The cause of Shakespeare’s death is a mystery, but an entry in the diary of John Ward, the vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford (where Shakespeare is buried), tells us that “Shakespeare, Drayton, and Ben Jonson had a merry meeting and it seems drank too hard, for Shakespeare died of a fever there contracted.” Ward, a self-proclaimed Shakespeare fan, wrote his diary fifty years after Shakespeare died and most historians agree it appears to be a baseless anecdote. It should be noted though that a serious outbreak of typhus, known as the “new fever”, in 1616 (the year Shakespeare died), lends credibility to Ward’s story.
Unfortunately, Shakespeare’s death at the age of fifty-two will almost surely remain a mystery. We do know, however, that in a world where plague, syphilis, typhus, scurvy, tuberculosis, smallpox, malaria, dysentery and toothaches shortened a Londoner’s life expectancy to thirty-five years, Shakespeare fared quite well, leading a relatively long and healthy life.
Map renames Tube stations after Shakespeare plays to mark 400th anniversary of his death