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  • William Dugdale on Shakespeare and His Monument
  • Tom Reedy (bio)

The influence of English scholar and herald Sir William Dugdale (1605–86) on the development of historiography is undisputed. Acknowledged as one of England’s foremost antiquaries, he set high standards for the study of medieval and local history sources, helping to establish both as academic subjects. His indefatigable industry, as evinced in such work as his three-volume Monasticon Anglicanum (1655, 1661, 1673) in collaboration with Roger Dodsworth, preserved many valuable pre-Reformation records that otherwise would have been lost. His History of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London (1658) is a unique window into the church as it existed before the 1666 Great Fire, and his Baronage of England (1675–76) remains a foundational text for study of the English peerage.1

While not as far-reaching or comprehensive, Sir William’s contributions to Shakespeare scholarship during the course of his Warwickshire research are not insignificant. He was an early reporter of attribution to Shakespeare of the Stanley tomb epitaphs in St. Bartholomew’s Church in Tong, Shropshire.2 His Antiquities of Warwickshire (1656), recognized as a model county history, includes transcriptions not only from Shakespeare’s monument and gravestone in the Church of the Holy Trinity at Stratford-upon-Avon but also from those of Shakespeare’s family buried in the church. (Rev. William Harness used Dugdale’s transcriptions in 1844 to restore the gravestone epitaph of Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna Hall, more than a century after it had been effaced to make room for another inscription.3) More famously, Dugdale was [End Page 188] the first to depict Shakespeare’s funerary monument in a sketch used by Wenceslaus Hollar for an engraving published in Antiquities.

But Dugdale’s interests were primarily of an antiquarian and genealogical nature, not literary, and his textual comments about Shakespeare in Antiquities are notably terse: “One thing more, in reference to this antient Town is observable, that it gave birth and sepulture to our late famous Poet Will. Shakespere, whose Monument I have inserted in my discourse of the Church.”4 Dugdale’s remark has been characterized as a last-minute “afterthought” by scholars and historians.5 However, a hitherto unexamined manuscript reveals that he originally wrote a more elaborate reference about Shakespeare and did not plan to include an engraving of the Stratford monument.

Dugdale’s draft manuscript of Antiquities is extant in the ancestral library at Merevale Hall in northern Warwickshire. It was bound circa 1823 into six volumes after being organized by the antiquary William Hamper.6 Dugdale’s sketches of coats of arms and monuments and his epitaph transcriptions from Warwickshire churches are bound in a seventh volume.7 His comments on Shakespeare appear in volume 4 on page 933. The manuscript draft suggests that Dugdale initially intended to give more elaborate praise of Shakespeare and to include a version of William Basse’s popular eulogy on the poet’s death. However, as the accompanying image of the manuscript page (see Figure 1) and the below transcription reveal, Dugdale substantially revised the passage, either while composing or afterward. Thus, we witness in the passage Dugdale’s various stages of editing:

                         And now the last thing: observable in reference to this
                         antient town is, that it gave birth and sepulture to our late

Neither must I in silence

And having now ^thus redeemed, from the iawes of devouring time, Whatsoever I haue rak’t from the depth of Antiquitye, for the honour ^creditt of this antient place towne, is I must not neglect ^further to observe, that how much further ^that it hath bin ^further honoured, by giving birth and sepulture being the birth [End Page 189]

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Figure 1.

Sir William Dugdale’s comments on Shakespeare, cancelled and revised, from the bound original manuscript of Antiquities of Warwickshire, vol. 4, p. 933, bound by William Hamper ca. 1823 (watermark on flyleaf).

Photograph by Tom Reedy, reproduced by courtesy of Sir William Dugdale, Dugdale Archives, Merevale Hall.

[End Page 190]

place, and soe likewise of sepulture, to our ^the late eminent and rare ^favo...


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