Totting up the deaths by this and that in Shakespeare’s plays

This pie chart shows the relative numbers of deaths — due to different causes — that happen on stage in William Shakespeare’s plays. In this tallying, death by being-baked-into-pie is as frequent as death-by-hanging. (The pie death occurs in Titus Andronicus.)

shakespeare deaths

The chart was, reportedly, assembled in connection with a new play in which all those deaths — 74 in total — are re-enacted in a single play written by persons other than Shakespeare. The play, called “The Complete Deaths“, produced by the British company Spymonkey, is scheduled to premiere in May 2016. (Thanks to Alice Dreger and Deborah Blum for bringing this to our attention.) One critic professes to be full of huff about this.

Others have attempted to compile and to some extent analyze some of the death-by-Shakespeare data. One effort is documented in this medical study:

Faints, fits, and fatalities from emotion in Shakespeare’s characters: survey of the canon,” Kenneth W. Heaton, British Medical Journal, 333(7582), December 26, 2015, pp. 1335–1338.

9 Responses to “Totting up the deaths by this and that in Shakespeare’s plays”

  1. Jack Says:

    The pie chart is missing a label between “stabbed & poisoned” and “poisoned”.

  2. Alan Forkosh Says:

    The National Theatre produced a series of souvenirs (posters, tea towels, mugs, etc.) depicting 65 deaths in the tragedies under the theme ‘Everybody Dies’. See for the catalog and for a more readable version.

  3. Carina Says:

    Quite pretentious to gather all the information in a pie chart. It’s an interesting blog. Really made myself think.

  4. Mark Says:

    Between stabbed and poisoned and poisoned is “broken heart”. (Go to original article and hover over pie slices.) “Pursued by bear” (Winter’s Tale) is the one I was looking for, and it’s between “drops dead” and “throws oneself away”.

  5. Orestes Ippeau Says:

    For those who may wonder if those Shakespearean stabbing victims were aware the only thing capable of stopping a bad guy with a blade is a good guy with a blade, it would make sense that the sequel to The Complete Deaths would have to be The Complete Deaths By Category: Stabbings.

  6. Margaret Says:

    What about deaths on the battlefield? Eg. being hit by gunfire outside Orleans?

  7. Helen Says:

    What about death by “swallowing fire” (Portia from Julius Caesar)?

  8. kvcwines Says:

    You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be really one thing which I think
    I would by no means understand. It kind of feels too complex and extremely broad for me.

    I’m looking forward in your next put up, I will try to get the hang of it!

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