The clearest historical traces of lovers’ attitudes toward the afterlife are the epitaphs left on tombs. This chapter surveys an archive of surviving sixteenth and seventeenth century epitaphs for husbands and wives and lovers, here imagined as filling a single Renaissance English church. Historians have generally represented Protestant tombs as strictly commemorative in nature, preserving the memory of the deceased for their survivors. What the effigies on joint tombs reveal, however, is a widespread desire for some type of shared afterlife. The vision these inscriptions project for the future was by no means uniform or coherent—they alternated, in fact, between somewhat predictable hopes for a heavenly reunion of souls, and less predictable, materialist hopes simply to lie together in the ground. Whether the inscriptions look forward to a subterranean or celestial reunion, what connects them is something that scholarship of Renaissance England has almost entirely ignored: the persistent desire for posthumous intimacy.
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