The very belated second half round up of 2013 may have to wait.  2014 has begun with a flurry of activity around the release of the US paperback, including my first articles for the Huffington Post.  The first, 7 Brilliant Writers Who Were Overshadowed by a Contemporary was quite a hit, with over 900 social media shares to date, and the usual flurry of comments from people who would have written it differently.  This week, a post dearer to my heart: the question of whether Christopher Marlowe might have faked his death.  I mention in that article about Shakespeare’s obsession with false death and resurrection:  thirty-three characters in eighteen Shakespeare plays are wrongly thought dead for anything from a few seconds to almost the whole of the action, and seven of those deaths are deliberately faked.  I thought I’d put the full list up here for anyone who is interested.


  1. Juliet (Romeo & Juliet)
  2. Hero (Much Ado)
  3. Helena (All’s Well)
  4. Hermione (The Winter’s Tale)
  5. Falstaff (1 Henry IV)*
  6. Claudio (Measure for Measure)*
  7. Innogen (Cymbeline)*

(*Deaths faked to avoid actual death).


  1. Julia (Two Gentlemen of Verona)
  2. Antipholus of Ephesus (Comedy of Errors)
  3. Dromio of Ephesus (Comedy of Errors)
  4. Antipholus of Syracuse (Comedy of Errors)
  5. Dromio of Syracuse (Comedy of Errors)
  6. Egeon (Comedy of Errors)
  7. Emilia (Comedy of Errors)
  8. Thisbe (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
  9. Henry IV (2 Henry IV)
  10. Titinius (Julius Caesar)
  11. Viola (Twelfth Night)
  12. Sebastian (Twelfth Night)
  13. Hamlet (Hamlet)
  14. Desdemona (Othello)
  15. Cleopatra (Anthony and Cleopatra)
  16. Pericles (Pericles)
  17. Thaisa (Pericles)
  18. Marina (Pericles)
  19. Guiderius (Cymbeline)
  20. Arviragus (Cymbeline)
  21. Posthumus (Cymbeline)
  22. Perdita (The Winter’s Tale)
  23. Prospero (The Tempest)
  24. Miranda (The Tempest)
  25. Ferdinand (The Tempest)
  26. Alonso (The Tempest)

Also Fidele, Innogen’s alter-ego (Cymbeline) – i.e. she is *twice* thought dead.

Somewhat of an obsession, you might say.  And no, of course it doesn’t prove a thing.

Written on February 6th, 2014 , Shakespeare authorship question Tags: , ,

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    Larry commented

    Hi Ros,

    Read your list of faked death in Shakespeare with interest. In some plays it is a combination of faked death and assumed death such as in A Winter’s Tale where the Queen fakes her death, and her baby is abandoned in another country and left for dead.

    Likewise in Pericles his pregnant wife, the queen dies at sea, and is put in a coffin and washes ashore, to be restored to life by the court physician. Her daughter is supposed to be murdered but is instead kidnapped by pirates, and her would be murderer lies about it to her stepmother.

    Another one, not on your list is Timon, who leaves behind an inscription, this misanthrope who hates all living men is reported dead, but the inscription is written by himself, so how do we know he is actually dead as he must have been alive to write it. Perhaps he wrote it because he wanted people to believe he was dead.

    Wasn’t there also a faked death of young Arthur the heir to the throne in King John, unfortunately followed by his real death.

    Not to mention faked death in the Sonnets – Coward conquest of a wretches knife..

    February 19, 2015 at 8:59 am

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Ros Barber

Novelist, poet, scholar