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date: 18 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter looks at figurings of death, suicide, bereavement, and the afterlife in Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, and King Lear. It considers the ways in which these seemingly universal phenomena are shaped and coloured by distinctive early-modern attitudes to gender; the afterlife; honour; and the Christian soul. How does Shakespeare’s language circle around, or break down before, the imagination or the fact of death? How do death, suicide, or bereavement relate to different forms of early modern identity? The sheer ephemerality of the human body is one key element: the dust of a king is indistinguishable from that of a pauper. Yet, more chilling than the promiscuous revolutions of dust, what seems to have been most troubling of all was death's annihilation of language itself.

Keywords: death, suicide, afterlife, bereavement, soul, mortalism

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