Dismemberment is the act of cutting, tearing, pulling, wrenching or otherwise removing, the limbs of a living thing. It may be practiced upon human beings as a form of capital punishment, as a result of a traumatic accident, or in connection with murder, suicide, or cannibalism. As opposed to surgical amputation of the limbs, dismemberment is often fatal to all but the simplest of creatures. In criminology, a distinction is made between offensive and defensive dismemberment.
Dismemberment was carried out in the Medieval and Early Modern era by tying a person's limbs to chains or other restraints, then attaching the restraints to separate movable entities (e.g. vehicles) and moving them in opposite directions. Also referred to as "disruption" or being "drawn and quartered," it could be brought about by chaining four horses to the condemned's arms and legs, thus making them pull him apart, as was the case with the executions of François Ravaillac in 1610 and Robert-François Damiens in 1757. Queen Brunhilda of Austrasia, executed in 613, is generally regarded to have suffered the same death, though she was tied to the tail of a single horse and thus suffered more of a dragging death.
Usage in capital punishment
There are many instances of dismemberment in modern murder cases. Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer is infamous for the dismemberment and consumption of his victims. Convicted drug trafficker William Trickett Smith II dismembered his wife in Peru to dispose of her body in a suitcase.
Examples in fiction
- In Egyptian mythology, the demon Set dismembers his brother Osiris so he could not be resurrected.
- In Greek mythology, the god Dionysus is dismembered by the Titans.
- In Japanese mythology, Izanagi dismembers Kagutsuchi in revenge for the death of his lover Izanami.
- In Aztec mythology, the god Huitzilopochtli dismembers his sister Coyolxauhqui for trying to kill their mother, Coatlicue. He tossed his sister's head into the sky, where it became the moon.
- In The Divine Comedy, falsifiers are dismembered, only to be healed and have the process start over again.
Dismemberment has been portrayed in many films; although a few are depictions of historical or actual events, a significant number are within the horror genre. Filmmakers can be quite innovative in the methods depicted, and and thus reflect the public's fear and fascination with this method of torture, homicide, and/or body disposal. The following movies portray or imply dismemberment in some form; exceptional methods or motives are described.
- 127 Hours - self-dismemberment.
- 2001 Maniacs - dismemberment with horses.
- Braveheart - Sir William Wallace is hanged, drawn, and quartered.
- Bride of Chucky - victims dismembered by falling shards of glass.
- Kill Bill
- Law Abiding Citizen - victim paralyzed with a toxin and provided with a mirror before live dismemberment as revenge.
- Saw IV - dismemberment by automated machine.
- Shaun of the Dead - disembowelment followed by dismemberment by zombies.
- Sin City
- The Hitcher (1986 film) - Victim chained between a truck and trailer and pulled apart.
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
- Twilight - decapitation followed by dismemberment.
- Cowboys & Aliens (film)
- Wagons East! - dismembered by horses
- ^ Saudi Arabia chops off hand of Egyptian for theft, 5 November 2007
- ^ "The Little Flat of Horrors", Time, 5 August 1991
- ^ DeJesus, Ivey (2010-08-26). "For area man in Peru prison, more notoriety". The Patriot-News: pp. 1–3. http://penn.live.advance.net/news/patriotnews/index.ssf?/base/news/128279310880950.xml&coll=1. Retrieved 2010-09-04.
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