Rest In Shakespeare


Shakespeare statue Westminster Abbey side view

The Westminster Abby encumbers the bodies of many famous historical figures dating back to the 1500’s.  Among these historical figures include: Queen Mary I, King Henry V, Katherine de Valois and Isaac Barrow. And although many bodies are buried in the Abby, there are also memorials and sculptures commemorating other historic influencers buried outside of London. As one heads towards to the South Transept of the Abby, the Poets’ Corner featuring William Shakespeare is found. Among the other poets featured in this corner include: Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Geoffrey Chaucer- all whom are internationally known and recognized.

Today, it is no surprise to find historic poets amongst British royalties and noblemen given the Brit’s vast appreciation in the arts and literature. Although William Shakespeare is buried in his hometown, Stratford Upon Avon, there is a strong devotion to him in the center of the Poet’s Corner where there is a large marble sculpture of him leaning on books and draped in fine clothing. As one arm is leaning against a pile of books, the other is pointing at one of his last passages in Prospero, which is believed to be “his farewell to the world”.  Shakespeare’s statue gazes right across where actor, Laurence Olivier’s tomb lies. The sculpture’s gaze symbolizes Shakespeare’s ( and the world’s) acknowledgement and appreciation of Olivier’s work in recreating Shakespearean plays.

Shakespeare’s work is globally known and recreated, meriting Shakespeare’s prominent presence in Westminster. Whether “to be or not to be” as richly dressed or appreciated when he was alive as he is now, we can see that this is made up through the detailing in his sculpture located in the Abby

Tea at Westminster

We were treated to afternoon tea with Anna from CAPA before our tour of Westminster Abbey. Inside we explored the tombs of so many English notables, and spent a good amount of time in Poet’s Corner. Dominating was the statue of Shakespeare, even though he’s buried in Stratford-upon-Avon. Poor Chaucer only had a little box.


Look at those healthy servings!

A Man Recreated Throughout the Centuries

Back within 16th century London, William Shakespeare was known as one of the city’s most successful playwrights. At this time though Shakespeare was very successful, he was not the most famous writer during this time (I know, shocking!) That title could have arguably be given to another famous writer at the time, Edmund Spencer who wrote the famous epic The Faerie Queene. But even though Shakespeare wasn’t the most famous writer during his own time, he definitely was from the 17th century up until now as  his memory and literary greatness is still recreated to this very day, whether it’s directors recreating his famous plays into movies, theatres recreating his plays on the communal stage, or putting his works into anthologies.

Our group had the amazing opportunity visiting Westminster Abbey ( which I may add is some of the best gothic architecture I have ever seen). It’s a shame that we couldn’t take photos inside, but within the abbey are the graves of famous Kings and Queens of England. But not only are Kings and Queens buried here, but famous writers such as Geoffrey Chaucer and theologists such as Charles Darwin are  buried there as well, not to mention all the dedications to many more of them on the floors and walls of the abbey. What was very peculiar to me when we got to a section of the abbey known as Poet’s Corner was the size and imagery of William Shakespeare’s memorial.

William Shakespeare’s memorial in Poet’s Corner had a full statue of himself leaning on a podium of books stacked upon the busts of faces that were probably famous Kings and Queens. This memorial is placed right in the center of other writer’s memorials such as Jane Austin, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats. Even though this is a beautiful dedication to the significance of William Shakespeare, a statue of this magnitude would have never been constructed for him during his time, as the statue was actually built in the 1741.

Whether it’s a production a theatre company is putting on, or a statue constructed in the halls Westminster Abbey, William Shakespeare’s legacy will seem to be recreated over and over again. It just goes to show that Shakespeare’s contribution to literature has immortalized him, 400 years after his death.

Four Hundred Years and Counting

It’s hard to believe that someone could still be making an impact 400 years after their death. Throughout London, I have seen glimpses of Shakespeare’s impact on England. Over the past few days in this amazing city, I have seen his plays recreated for young children at a local book market, banners of Shakespeare’s face on poles, and have seen countless tourists (myself included) snap a quick photo of the iconic Globe Theatre.

There is clearly a devotion to William Shakespeare here in London, and it is no surprise that he is also memorialized in Westminster Abbey, despite his being buried in his birthplace of Stratford-On-Avon. Many other famous writers are remembered in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster, such as C.S. Lewis, the Bronte Sisters, and Percy Shelley, but their shrines are nothing compared to Shakespeare’s.

Shakespeare’s shrine is a remarkable addition to Westminster Abbey. Although his memorial is surrounded by many impressive writers, Shakespeare’s is front and center and appears to be on a pedestal. Shakespeare’s figure leans against a stack of three texts, representing not only his wealth of knowledge but also his contributions to the literary world. He was the only member of Poet’s Corner to have a dedicated audio channel, and his remains were almost relocated to Westminster a century after his death. Also appearing on his statue are many faces, and his finger points to a scroll with text, symbolizing his importance and contributions to the written word.

It is undeniable that Shakespeare has had and will continue to have an everlasting on the literary world. Each year, his works are interpreted and imagined by those on stage, in classrooms, and in film reproductions across the world. His contributions leave me wondering if Shakespeare, himself, would ever believe that 400 years after his passing that his works would continue to be celebrated, appreciated, and memorialized in a location as iconic as Westminster Abbey. Despite the fact that there is no photography/video permitted within the Abbey, I know that his presence in London (and worldwide) will continue to be everlasting.

Shakespeare's Shrine Postcard Style

Shakespeare’s Shrine Postcard Style

Who Even Is William Shakespeare?

We all know the expression “Heroes live forever, but legends never die”, and I believe it is certainly valid to say William Shakespeare is quite legendary. An average, everyday man with broad ideas and excellent writing skills is still circulating around 400 years after his death. William Shakespeare created and published so many great works and language that it is still used prominently today. From his creations we have adapted and contributed to our own creations as to who Shakespeare was, and still is, to this day.

An example of this can be seen in his monument at Westminster Abbey. His memorial sits in the middle of the wall, far superior to size and detail than the neighboring ones, who were also phenomenal poets and authors. It seems, however, to mask the impurities of Shakespeare’s stature during his life. In a giant shrine dedicated to the worship and mourn of prior kings, queens, and other royalty, perhaps it seemed unfitting to portray the poet as his natural self during his life. This man deserved more for his legendary and everlasting accomplishments that came after his death, and Westminster Abbey recognizes that. Shakespeare’s legend is forever preserved in the way he was perceived as opposed to the way he was.

Other elements of the statue make it quite unique in its portrayal and efforts to recreate and preserve William Shakespeare. He is seen leaning on a pedestal, and on the pedestal there are multiple faces on it. Atop the pedestal sits a pile of books in which Shakespeare leans on, pointing to a piece of paper with a quote on it. It’s as though to signify that William Shakespeare’s words contribute to the knowledge we have today. His words and ideas have molded our thoughts, speech, and even language itself into its more modern forms.

The quote on the piece of paper William Shakespeare is holding is from the Tempest, and is believed by many to be a farewell to the world. The quote reads “The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind”(Act IV Scene 1). I believe this quote is chosen because Shakespeare was unaware of how much of a legend he would become. He feared that all his work, and the accomplishments he had, would diminish and fade. Yet, here we are, 400 years later, still learning and trying to understand and recreate his genius mind.