1740. The Dean and Chapter of Westminster charged no fee for its erection.

The carved heads of Queen Elizabeth I, Henry V and Richard III appear on the base of a pedestal. The figure of the poet, about 5 feet 6 inches in height, stands with his right leg crossed in front of his left, leaning his elbow on a pile of three books (they have no titles). A chaplet (wreath of bays, signifying immortality) with a dagger (symbol of tragedy) and a dramatic mask are also shown above the head of Richard III. The group is in front of a pedimented architectural frame. William's left hand index finger points to a scroll hanging from the pedestal on which is painted a variant of Prospero's lines from The Tempest:

    The Cloud capt Tow'rs,
    The Gorgeous Palaces,
    The Solemn Temples,
    The Great Globe itself,
    Yea all which it Inherit,
    Shall Dissolve;
    And like the baseless Fabrick of a Vision
    Leave not a wreck behind.

Some of the black paint has rubbed off this inscription so some letters are now incomplete. The last but one line of the inscription appears in The Tempest as "And, like this insubstantial pageant faded" and the substituted line (which should be "And, like the baseless fabric of this vision") should head the quotation. It is not clear why this variation was used.

There is no other wording on the memorial. Originally there were railings in front of the monument but these were removed, probably in 1821. On the marble ledge between the feet of the statue the letters "T.T.1787" are incised. This is probably graffiti by a Westminster schoolboy, as there are many other monuments in the Abbey that were defaced by initials by boys at this period. The monument was last fully cleaned in 1997.

Several actors and actresses particularly known for their Shakespearian roles are buried or commemorated in the Abbey - David Garrick, Sarah Siddons, Sir Henry Irving, Philip Kemble, John Henderson, Hannah Pritchard, Peggy Ashcroft and Laurence Olivier.


With the re-opening of Westminster Abbey after Covid-19 lockdown photography, for private use, has been allowed in most areas of the Abbey when services are not taking place (see here). There is an entry fee payable to enter the Abbey that is currently £18 for an adult (December, 2020).

Location Type: Statue/Bust/Portrait

Property Type:: Public

Date of event:: 1741

Location notes::
Inside Westminster Abbey for which an admission fee is charged.

URL for Additional Information:: [Web Link]

If other, please explain:: Not listed

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