Richard Burbage: ‘Here lies the best Tragedian ever played’

A Funerall Elegye on the Death of the famous Actor Richard Burbage who died on Saturday in Lent the 13 of March 1619, an excerpt of which reads:

He’s gone and with him what a world are dead. Which he review’d, to be revived so, No more young Hamlet, old Hieronimo[a] Kind Lear, the Grieved Moor, and more beside, That lived in him have now for ever died.[11]

Shakespeare had retired from the stage, as an actor, sometime before he died. His personal appearances in London were rare. And when the end came, and the creation of plays from that source ceased, we have every reason to believe that there was an increase in the number of the performances of his plays. For in the characters Shakespeare wrote for him Richard Burbage attained his greatest glory. Men did not realize that Shakespeare was dead while Burbage lived. His power of impersonation was so great that he became his characters….We have only to turn to the poems referring to Richard Burbage to realize that it was in the death of Burbage that to the world our Shakespeare died.

Burbage was played by Martin Clunes in the film Shakespeare in Love (1998), by Steve Speirs in the BBC sitcom Upstart Crow (2016), and by Mattias Inwood in the 2017 TNT drama Will.

Link to Funeral Elegy (anonymous)

Link to The Praises of Burbage (Richard Flecknoe)

Link When Burbage Played (Austin Dobson)