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Shakespeare died 400 years ago, but today more people than ever know his name, and his plays are among the best-selling works of all time. Shakespeare’s enduring fame was predicted by one of his playwriting friends, Ben Jonson. After Shakespeare’s death, Ben Jonson described him as “a monument without a tomb” and proclaimed that “he was not of an age but for all time!” The first edition of his collected plays in 1623, known as the First Folio, solidified this legacy, and original copies are considered to be some of the most valuable books in the world.

Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616, at the age of 52. He was buried two days later in Holy Trinity Church at Stratford-upon-Avon. The epitaph on his monument, written soon after, refers to him as a writer whose wit exceeds that of all living writers: “all that he hath writ / leaves living art but page unto his wit.” Friends and colleagues acknowledged the loss of the great writer in their own epitaphs and elegies, contributing to his posthumous role as a literary icon.  

All Documents

November 1596
This undated petition to the Privy Council signed by neighbors of a prospective playhouse in Blackfriars is one of three related documents, all in the same hand, among the State Papers in The National Archives:
ca. early 1600s
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
1616
The Shakespeare First Folio (1623) contains a list of “The Names of the Principall Actors in all these Playes.” At the head of the list appears the name of William Shakespeare.
after June 22, 1616
The registered copy of Shakespeare’s last will and testament is shown here. The original will was probated on June 22, 1616, and entered in the register shortly thereafter.
ca. 1616
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
June 22, 1616
The original copy of Shakespeare’s last will and testament was probated on June 22, 1616, and an entry in the parchment register, shown here, was made recording the date of probate.
post 1616
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
April 18, 1617
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
February 10, 1618
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1617- 1619
John Weever, a 17th century antiquary, spent approximately three decades gathering notes for his magisterial Ancient Funeral Monuments (1631). One of his surviving notebooks includes notes on Stratford-upon-Avon, with transcriptions from William Shakespeare’s funeral monument.

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