This trope occurs when a character is killed in an allegorical or lyrical manner; often this is due to their own actions. A favoured fate in tragedies, or to kill off The Villain of the Story. If they are killed by their own hubris, then the hero doesn't have to get their hands dirty and instead has a chance to demonstrate their moral fibre by attempting to Save the Villain or say Alas, Poor Villain. If the cause of death is too trite or unlikely, it will challenge the Willing Suspension of Disbelief, so be careful.
Subtropes include the following:
The more lethal variations of Hoist by His Own Petard, Turned Against Their Masters and Vehicular Turnabout double as examples of this trope. When frequently invoked by one person, it falls under Poetic Serial Killer. Compare Russian Reversal for a humorous play on this.
As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
Examples that don't fit into any subtropes
- Anime and Manga
- Films — Live-Action
- Live-Action TV
- Video Games
- Western Animation
- Real Life
- A Star Wars Tales comic is told entirely from the perspective of a career storm trooper who's about to board the Tantive IV. As he thinks back on his life in the military and the things he's done, his ruminations are interspersed with the present as the Star Destroyer pulls the ship into its docking bay and they prepare to board. The man dreads being chosen to be sent in first, because the guy sent in first always dies—he's seen it dozens of times. Naturally, the sergeant chooses him. They set the charge on the door, and the storm trooper dryly remarks on its functionality, designed to blow the door inward and hopefully make the enemy flinch. And for once... it works. The rebels flinch, buying the man time to get into the hallway and start shooting. And right behind him, the sergeant that ordered him in first is shot in the face.
- The DCU:
- This is the fate of Darkseid's mother, Queen Heggra. She didn't appreciate how her son was falling in love with a beautiful and understanding scientist, Suli, so she had the court poisoner, Desaad, poison her potential daughter-in-law. Darkseid returned the sentiment by having Desaad poison her, too. This parley would eventually come back to bite Desaad in the ass, too. When Darkseid accidentally freed his father, Yuga Khan from the Source Wall, Desaad grovelled before him, telling him how his service to Darkseid "was a lie." Yuga Khan then reminded Desaad how he murdered his beloved wife, then promptly disintegrated the sniveling toad. He came back with help from Darkseid after Yuga Khan, ironically, got himself re-stuck in the Source Wall.
- A possible future demise for noted immortal villain Vandal Savage. In DC One Million, after having lived up to the 853rd century, Savage goes back in time to the 20th-century and arrives in Montevideo, Uruguay just in time to get caught in a nuclear blast that devastates the city...an attack that is ordered by 20th-century Savage.
- In the older Iron Man comics, Iron Man traveled back in time to Ancient Egypt where he fought an Evil Sorcerer called the Mad Pharaoh. The latter tripped and fell to his death on the blade of one of his swords, something that is described by Iron Man as "ironic".
- Reverend Craig of various X-Men media got this in X-Force; he lures his illegitimate mutant daughter, Rahne Sinclair, aka Wolfsbane, into the clutches of his current allies, the Purifiers, so she can be Mind Raped into becoming an assassin. During the fighting, her conditioning gets tripped by accident on his part and she attacks, kills and eats him. Making things more poignant is that he has tried to kill her repeatedly since her mutant powers first manifested.
- Peter Bagge's Apocalypse Nerd centers around two men, Perry and Gordo, who avoided getting Nuked by North Korea by camping in the Cascade Mountains. While staying in the cabin owned by Gordo's friend, the owner comes back and holds Perry at gunpoint. Gordo kills him, and it becomes apparent afterwards that the owner was dying of radiation sickness, and Gordo keeps the man's gun for himself. At the end of the story, Gordo goes back to the cabin, now occupied by Perry and his pregnant girlfriend and tries to blackmail her into letting him stay, but she refuses because he too is dying from radiation sickness, likely from the stolen gun he kept in his pants. Just as Gordo's going to shoot himself, Perry kills him first, thinking Gordo tried to attack Midge.
- Part of Red Sonja's combat prowess is her unstoppable battle rage. One evil wizard curses her to be unable to forgive, intending that she lose control of her rage and either be killed by an angry mob or exiled to a lonely death for it.
- Raven in The Tainted Grimoire killed Sir Loin by burning him. Raven's own death came about by burning him.
- Ludlow in Rise of the Galeforces. In Chapter 25 he reveals himself to be an Omnicidal Maniac who intends to destroy all non-human life. 10 chapters later, he is himself destroyed by non-human life.
- In The North Remembers, the late Lord Walder Frey is notorious throughout the Seven Kingdoms for being extremely untrustworthy, particularly when he betrays his liege lord Edmure Tully for personal gain at the Red Wedding. He is then betrayed by House Lannister, the house that had promised him power, when they take away his daughter Roslin, who is married to said liege lord, and execute her because Edmure had allowed Robb Stark's widow to escape with Ser Brynden Tully. He then promptly dies after hearing the news.
- Fallout: Equestria has Killing Joke, a plant which specializes in this. Either it kills its victims directly in some ironic way, such as a zebra who said at one point she felt like her stripes were great wounds in her skin having her stripes becomes massive open wounds when touched by a vine, or it simply sets things up for a third party to cause it, such as turning a Hellhound who was about to kill some ponies into a pony. Said ponified Hellhound was then killed by the other Hellhounds who thought he was simply one of the ponies they were hunting.
- Ra's Al-Ghul in A Spark of Genius claims that Xander is a more fitting heir than Batman as unlike Batman, he's willing to kill those who stand against him. He later pushes Xander too far by trying to take his fiances and minions hostage, causing Xander to kill him then vaporize the body to ensure he doesn't come back.
- In Mario Warfare, Wario killed the King. He is finished off by using a piece of the King's cape to choke him to death.
- In Vengeance from the Grave Harry, who was forced by the toad-like Dolores Umbridge to write "I must not tell lies" with a Blood Quill until it was carved into the back of his hand, magically compels her to write "I must not eat flies" with a Blood Quill stuck to her hand before leaving the room. She's later found dead of blood loss, having written all over her office walls after running out of paper.
- In the Naruto fanfiction Catch Your Breath Black Zetsu's death is very ironic and very satisfying (for the readers). Minato gives him to the Shinigami as the soul price for sealing Yang Kurama into Naruto. Black Zetsu was the one who extracted said half of Kurama from Kushina in the first place.
- I Am Going To Save And/Or Destroy Equestria!: Arabus gets eaten by King Sombra, who comments, "A fate both ironic and poetic: The shadow-eater, eaten by the king of shadows."
- The Life and Times of a Winning Pony: Early in The Lunar Rebellion, the rebels create a constant rainstorm over Canterlot in an attempt to flood the city and force its surrender, using up most clouds in the local countryside. This diversion of clouds has the effect of causing a great deal of drought in the surrounding land. At the end of the war, the royalists, after adding to this a bit with some increased sunshine and draining of the remaining water, turn this against the rebels. A massive fire spell later, the entire rebel army is immolated by the side effects of what was intended to gain them a quick victory.
- At the climax of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the last thing Judge Claude Frollo says before his Disney Villain Death is, "And He shall smite the wicked and plunge them into the fiery pit!" The gargoyle he is standing on then breaks, seems to come to life as Satan himself, and he falls to the pit of molten copper below and to his doom, letting loose with a Big "NO!" all the way.
- Kung Fu Panda 2 ends with Lord Shen crushed to death by his own cannon.
- Syndrome’s Omnidroid in The Incredibles originally rips out its own innards while attempting to kill Mr. Incredible, who has sneaked inside the droid, having realized that “the only thing strong enough to penetrate it is itself.”
- In The Nightmare Before Christmas, Oogie planned to make Santa and later Sally into snake-and-spider stew and ends up having all his bugs fall into the concoction, becoming stew himself.
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The evil queen who wanted to be the most beautiful of all dies while being in disguise as an ugly old witch. Cornered on a cliff by the dwarfs, the disguised Queen then tries to knock a boulder loose and bellows "I'll fix ya! I'LL CRUSH YOUR BONES!!" She cackles madly...when suddenly, a bolt of lightning shatters the ledge she's standing on, sending the wicked Queen plummeting into her doom, shortly followed by the boulder falling after her. Don't even guess whose bones got crushed...
- Coonskin: Madigan, a racist white mafiosi, is drugged and blackfaced by the Brothers, then shot to death by police men who think he is just some black man with a gun.
- The Little Mermaid, As Ursula is about kill in Ariel with the trident, she bellows, "SO MUCH FOR TRUE LOVE!!!" Then Eric steering one of the sunken ships Ursula rose from the waters, plows the bow of the ship into Ursula's chest, killing her. True love does conquer all!
- Corpse Bride ends with Lord Barkis, who had murdered his bride Emily on their wedding night, drinking the poison meant for Emily to kill her new groom Victor at their wedding.
- The vocaloid songs series The Seven Deadly Sins by mothy has plenty of this:
- In "Conchita", the titular character eats herself.
- In "Venomania", the duke is killed by a man dressed like a woman.
- In "Judgement", Marlon is sent to Hell with the exact same words he gave criminals.
- In "Princess who Brought Sleep", Margarita commits suicide by drinking the poison she had given to everyone.
- Oderus Urungus of GWAR was killed by Mr. Perfect, using the very weapon he used to kill so many creatures throughout the years.
- Another Irish Drinking Song by "Da Vinci's Notebook":
Irony was what befell me Great Grand-Uncle Sam
He choked upon the very last potato in the land
- Jesus, son of a carpenter, died on the cross, one of the things carpenters manufactured in his lifetime. Even more ironic is the fact that the Roman authorities crucified him because it was considered to be the most degrading execution method. A few centuries later the cross has become a symbol of martyrdom, worn by many Christians to commemorate whom they consider to be the most admirable human being who ever lived.
- The Bible describes one of the rebellious sons of King David, Absalom, as a very handsome man with a magnificent mane of hair. His death is therefore rather ironic. To clarify: Absalom instigated a revolution, and overthrew his father, King David. Eventually, David would regroup, and waged more battles in order to drive out Absalom. At the Battle of Ephraim Wood, Absalom got his magnificent mane caught in the low-hanging branches of an oak tree as his steed rode beneath, leaving him hanging there for days until Joab, David's chief minion, found and killed him.
- Greek Mythology is so rife with this trope, one could even say the Greeks lived in the "Irony Age." Case in point: Procrustes was an evil innkeeper who made all of his vict–, er, "guests" sleep in an iron bed. If the guest was too short, he would stretch them to fit, too tall, and he lopped off whatever overlapped. When he took in the hero, Theseus, as his guest, Theseus killed him by forcing him to lie in the bed he made. No one knows if he was too short or too tall, though, one version simply had Theseus chopping the jerk to bits. In another, Theseus finds him too short, overstretches him, and then cuts him back down to size.
- Another one of Theseus's villainous victims was an elderly bandit, Sciron, who lived on a cliff-side path. Sciron demanded, because of his apparent age, that everyone who passed by must give him his due respect by washing his feet. Of course, when the schmuck bent over to do so, Sciron pushed them off the cliff, where the corpse would be eaten by his partner in crime, a monstrous sea turtle. Guess what happened when he tried to pull this schtick with Theseus.
- King Diomedes was given a quartet of fire-breathing, man-eating mares by his father, Ares. Hercules stole these mares, and tamed them by forcing them to eat their former owner.
- A form of posthumous irony occurred with the Nemean Lion, which had an impenetrable pelt. After Hercules strangled it to death, he skinned the beast with its own claws.
- Hercules, himself, fell victim to this trope. He was fatally poisoned by the Hydra's blood when his wife, Deianira, mistakenly used the blood of the centaur, Nessus, whom Hercules slew with his poisoned arrows, as a love potion. To clarify (as much as one can, given the various interpretations of Greek myths), the centaur attempted to kidnap Deianira, and Hercules came to the rescue and slew the centaur with an arrow coated in hydra-blood poison. As he lay dying, Nessus told Deianira to take some of his [the centaur's] blood, and if she ever feared that she was losing Hercules to another woman, use the blood as a love potion to keep Hercules faithful forever. Eventually, Dieanira became concerned that Hercules was straying in his devotion (whether or not he was depends on which writer you choose to believe) and spread the blood on his famous lion-skin cloak. Although Hercules was too strong for the potion/poison to kill outright, the pain did drive him to suicide (effectively), so this story actually contains heavy irony on multiple levels.
- The king Polydectes wooed Perseus' mother, Danae, hoping to marry, then ravish her. In order to get rid of Perseus, who knew of his foul intentions, Polydectes invited Perseus to a lavish banquet where all the guests had to bring a horse, as a gift. As Perseus had no horse to give, he, instead, was tasked with bringing back the head of Medusa, the only mortal Gorgon. Of course, Polydectes assumed that Perseus would either die trying, or live in exile as a failure. He did not anticipate that Perseus would receive divine assistance from Athena, and as a result, paid for it very dearly.
- Jason's life went really went downhill after the whole "dump the girl who murdered her family members for love of you" thing. Years later, when he'd been abandoned by all, he found the rotting wreck of the Argo, the ship that had carried him to glory and now lying forgotten and useless, much like himself. He fell asleep under the wreck, and the prow fell apart and fell on his head, crushing it.
- One of the things that can kill a Basilisk or Cockatrice is the crowing of a rooster—roosters also tend to be one half of the parentage of a Basilisk or Cockatrice (the other being a snake or a toad).
- Forgotten Realms: Cyric, a mortal thief, murdering Bhaal, the god of murder. That is all.
- Also from Forgotten Realms: The Fall of Netheril saw three of these with one action. Karsus, the most powerful mage of the Netherese Empire, used a powerful spell to 'borrow' the divine power of the Goddess of Magic Mystryl to save Netheril from its slow decline.
- Karsus had initially planned to borrow the power of a lesser god, but at the last second chose Mystryl, the most powerful. He couldn't control that much power and effectively killed himself with his own spell.
- Karsus's failure and death destabilized the Weave. The great floating cities of Netheril suddenly no longer had the magic to keep floating, resulting in the Fall of Netheril and the destruction of the cities by a plan meant to save them.
- Finally Mystryl, after having her power over magic stolen with magic, had to make a Heroic Sacrifice to prevent the destabilization of the Weave from destroying rest of the world.
- In The Insect Play, the Chrysalis, after spending two whole acts promising to do great things when born, finally emerges in the epilogue as a Moth. She says she will explain the meaning of the whole world, then falls dead just like all the other moths did.
- In the play The Whipping Man, the whipping man is beaten to death (Off screen) by a slave, using the first whip that the whipping man had used on that slave.
- In Romeo and Juliet, the Prince sees the irony in the deaths of two lovesick children of the feuding houses:
Where be these enemies? Capulet! Montague!
See, what a scourge is laid upon your hate,
That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love.
- Raised as a horrible possibility in the 2013 stage musical version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which ups the infamous Laser-Guided Karma fates of several of the naughty kids (namely, Augustus, Violet, and Veruca [plus her dad]) into potential offstage deaths — certainly the Oompa-Loompas' songs suggest that's their fates!
- In The Order of the Stick: Start of Darkness, Right-Eye the rash, impulsive brother of analytical and carefully planning Redcloak is killed when he finally thinks something through carefully and formulates a well-thought out scheme... Only to have it ruined during the execution stage when his brother does something rash and impulsive. Redcloak lampshades it.
- More recently, Tsukiko is killed by her own wights after Redcloak takes control of them.
- Earlier in the strip Durkon is relieved that since he'll return home posthumously, he won't be eaten by some monster. How does he die? his blood is drained by a vampire.
- In Paranormal Mystery Squad's debut, the deer woman they are chasing is incapacitated when she runs in front of a car.
- In Homestuck, Equius, Kanaya, Eridan and Nepeta are killed in this way. Equius is garroted with his own bow - that is to say, the Heir of Void is left void of air. Additionally, he was shot through the leg with an arrow and strangled with a broken bow - after dedicating himself to being an archer, but always breaking his bows and never firing a shot successfully. Kanaya is shot through the stomach by the wand she made for Eridan; her sign is Virgo and she's left barren. Eridan himself is chainsawed in half by Kanaya after she was revived as a rainbow-drinker, or rather, the magician was sawed in half by his lovely assistant (and the Aquarius sign consists of two separate halves, to increase the irony). Nepeta's fate was been left unknown for some time after being advanced upon by Gamzee - that is to say, the catgirl existed in a state of possible life or death until it could later be observed; additionally, Nepeta was the Rogue of Heart, and had the person she cared about most taken away from her just before her death.
- Then there was Vriska, whose murder of Tavros by impaling him on his own lance led to Terezi impaling her with a stabbing cane.
- Taken to extremes in Sire. The Binding being a force of the universe as strong as fate will use dramatic irony as a weapon to punish anyone who does not live up to their story. They call it a tragic ending.
- Matt attempts to do so to Regules in White Dark Life. The irony being Matt using an Instant Kill attack on a boss with two instant kills. Unfortunately, it didn't work.
- Stockyard in Unsounded dies from hanging (which also decapitates him for good measure). He is clearly fixated on noose imagery (he ties his hair into noose shapes and uses noose iconography in his brothel), and his father was hung — with an implication that he took the fall to save his son, no less.
- The main villain of Welcome to Chastity is a witch who can among other things conjure fireballs and make women's breasts grow larger. She gets killed because of a fire she started triggers a gas explosions which she couldn't escape from since someone made her breasts so huge she couldn't move.
- Homestar Runner: In "Doomy Tales of the Macabre", quite a few of the "doomy fates" Strong Sad imagines for his friends and neighbors qualify as this. The King of Town is drowned in a giant pot of mutton stew, and Bubs gets his head bitten off by his own concession stand after accidentally bringing it to life.
- This is the most common way of choosing an execution method in Protectors of the Plot Continuum.
- Season 3 of Penny Arcade's D&D Podcast ends with Aeofel dying in the villain's mansion by getting caught in a acid pit. Later in the first PAX live game, the group ventures to hell so they can bring him back while getting their revenge on the Big Bad. When they finally get to her, she ultimately falls into an acid pit and dies.
- In Splinter Cell: Extinction, Julian Hunter is ordered by director Ward to shoot Douglas Hyland (who didn't expect that) in episode 4. And then he's shot by Ward in episode 7. He didn't expect that.
- General W of the SCP Foundation locked two small children in a room with SCP-682 an immortal, extremely malevolent Eldritch Abomination claiming it was an attempt to kill the creature. They both got brutally murdered. Later, someone else locked him in a room with 682, claiming it was an attempt to kill the creature. He got brutally murdered.
Dr. Clef: Fucking sadistic asshole. I've got no sympathy for that moron whatsoever. Introducing children to this fucking monster? What the hell…
- It's all but explicitly stated, however, that this was supposed to be karma.
Two (2) individuals, male and female, fused together at multiple points after emerging from the "Tunnel of Love" dark ride. (dead)One (1) individual wearing a "Happy Hippo" mascot uniform, found dead of suffocation. Mouth, trachea, and lungs were discovered to be filled with a fibrous substance later determined to be identical to the stuffing in said mascot uniform. (dead)Fifteen (15) individuals recovered from the "Thriller Chiller" roller coaster, all decapitated by blunt force. Witnesses reported that the deaths did not occur simultaneously, but in groups of two, starting with the front row of seats and ending with the back. Forensic analysis indicates that each set of deaths corresponded to a loop or turn in the roller coaster's tracks. (dead)One (1) individual recovered from under the "Thriller Chiller" roller coaster, dead of broken neck and massive cranial trauma caused by a fifty-foot fall from an inverted position. Individual was seated at the back of said roller coaster, and somehow managed to extricate self from the ride's safety harness halfway through the ride. (dead)One (1) individual found dismembered inside the "House of Mirrors" attraction. Left arm was found sixteen feet to the north from the torso. Left leg was found inverted and attached to the ceiling by sinews. Right leg was found in the possession of Subject 79, partially consumed (forensic analysis indicates that teeth marks found on flesh and bone of said leg are human in origin). To date, no trace of right arm has been found. (alive)
- SCP-823 ran on this trope before it was abandoned. The following are just a few deaths that occurred there:
- World's Strongest Abridged: In this continuity, Doctor Wheelo was a famed cancer researcher. He died of lung cancer. He lampshades it during his introduction. It's mentioned in Broly: The Legendary Super Saiyan that he would later die again, this time of brain cancer.
- In Fallout Lore The Storyteller, the Nuka-Junkie, a psychopath addicted to Nuka-Cola who appears in the Season 1 finale and a mini-story arc spanning two episodes in Season 2, is blown up with a Nuka-Grenade, which is a weapon powered by the very same special edition Nuka-Cola Quantum that he was threatening the Storyteller's life for.
- In None Piece, Luffy gets unreasonably mad at a group of pirate cat neuterers and kills them all by ripping off the front rod of their cat-shaped ship and hitting them with it. He even lampshades it.
Luffy: Prepare yourselves for a visually ironic death!
- In Team Four Star's Let's Play Pokémon LeafGreen Nuzlocke, they had a Fearow they nicknamed Alex. When fighting a random mook in the Fighting Dojo, the mook sent out a Primeape, so they sent Alex out, thinking that because Alex was Flying type, they had a type advantage over the Fighting-type Primeape. Primeape proceeded to use Cross-Chop, which insta-killed Alex. After a moment of stunned silence, they finally realized that Fearow is Flying/NORMAL type, which means that due to Fighting's type-trump over normal, he would take 1x damage from fighting type attacks due to the super-effective attack against normal cancelling out the ineffective attack against flying.