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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Dismemberment — Dis*mem ber*ment, n. [Cf. OF. desmembrement, F. d[ e]membrement.] The act of dismembering, or the state of being dismembered; cutting in piece; m?tilation; division; separation. [1913 Webster] The Castilians would doubtless have resented the… … The Collaborative International Dictionary of English
dismemberment — index disassociation, division (act of dividing), split Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 … Law dictionary
dismemberment — 1751, from DISMEMBER (Cf. dismember) + MENT (Cf. ment). Earlier formation was dismembration (1590s) … Etymology dictionary
dismemberment — [[t]dɪ̱sme̱mbə(r)mənt[/t]] 1) N UNCOUNT Dismemberment is the cutting or pulling into pieces of a body. They found a scene of unbelievable horror involving bodies in various states of decay and dismemberment. 2) N UNCOUNT: oft N of n Dismemberment … English dictionary
dismemberment — noun a) The act of dismembering. The skill is shown by the neat way in which the dismemberment has been carried out. The parts have not been rudely hacked asunder, but have been separated at the joints. b) The state or condition of being… … Wiktionary
Dismemberment — A common feature of many stories of initiations, especially of shamans. Powerful other than human persons, ancestors, or spirits take the prospective initiate (often against their will) and tear or cut them apart, often killing them and/or… … Historical dictionary of shamanism
dismemberment — dismember ► VERB 1) tear or cut the limbs from. 2) divide up (a territory or organization). DERIVATIVES dismembered adjective dismemberment noun. ORIGIN Old French desmembrer, from Latin membrum limb … English terms dictionary
dismemberment — noun see dismember … New Collegiate Dictionary
dismemberment — See dismember. * * * … Universalium
dismemberment — n. the separating of body parts or the amputation of a leg, arm, or part of a limb. * * * dis·mem·ber·ment (dis memґbər mənt) amputation of a limb or a portion of it … Medical dictionary