Over the past four centuries, the brutality of Shakespeare’s plays has become the subject of endless academic study, but his contemporary critics didn’t approve of the on-stage gore. Michael Dobson, director of the Shakespeare Institute, said that Elizabethan drama was known for being gruesome: “The English drama was notorious for on-stage deaths; they were thought crass. For neo-classical critics, deaths should be off-stage.”
Should Crouch and his cast deploy the deaths in the order in which they were written, The Complete Deaths will get far more interesting beyond the interval. Crouch said: “The first history plays are quite rudimentary in how to snuff out a life, but he has a more sophisticated means of killing people as the plays go on.
“There is some extraordinarily exquisite stuff, the smothering of Desdemona, Cleopatra putting an asp to her breast, the suicides in Julius Caesar with Brutus asking each of the men individually if they will hold a sword while he runs on to it.” —Telegraph