Raise your hand if you have taught romeo and juliet or julius caesar
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Raise your hand if you have taught Romeo and Juliet or Julius Caesar. How would Shakespeare and his audiences have felt about suicide?. The main texts:. Macbeth – Lady Macbeth’s madness and suicide I Henry IV – Hotspur’s pre-battle “Die all, Die merrily” speech (4.1)

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Raise your hand if you have taught romeo and juliet or julius caesar

Raise your hand if you have taught Romeo and Juliet or Julius Caesar


Raise your hand if you have taught romeo and juliet or julius caesar

How would Shakespeare and his audiences have felt about suicide?


The main texts

The main texts:

  • Macbeth – Lady Macbeth’s madness and suicide

  • I Henry IV – Hotspur’s pre-battle “Die all, Die merrily” speech (4.1)

    • Sidenote: Originally, I was interested in looking at Falstaff’s informal use of “suicide language” such as “Hang thyself,” but decided that it would be a bit unrelated to the rest of the research


What would shakespeare have called it

What would Shakespeare have called it?

Excerpt from the OED:

For earlier synonyms see SELF-DESTRUCTION, -HOMICIDE, -KILLING, -MURDER, -SLAUGHTER.

a. The or an act of taking one's own life, self-murder. Phr. to commit suicide.

1651CHARLETONEphes. & Cimm. Matrons (1668) 73 To vindicate ones self from..inevitable Calamity, by Sui-cide is not..a Crime. 1656BLOUNTGlossogr., Suicide, the slaying or murdering of himself; self-murder. 1732Lond. Mag. I. 251 Love and Jealousy, the old unfashionable causes of Suicide. 1765-8ERSKINEInst. Law Scot. IV. iv. §46 Suicide, which is a species of murder, ought to be governed by the common rules of murder. 1781COWPERTruth 20 Charge not..Your wilful suicide on God's decree. 1817SELWYNLaw Nisi Prius (ed. 4) II. 970 A proviso..declaring the policy to be void in case the insured should..commit suicide. 1891FARRARDarkn. & Dawnlxvi, The terrible disillusionment and suicides of Gallio and of Seneca.


Edmund spenser s the faerie queene c 1590

Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene(c. 1590)

  • The Red Crosse Knight encounters Despayre in Book 1, Canto IX

  • Despayre lays out an argument for suicide that almost persuades the knight

  • The knight is ultimately rescued by Una (truth)


Instigated by the devil 1685

“Instigated by the devil”? (1685)


What did the church say

What did the church say?

  • John Sym’sPreservative Against Self-Killing

  • John Donne’s Biathanatos(he is not as “anti-suicide” as some)

  • Judas’ self-hanging in the book of Matthew

  • Any other suggestions?


Early psychiatry

Early Psychiatry

  • Looking at the work of Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) and his view of devils as only one contributor to “self-destructive” tendencies

  • Saw suicidal people as human


How have various productions portrayed lady macbeth s suicide

How have various productions portrayed Lady Macbeth’s suicide?

  • Is it played as certain or a rumor?

    • Malcolm’s speech is not certain about it

  • Is it kept offstage or brought “on-stage”

    (ex. Polanski version)

  • Are audiences meant to feel sympathetic or redeemed (and how is that played)?

  • Marvin Rosenberg’s The Masks Of Macbeth – detailed descriptions of a variety of productions


Still wondering

Still wondering…

Will this research give me the confidence and skills to approach the topic of suicide in a meaningful way with my students?

Will this research help make discussions of suicides in Shakespeare rich and meaningful to students?


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