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Man, Shakespeare’s characters have it rough. If it’s not poison, it’s one of the following horrible ways to die.
In Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, it really stinks to be Lavinia. Lavinia is attacked by the sons of Tamora, Queen of the Goths and wife of the Roman Emperor, who raped her, then cut out her tongue and cut off her hands so that she can’t tell anyone what had happened (although I suppose they didn’t think she could just point with her arm?).
Boy meat pies
This atrocity also comes from Titus. The titular main character takes grievous revenge on the Queen of the Goths for all that she has done to his family – he murders her sons and uses their bodies to make meat pies, which he then feeds to her and the Emperor.
Boiling a convict
This particular creepy act is a method of punishment used in Shakespeare’s time, mentioned in Winter’s Tale and The Twelfth Night as boiling the convict is oil or lead.
Stabbing has got to have been Shakespeare’s favorite way of killing someone – more often than not if someone dies, it is because they have been introduced to the pointy end of a sword or dagger.
The drowning in Hamlet is sad – it brings an end to the mental suffering of Ophelia, who drowns in an apparent suicide.
The smothering occurs at the climax of Shakespeare’s Othello. The titular character, driven mad by jealousy at the thought that his wife has been cheating on him, smothers her with a pillow.
Death from Sleeplessness
At the time of her death, Lady Macbeth is not as happy with her decisions as she would have liked. For her role in the death of the previous king Duncan that lead to her husband ascending the throne, she is unable to find restful sleep, from which she eventually succumbs.
Eating hot coals
Brutus, of Caesar-killing fame, had a wife named Portia. In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Portia commits suicide in the fourth act by swallowing live coals.
Arms/legs cut off, thrown into fire
And here we are back on Titus Andronicus. It’s not a happy play. One of the Queen’s sons is sacrificed to the spirits of the dead – the Romans cut off all of his limbs, then throw every piece of him into the fire.
Buried to neck and starving
Still Titus Andronicus. The old Emperor dies and is replaced by a man named Lucius, who sentences a Moor named Aaron to death by being buried up to his neck until he died. Aaron had been the main architect of the destruction of Titus Andronicus’ family.
One more return to a play mentioned on this list – The Winter’s Tale. After abandoning a child, Antigonus is chased off stage by one of Shakespeare’s most famous stage directions: “Exit, pursued by a bear.”
Now check out these Shakespearean insults.