“Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.” (Julius Caesar, Act II, Scene 2)

Taking a page (see what I did there? ) from the earlier blog post this week on Shakespeare, and bringing you, the reader,  interesting information on how the characters die in Shakespearean plays, and their violent ends.

One does not have to look far to find the central theme of Death in Shakespeare’s plays. Stabbed, poisoned, stabbed and poisoned, snakebite, beheaded, lack of sleep (Lady Macbeth), a broken heart (Lady Montague), and smothered (Desdemona), are just a few of the ways the characters have died.  There are 74 deaths in Shakespearean plays.

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Causes of Death in Shakespeare plays chart via https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CVz6SWOVEAAlsQI.png

 

Poisoning

No, no, the drink, the drink, – O my dear Hamlet,-
The drink, the drink! I am poison’d.
Queen Gertrude, Hamlet
Act V, Scene II

Arms, take your last embrace. And, lips, O you
The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing death.
(kisses JULIET, takes out the poison)
Come, bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide.
Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on
The dashing rocks thy seasick, weary bark.
Here’s to my love! (drinks the poison) O true apothecary,
Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.

Romeo, Romeo and Juliet
Act V, Scene III

Stabbed

Yea, noise? Then I’ll be brief. O happy dagger,
This is thy sheath. There rust and let me die.
(stabs herself with ROMEO’s dagger and dies)
Juliet,
Romeo and Juliet
Act V, Scene III

Editor’s Note: this can also double in the category of Suicide

Suicide

Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have
Immortal longings in me.
Cleopatra, Antony and Cleopatra
Act V, Scene II

Editor’s Note: Cleopatra puts an asp to her breast and it bites her. She dies from its venom.

…his fiend-like queen,
Who, as ’tis thought, by self and violent hands
Took off her life;
Malcolm, Macbeth
Act V, Scene VIII

Editor’s Note: Malcolm is talking about Lady Macbeth. We find out in Act V, Scene V that she is dead. In the last lines of Macbeth does the reader infer that she committed suicide.

Baked in a Pie

I think Lavinia’s death in Titus Andronicus is probably the most gruesome for me. First, she is raped by Chiron and Demetrius, then her tongue is cut out and her hands are cut off so she can’t incriminate them. Once she uses a staff in her mouth to spell out their names, her father, Titus, cuts their throats, and uses their blood in the meat pie.  Titus then kills Lavinia.

Die, die, Lavinia, and thy shame with thee;
[Kills LAVINIA]
And, with thy shame, thy father’s sorrow die!

Editor’s Note: When Titus learns that Chiron and Demetrius have raped and dismembered his daughter, he not only kills them but bakes them into a pie that he feeds to their mother, Tamora.

Why, there they are both, baked in that pie;
Whereof their mother daintily hath fed,
Eating the flesh that she herself hath bred.
‘Tis true, ’tis true; witness my knife’s sharp point.
Titus Andronicus, Titus Andronicus
Act V, Scene III

In Twelfth Night, The FOOL sings in  Act II, Scene IV:

Come away, come away, death,
And in sad cypress let me be laid.
Fly away, fly away breath,
I am slain by a fair cruel maid.
My shroud of white, stuck all with yew,
O, prepare it!
My part of death, no one so true
Did share it.
Not a flower, not a flower sweet
On my black coffin let there be strown.
Not a friend, not a friend greet
My poor corpse, where my bones shall be thrown.
A thousand thousand sighs to save,
Lay me, O, where
Sad true lover never find my grave,

To weep there!

 

In short form, Shakespeare’s Tragedies: Everybody Dies.

Plus, the best death ever, in my opinion is the stage direction from The Winter’s Tale. [Exit, pursued by a bear], from Act III, Scene 3. 

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Shakespeare’s Tragedies: Everybody Dies graphic, original concept by Cam Magee. Design ©Caitlin S Griffin 2012. Courtesy of Flavorwire.

 

Did You Know?

Detailing all of the Bard’s 74 scripted deaths, there will be a play in May 2016 called The Complete Deaths.  Performed by just four actors, it will open at the Northampton Royal and Derngate Theatre in Northampton, UK before heading to the Brighton Festival for its official premiere and touring the country.

For Further Reading

Anne R. Allen’s Poisoning People for Fun and Profit — Part 1: Digitalis

Amanda Mabillard’s  Violence in Shakespeare’s Plays.

No Sweat Shakespeare’s Violence in Macbeth.

Folger Shakespeare Library’s Famous Last Words From Shakespeare.

The Dead and the Dying make for Live! Theater

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