So last night my daughter comes into the room, hurls her book to the floor, declares that she hates it and never wants to see it again, and bursts into tears. Apparently a main character sacrificed herself to save the ones she loved, and this was my daughter’s first experience with such a storyline. I’m not saying the book, but I bet people already recognize it. It’s quite popular right now. Don’t spoil it.
She’s insisting that I read her book so that I can feel her pain. I’ve already commented to her that I’ve seen Lear carry Cordelia’s lifeless body onstage in the final act, I think I know a little bit about pain.
But then I thought, did Shakespeare ever do a similar storyline? Is there any character in Shakespeare, tragedy or not, who sacrifices him/herself for the good of others? Was that even a thing, in Shakespeare’s time? Would that storyline have been recognizable to anyone?
The closest I can think is Coriolanus. He signs the treaty with Rome, knowing full well that Aufidius will end him because of it.