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The Worst Crimes In Shakespeare's Tragedies, Ranked

Updated August 15, 2018 635 votes 48 voters31 items

List RulesVote up the worst Shakespearian crimes.

When it comes to William Shakespeare's tragedies, very few characters escape with their lives. Whether they be heroes, villains, or side characters present for comic relief, no one is spared the brutality dished out by the Bard's pen. The worst crimes in Shakespeare of course involve horrific acts of violence, but there's an extra element of terror when these misdeeds are placed in context. It's not just the fact characters meet untimely deaths or grisly mutilations. It's the string of betrayals behind such acts, often carried out by downright monstrous characters, that make Shakespeare's tragedies so chilling. 

William Shakespeare’s tragedies include some of his best known works like Romeo and Juliet, Othello, and King Lear. However, many lesser known plays contain some of the playwright's most disturbing death scenes. What was likely Shakespeare's first tragedy, the rarely read Titus Andronicus, is one of his most violent works, filled with murders and mutilations that rival even Game of Thrones in terms of gore. If you never thought that the refined English poet would write about getting revenge through cannibalism, this list will be eye opening for you. 

From pitting brother against brother to husband against wife, Shakespeare's tragedies spare no character as themes of lust, love, greed, and betrayal are picked apart by the Bard. Here are all the horrific crimes in Shakespeare plays. Make your voice heard and vote up the worst ones. 

  • 1

    'King Lear': Regan And Cornwall Gouge Out Gloucester's Eyes

    When two of his three daughters, Regan and Goneril, completely turn against him, King Lear delves further into the abyss of insanity. Gloucester helps Lear escape, but pays dearly for his loyalty to the King.

    Regan and her ever-sadistic husband Cornwall tie Gloucester up and tug at his beard. They forego the standard trial, so by law cannot put the old man to death, but they can torture him. After Gloucester says that he will see Lear's wrongs avenged, Cornwall and Regan gouge out his eyes. 

  • 2

    'Titus Andronicus': Alarbus Is Violently Sacrificed

    Following a 10 year war, General Titus returns from battle with the bodies of his two dead sons. He has the Queen of Goths, Tamora, and her three sons as captives. Titus believes in an eye for an eye and feels that he must sacrifice one of Tamora's sons for all of his men who died in the war. Because this is Shakespeare, who was really aiming for total shock violence in Titus Andronicus, Tamora's first born son Alarbus is the unlucky party chosen for sacrifice and the executioners do not go easy on him. They chop off his limbs and then burn his body in a sacrificial fire.

  • 3

    'Coriolanus': Conspirators Tear Coriolanus To Pieces

    Coriolanus, a war hero, most likely should have been treated better by the Romans. He not only fought for them but was also able to arrange a peace treaty between the Volscians and Rome. However, instead of being treated like a hero, Coriolanus faces public execution for betrayal. Conspirators cut him into pieces after the angry mob yells out repeatedly to kill him. 

  • 4

    'Julius Caesar': Caesar's Men Betray And Stab Him

    Many Romans thought that Caesar was abusing his power. On the Ides of March - which, to be fair, Caesar was warned to beware - a group of conspirators convinced Caesar's friend Brutus to forego his own moral objections and kill Caesar in the name of Rome. With fake petition in hand on the Senate floor, the conspirators repeatedly stab Caesar. Adding insult to injury is that Brutus is the last man to pierce Caesar's skin. This of course led to one of the most famous lines in any Shakespeare play, "Et tu, Brute?"