What's In The Book? - Epitaphs

Hip-Hop Poetry and The Classics


CA Language Arts Standards Covered:

9/10 LRA 3.7; L&S 1.1; 11/12 LRA 3.1; R 2.0


Epitaph: A brief poem written to be inscribed on a gravestone.

Epitaphs come in many forms.

There are:

Religious epitaphs…

Wither, 0 wither should I fly

But to my loving Saviours breast

Secure within thy arms to lie

And safe beneath thy wings to rest

Clever epitaphs…

To follow you I’m not content.

How do I know which way you went?

(Poet H.J. Daniel’s epitaph for his wife)

I made an ash of myself.

(Ruth Adams)

Here lies an honest lawyer,

and that is Strange.

(A lawyer named John Strange)

Humorous epitaphs...

Here lies my wife: here let her lie!

Now she’s at rest, and so am I.

“I told you I was sick!”

(found in a Georgia cemetery)

Famous Epitaphs…

On the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.

(W.C. Fields)

One of the most famous epitaphs is that of William Shakespeare.

Good Friends, for Jesus’ sake forbear,

To dig the bones enclosed here!

Blest be the man that spares these stones,

And curst be he that moves my bones.


When graveyards were full during Shakespeare’s era, old corpses were often dug up to create space for the burial of new bodies. In addition, grave robbers sometimes dug up corpses to plunder them— especially if the person was wealthy or famous. Not a fan of these activities, Shakespeare wrote his own epitaph to scare would be “diggers” off. People’s fear of superstition worked as his grave has survived unmolested for hundreds of years.



Core Literary Elements

Poetry Writing Exercise: Epitaph

Learning Objective: Students will identify and utilize the poetic device of creating an epitaph.

Standards addressed: 9/10 W&O 1.3, 1.4; LRA 3.7, 11/12 LRA 3.1; W&O 1.1, 1.2; W 2.2


Materials needed: This worksheet.

Methodology: See below.

Why let someone else have your final words?

Write your own epitaph!

I. Identify the TONE of the epitaph you want your
tombstone to have. Do you want it to be…








(Hey, It’s Your Choice!)

II. Identify the some of the most significant things for
which you hope to be remembered?

1. ___________________________________________________ .

2. ___________________________________________________ .

3. ___________________________________________________ .

4. ___________________________________________________ .

5. ___________________________________________________ .

III. Now use the list to construct your own epitaph.

(Hey, have some fun. This doesn’t necessarily mean it is what they are
going to write when the time comes. Plus, by that time, are you really going to care?)

My Epitaph