A Sketch of Shakespeare's Tomb Memorial Before Renovation
An illustration of Shakespeare’s original tomb memorial made in 1665. The man depicted is not a playwright but a dealer in bagged commodities.
Later, in the eighteenth century, the the tomb was changed, replacing the sack of grain for a book and putting a pen in it's fingers.
Such funeral monuments were erected to honor a deceased person’s professional standing and, as such, depicted him holding something associated with his profession. The present bust shows Shakespeare as a writer with a quill and paper. To the modern visitor it appears that Shakespeare was recognized as a playwright in Stratford at the time of his death. However, the church records reveal that this particular bust was not erected until 1748. It was commissioned by a theatrical manager named John Hall who wished to promote the tourist industry in the town. Fortunately, an illustration of the original monument still survives as an engraving in Sir William Dugdale’s 'Antiquities of Warwickshire' published almost a century earlier in 1656. Here there is no quill or paper; instead Shakespeare is shown with his hands on a sack. It seems he was being depicted as a dealer in bagged commodities - a grain merchant.