"No longer mourn for me when I am dead
Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
From this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell"
- The Sonnets, no.71
Shakespeare made his will in January 1616 and revised it on 25 March.
Less than a month later he died of a fever which he allegedly caught
following a "merry party" hosted by Ben Jonson. Evidently
a man of some means, he left the bulk of his estate to his elder daughter,
Susanna, and £300 to his younger daughter, Judith. In a seemingly
ungracious gesture he left his wife nothing more than his "second
best bed" and furniture.
The will was written on 3 pages of paper and Shakespeare's signature
appears 3 times, adding to the value of the document because only 3
other copies of his signature are known to survive. It is rather untidy
in appearance, with numerous interlineations and crossings-out. In contrast
to the plays and poems that were his life's work, it is certainly no
literary masterpiece. In fact, it is little more than a standard - and
rather impersonal - legal document, containing no poignant last words
or touching remembrances for his family and friends. Perhaps he had
expended all of his literary genius by the time of his death. Or perhaps
he saw little point in wasting his energy on a script that he expected
would have no audience except those named in it.