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Shakespeare Connected - Shakespeare and Literary Pilgrimage

7. Shakespeare’s Signet Ring

Not all discovered relics were necessarily forgeries; the gold ring still known as Shakespeare’s signet ring, which carries the reversed initials WS, was dug up in a field adjacent to Holy Trinity Church in March, 1810 and may plausibly have once belonged to Shakespeare.   Robert Bell Wheler, a local antiquarian, bought the ring for 36 shillings, and it was presented to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust by his sister in 1868.  The artist Benjamin Haydon wrote to his friend the poet John Keats in 1816:  ‘I shall certainly go mad! In a field at Stratford upon Avon, in a field that belonged to Shakespeare; they have found a gold ring and seal, with the initial thus- W.S. -- and a true lover’s knot between. If this is not Shakespeare who is it? – a true lover’s knot.!! As sure as you breathe & that he was the first of beings the Seal belonged to him – Oh Lord!’  Haydon’s excitement over the ‘true lover’s knot’ suggests that the ring carried for him the promise of access to the writer’s emotional life rather than merely to his creative or administrative activities.

SBT 1868-3/274


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