So while we were discussing the deadliness of Shakespeare plays, Mo mentioned that Othello actually has the highest death count because the entire Turkish fleet sinks. That brings up quite a problem, because those Turks are hardly in the plot, and thus it seems inflationary toward a death count to count them as such. Clearly, deaths should be weighted by character significance. I decided that characters’ line counts would be a good measure of how significant a character is (although clearly not perfect, it is accessible and minimally arbitrary), as if they say more, they would generally be more important to the plot of the play. It turns out Othello is still the deadliest Shakespeare play, as long as one includes Iago’s imminent death after the end of the play.
Here’s the top five plays by weighted death percentage. “Killed” in way-of-death explanation means the method of death is ambiguous.
5. King Lear—63.1% Weighted Death Percentage
Died: Lear (dies from grief)—22.7%, Gloucester (eyes gouged out by Cornwall and deserted, later “dies of shock and joy” upon finding Edgar)—10.1%, Edmund (stabbed by Edgar)—9.3%, Goneril (suicide by stabbing)—5.9%, Regan (poisoned by Goneril)—5.6%, Cordelia (hanged by Edmund’s order)—3.5%, Cornwall (stabbed by servant)—3.3%, Oswald (stabbed by Edgar)—2.4%, Other Died—0.3% (one stabbed by Regan, one killed by Lear); Survived: Edgar—12.0%, Kent—10.7%, Fool—6.5%, Albany (Goneril plotted to kill him, but never carried it out)—4.9%, Other Survived—2.8%
4. Antony and Cleopatra—63.2% Weighted Death Percentage
Died: Mark Antony (suicide by stabbing)—25.6%, Cleopatra (suicide by poison)—20.7%, Domitius Enobarbus (dies of a broken heart)—10.7%, Charmian (suicide by poison)—3.2%, Eros (suicide by stabbing)—1.4%, Iras—0.8% (suicide by poison); Survived: Octavius Caesar—12.7%, Sextus Pompey—4.3%, Aemilius Lepidus—2.0%, Menas—1.9%, Agrippa—1.8%, Dolabella—1.5%, Scarus—1.2%, Mecaenas—1.1%, Octavia—1.1%, Other Survived—10.4%
3. Titus Andronicus (how the hell did this not make first?)—78.5% Weighted Death Percentage
So yeah, if you like to be disturbed, I’ll leave you to read this play and have fun finding out how these guys died.
Died: Titus—28.7%, Aaron—14.1%, Tamora—10.3%, Saturninus—8.4%, Demetrius—3.7%, Bassianus—2.5%, Lavinia—2.4%, Chiron—2.1%, Martius—1.3%, Quintus—1.1%, Other Died—3.4%; Survived: Marcus—10.5%, Lucius—7.5%, Young Lucius—1.8%, Other Survived—1.4%
2. Hamlet—79.9% Weighted Death Percentage
Died: Hamlet (stabbed with poisoned rapier by Laertes)—37.7%, Claudius (poisoned two ways by Hamlet)—13.7%, Polonius (stabbed by Hamlet)—8.9%, Laertes (stabbed with poisoned rapier by Hamlet)—5.3%, Ophelia (suicide by drowning)—4.3%, Gertrude (accidentally poisoned by Claudius when he meant to poison Hamlet)—3.9%, Elder Hamlet (implied to have been poisoned by Claudius prior to start of play, exists within play as a ghost)—2.4%, Rosencrantz (killed by pirates)—2.4%, Guildenstern (killed by pirates)—1.4%; Survived: Horatio (was going to commit suicide, but Hamlet tells him someone must live to tell what happened)—7.4%, First Player—2.4%, First Gravedigger—2.3%, Marcellus—1.8%, Osric—1.3%, Bernardo—1.0%, Other Survived—3.9%
1. Othello—82.5% Weighted Death Percentage
Died: Iago (implied to be tortured and killed after end of play)—31.4%, Othello (suicide by stabbing)—25.4%, Desdemona (strangled by Othello)—11.5%, Emilia (stabbed by Iago)—7.0%, Brabantio (dies from grief)—4.0%, Roderigo (stabbed by Iago)—3.2%; Survived: Cassio—8.0%, Lodovico—2.2%, Duke of Venice—2.1%, Montano—1.8%, Bianca—1.0%, Other Survived—2.7%
Some might argue that one should only include deaths specifically within the play and not implied in the vicinity of the chronology of the play, which would make Hamlet first at 77.5%, Titus Andronicus second at 64.4%, Antony and Cleopatra third, King Lear fourth, and Othello seventh at 51.1%, dropping below Julius Caesar (fifth) and Macbeth (sixth), and only barely exceeding Romeo and Juliet (eighth).