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Shakespeare Connected - Not to Be: Death in the Collection

Wilfred Puddephat, Dance of Death – Guild Chapel Paintings

‘Why, what is pomp, rule, reign, but earth and dust? And, live we how we can, yet die we must’ (Henry VI, Part III, 5.2.27)

The ‘Dance of Death’ would have been a familiar motif in Renaissance English churches. The personification of Death (often as a skeleton or corpse) leads women and men, rich and poor, the kings and commoners, to their graves. Such scenes show that death is the great equaliser, and none can cheat it. These paintings are copies of the scenes Shakespeare himself would have seen in Stratford-upon-Avon’s Guild Chapel (before his father had to authorise them being painted over).

SBT 1994-19/136


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