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Template:Capital punishment 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.


File:Dieric Bouts 013.jpg

The Martyrdom of St. Hippolytus by Dieric Bouts depicts dismemberment used in the 3rd century.

Dismemberment was carried out in the Medieval 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.

A famous device used for dismemberment is the rack, upon which the condemned is chained down by the wrists and ankles, on a large bed-like frame, and a wheel is subsequently turned, winding in the chains and causing an immense stretching.

Usage in capital punishment

File:Tupac amaru execution.jpg

The execution of Túpac Amaru II, who was to be dismembered by four horses, an action the Spaniards failed to accomplish.

Dismemberment was a form of capital punishment for convicts of high treason in the Korean kingdom of the Joseon Dynasty. The Five Pains is a Chinese variation invented during the Qin Dynasty.

Dismemberment is no longer used by most modern governments as a form of execution or torture, though amputation is still carried out in countries that practice Sharia Law.[1]

Homicide cases

There are many instances of dismemberment in modern murder cases. Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer is infamous for the dismemberment and consumption of his victims.[2] Convicted drug trafficker William Trickett Smith II dismembered his wife in Peru to dispose of her body in a suitcase.[3]

Examples in fiction



  • In The Divine Comedy, falsifiers are subjected to dismemberment in the Malebolge by demons, only to be healed and have the process start over again.


  • In 2001 Maniacs, the character Kat is torn apart by horses.
  • In Bride of Chucky, the murderous doll duo smash a mirror above a couple in a sleazy hotel, causing them to be dismembered by the falling shards of glass.
  • In Kill Bill, Beatrix Kiddo (a.k.a. "The Bride") dismembers numerous Crazy 88 gangsters.
  • In Law Abiding Citizen, Clyde Shelton paralyzes Darby with a toxin before dismembering him to avenge the rape and murder of his family. He also straps Darby to a table and places a mirror over him so he will be forced to watch his own dismemberment.
  • In Saw IV, Ivan is dismembered when he fails to escape from a device designed to violently tear his limbs off.
  • In Sin City, anti-hero Marv dismembers several of his enemies referring to it as "showing them all those pieces of themselves."
  • In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre the character Leatherface kills his victims by dismembering them with a chainsaw.

See also


da:Sønderrivning med heste de:Vierteilung es:Desmembramiento fa:مثله کردن fr:Écartèlement ko:거열 it:Squartamento lb:A Véier gedeelt (Hiriichtung) nl:Vierendeling ja:八つ裂きの刑 pt:Desmembramento vi:Tứ mã phân thây zh:車裂

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