Epitaphs on John Combe

Epitaphs on John Combe
William Shakespeare

John Combe was a wealthy businessman and landowner in Stratford-upon-Avon who was a friend of William Shakespeare. He died in 1614. These two epitaphs have both been ascribed to Shakespeare. The first is said to have been a joke, composed while Combe was still alive as a satirical comment on his money-lending at 10% interest (the legal maximum at the time). It may have been based on a similar mock-epitaph on a usurer published in 1608. It is attributed to Shakespeare in several manuscripts, the earliest of which dates from 1634.
The second epitaph, composed after Combe's death, is supposed to have been attached his grave at some point, but is no longer present. It refers to his bequest to the poor in his will. It is attributed to Shakespeare in only one manuscript.[1]

  1. Jowett, J., et al, William Shakespeare: The Complete Works, Oxford University Press, 2005, p.806.

Epitaph 1
Ten in the hundred here lies engraved;
A hundred to ten his soul is not saved.
If anyone asks who lies in this tomb,
"O ho", quoth the devil, "'tis my John Combe".

Epitaph 2
Howe'er he lived judge not
John Combe shall never be forgot
While poor hath memory, for he did gather,
To make the poor his issue; he, their father,
As record of his tilth and seed
Did crown him in his latter deed.

This work was published before January 1, 1927, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.