While watching a commercial for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s new movie, which looks like some sort of weird cross between “Falling Down” and “Death Wish”, I got to wondering about one-man killing machines. Specifically how people tend to joke about Hamlet being the bloodbath where everybody dies at the end. But, really, Hamlet only deliberately kills Claudius, no? He wounds Laertes, sure – but he didn’t know about the poison at that point. Likewise he sends R&G to their doom, but he’s not the one to pull that trigger. And Polonius, well, I suppose Polonius counts, but he was technically an accident. So we’ll mark Hamlet’s bodycount at 2, since even though he killed the wrong person, it was certainly his intent to kill somebody.
So, then, here’s the question. For onstage, mortal injury of another character, who has the highest body count in all of Shakespeare? I’m saying “onstage” on purpose, because the question really has more to do with how much killing the audience sees. So Macbeth’s murder of Duncan and the guards, for example, wouldn’t count.
Tybalt/Mercutio is why I called it “mortal injury”. Wounding somebody who then dies off screen? That counts.
I’m not familiar enough with each of the tragedies to count up accurately. Who wins? Richard? Titus?

4 thoughts on “Bodycount

  1. I think it might be Titus… Chiron, Demetrius, Lavinia, Tamora. And you could hold him responsible for Alarbus, too, though he doesn't actually do the killing there.

    Richard's responsible for a lot of deaths, but I feel like most of them either happen off-stage or through a catspaw. Although possibly if you add his three plays together, as a character he might top Titus.

  2. Henry V?

    This note doth tell me of ten thousand French
    That in the field lie slain: of princes, in this number,
    And nobles bearing banners, there lie dead
    One hundred twenty six: added to these,
    Of knights, esquires, and gallant gentlemen,
    Eight thousand and four hundred; of the which,
    Five hundred were but yesterday dubb'd knights:
    So that, in these ten thousand they have lost,
    There are but sixteen hundred mercenaries;
    The rest are princes, barons, lords, knights, squires,
    And gentlemen of blood and quality.


    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I see
    The imminent death of twenty thousand men,
    That, for a fantasy and trick of fame,
    Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot
    Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,
    Which is not tomb enough and continent
    To hide the slain?


  3. kj, I think you make an interesting point, but neither of those battles are, in fact, staged. So they wouldn't count towards onstage deaths. But those certainly were "a royal fellowship of death."

    Richard, as best as I can recall, only kills three people onstage:Somerset (2 Henry VI), Prince Edward (3 Henry VI), and Henry VI (3 Henry VI). Unless you add him offing Richmond look-a-likes at Bosworth (which he describes himself doing offstage). He does cause plenty of deaths, onstage or off, but after the war ends he stops getting his own hands dirty. Notice he kills no one directly in Richard III, unless you count him bringing news to Edward IV that causes his death, which is kind of a stretch.

    So yeah, I have to say Titus. Even Macbeth only kills one person (Young Siward) onstage. Iago kills two, Othello two (counting suicide). Coriolanus, Timon, and Lear don't kill anybody onstage.

  4. I just remembered, Titus also kills Quintus in the first scene. So yeah, he's pretty much got the bodycount contest in the bag (or pie, as the case may be).

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