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Death by Woman Scorned

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His quandary echoes the legacies of masculinity. What kind of man lets a woman call the shots? It's no accident that the cuckolded heroes of the great dramas and operas tend to kill their beloved rather than give her the freedom not to choose them. Death—of her, of him, or of them both—is the only honorable way out.

Someone murders their significant other as vengeance for adultery.

Alice is dating or married to Bob. Alice finds out that Bob is sleeping with Carol. Alice then kills Bob for cheating on her. This may be presented as a justified act, even if it is a serious crime. He'd done her wrong. While the same scenario is a common dramatic plot with both genders, some modern depictions are more sympathetic to Alice shooting Bob-the-cheater than Bob shooting Alice-the-cheater.

By contrast, many Real Life cultures in the past have tended to go easy on the husband's killing either a cheating wife and/or the man she was cheating with. Not so much in the modern Western world, though, and stories produced from that perspective don't usually treat it as justified in anything more than a passing reference/joke, which is why most examples here come from songs. A full story involving someone killing their straying lover usually has to admit that this is a bad thing to do, no matter the gender and may even be recognised as Disproportionate Retribution if at least in the heat of the moment as a bit of a mitigating factor.

See also Woman Scorned, If I Can't Have You…, Yandere, A Deadly Affair, and Murder the Hypotenuse. See also Manslaughter Provocation - until 2009, in Britain, killing your partner for infidelity was manslaughter, not murder. May overlap with Asshole Victim if the deceased was particularly unsympathetic (e.g. if he habitually mistreated her in other ways).

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.



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Woman Kills Man

    Film — Live Action 

  • In Agatha Christie's Five Little Pigs, married artist Amyas Crale's philandering gets him murdered. But the woman who kills him is not the one whom everyone first suspects: it's not the wife but the mistress, who was in love with Amyas but realized that for all his dalliances he'd only ever loved his wife.
  • In Stephen King's The Green Mile, there was only one woman on the Mile, who put up with her husband beating her every night but killed him the moment she heard he was cheating on her. Her sentence was commuted to life and she died a free woman.
  • This is the setup for the Roald Dahl short story "Lamb to the Slaughter", infamous for its extremely clever Twist Ending the murder weapon is a frozen leg of lamb, which she then cooks as part of her alibi and serves to the policemen investigating the case, as she "doesn't want it to go to waste". Admittedly, it's stepped up a notch as the husband explains to his wife — who's pregnant with their first child — that he's going to leave her for reasons unmentioned, ending with "And I know it's kind of a bad time to be telling you, but there simply wasn't any other way. Of course I'll give you money and see you're looked after. But there needn't really be any fuss. I hope not, anyway. It wouldn't be very good for my job." You might be tempted to konk him too.
  • Murderess features a narrative poem about a girl who takes bloody revenge against a former lover, sneaking into his room, cutting his throat, and telling him how happy she will be knowing he's dead.
  • In No Way to Treat a First Lady by Christopher Buckley, Elizabeth Tyler MacMann is indicted for murdering her husband, the President of the United States. The last night he was alive, she confronted him over his latest infidelity and left a mark on his forehead with a Paul Revere soup tureen. Subverted when the actual cause of the President's death is determined to be heart failure induced by an overdose of Viagra.
  • In Susan Dexter's The True Knight, the opening scene is when the queen, having killed the king who sent her away to bring out his mistress openly, now goes to kill his mistress and their daughter. (The daughter is only saved by a Forced Transformation.)
  • In Warrior Cats, Mapleshade murders her unfaithful mate Appledusk. However, this is only part of her motive; she also does so to avenge their kits whose deaths he blamed her for.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Investigation Discovery program Deadly Women falls under this trope as well.
  • Since Orange Is the New Black is about a female prison, some of the inmates who are in for murder are perpetrators of this trope.
  • This trope is the entirety of the Oxygen Channel's Snapped. Most episodes cover a Real Life case of an abused and/or cheated-on woman who killed her husband (sometimes father). They try not to paint the women in a sympathetic light, but the show still has a "he deserved it" kind of feel.
    • Sometimes the husband is a saint and the woman is simply tired of being married but doesn't want to go through a divorce, or wants his life insurance policy, or the woman was actually a sociopath. These episodes don't count, though - they're just plain ordinary murder and not relevant to this trope. Women do sometimes kill people for reasons other than "bad men".
  • In Squid Game, after Deok-su rejects Mi-nyeo, she gets her revenge on him in the fifth game by grabbing him into a Deadly Hug and then pulling him down with her off the glass bridge where they plummet to their deaths. One of the VIP viewers watching this lampshades it as a fitting and poetic ending for the two of them.
  • In the Tales from the Crypt episode "Split Personality", it's "women kill man", as the plot involves a con artist who woos twin sisters and deceives them into marrying him separately via a Fake Twin Gambit, both for their $2 billion inheritance and to satisfy his Twin Threesome Fantasy, only to meet his end once said twin sisters find out about his deceit, overpower him when the opportunity presents itself, strap him to a bed, and cut him in half with a chainsaw.

  • The extended version of Garth Brooks's "The Thunder Rolls" (though the video depicts the husband as being abusive as well as adulterous):
    She runs back down the hallway
    And through the bedroom door
    She reaches for the pistol
    Kept in her dresser drawer
    Tells the lady in the mirror
    He won't do this again
    'Cause tonight will be the last time
    She'll wonder where he's been!
  • Cher's "Dark Lady." Here, the main protagonist is a woman who visits the title character, a fortune teller, distressed over a failing relationship with her boyfriend. Unknown to the woman, the boyfriend has been cheating on her and his lover is the "Dark Lady," although this is not made clear until the end of the song. Using foreshadowing, it is clear that "Dark Lady" becomes nervous over her visitor so, after the rigmarole of dealing cards and mumbling incoherently into a crystal ball, draws two cards, gives the vague clue that the boyfriend has indeed been unfaithful and his lover is "someone else who is very close to you," and then advises her to leave and never return... even forget that she even visited. The woman goes home and tries to get some sleep. Until she accidentally gets a whiff of the smell of the room... it was perfume that was identical to the scent she got at the fortune teller's hut. Curious and wanting answers, she makes a return visit to the Dark Lady... and because she is suspicious as to what is going on, brings along a gun. Those suspicions are confirmed when she walks into the back area of the hut... and finds the boyfriend and "Dark Lady" in each other's arms having sex. They're in a state of sexual ecstasy... until they see the boyfriend's angry girlfriend pointing a gun at them... and the gun is loaded... and it is fired.
  • The first published version of the Murder Ballad "Frankie and Johnny" ("He was her man/But he done her wrong") appeared in 1904.
    • The UPA short Rooty Toot Toot takes place during Frankie's trial. She gets acquitted, then shoots her lawyer for dancing with chanteuse Nelly Bly.
  • Lil' Kim has killed at least 2 boyfriends in her songs.
  • In the music video for Melanie Martinez's "Sippy Cup", Cry Baby's mother catches her husband and his mistress together in the middle of the night and stabs them to death. When Cry Baby walks in on the murder scene, her mother presses a chloroform-soaked rag over her mouth and nose to knock her out so she won't remember.
  • In Pomplamoose's "Bust Your Kneecaps", a girl has been dumped by her boyfriend and she's giving him one last chance to take her back, with deadly consequences if he doesn't. However, it won't be her doing the killing, but her family, who has ties to the Mafia.
    Johnny, there's still time
    Together I know, we'd go so far
    I'll tell Uncle Rocko
    To call off the guys with the crowbars...
  • Anna Russell's songs "Dripping With Gore" and "Two Time Man" are (mild) parodies of this trope as used in country music.
  • It's heavily implied in Carrie Underwood's "Two Black Cadillacs", and made explicit in the music video, that a wife and mistress conspired to murder the philandering husband by cornering him in an alley and running him down with one of the eponymous Cadillacs. On top of that, the video has the car used in the murder exhibit an eerie sentience, such as driving the two women away from the funeral, with them in the back seat, and immediately repairing the damage to itself caused in the crash (a la Stephen King's Christine), effectively erasing any evidence of foul play.
    They decided then he’d never get away with doing this to them
    Two black Cadillacs waiting for the right time, the right time...
  • In the folk song "William Taylor", Taylor is pressed into the navy, so his girlfriend dresses as a man to follow him to sea. When she finds him, she learns that he's taken up with another woman, and shoots them both.

    Professional Wrestling 

  • Chicago
    • Three of the "Six Merry Murderesses of the Cook County Jail" from "Cell Block Tango" fall under this trope.
      • Annie found out her boyfriend was not only married but was a Mormon with six wives. She poured arsenic into his drink that night.
      • Velma walked in on her husband doing the "spread eagle" with her sister Veronica. She killed them both.
      • Mona found out her boyfriend's long walks at night were really an excuse to visit his other girlfriends and a boyfriend. He didn't live much longer after that.
    • A later scene had an heiress shoot her husband when he was in bed with two women. His Implausible Deniability just adds to this.
  • There was Brünhild(e) in Norse mythology and in Richard Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung, although in this case Siegfried's potion-induced cheating was combined with him forcing her to marry Gunther. And depending on the version of the myth (though not in the opera), he also raped her to take away her virgin superpowers.
  • "If You Hadn't, But You Did" from the musical revue Two on the Aisle has a verse beginning in soap-opera-style bathos and ending with a gunshot. It then turns into an angry List Song running down the reasons for saying goodbye to her husband, most of them having names like Geraldine and Kate.

    Video Games 
  • In Fallout: New Vegas when entering the Silver Rush for the first time you see Gloria Van Graff negotiating with an unsatisfied client. She then has one of her Mooks disintegrate a bound and gagged man to prove a point and cut dialogue reveals he was an ex-lover who cheated on her.
  • When entering Tatooine's Dune Sea for the first time in Knights of the Old Republic, you encounter Marlena Venn who brags to you about having tampered with her husband's droids before fleeing the planet. You later encounter her husband Tanis and learn that he slept around behind her back for years, and she retaliated by rigging his droids to explode around him should he move. You can help him out, or leave him for dead (which most of your companions, even the Lawful Good Jedi Bastila, recommend doing).
  • The School Days media series of games, anime, and manga have this going on in some of the bad endings when it's not Murder the Hypotenuse. The most infamous examples involve Makoto being stabbed by Sekai (in both the anime and one of the original game's bad endings), but it also includes Yuuki being beaten to death by Kotonoha in Cross Days.
  • According to Jeanette in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, her "sister" Therese murdered their father with a shotgun in a jealous rage after catching the two of them in bed together.
  • In the Blood & Wine expansion of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Geralt meets the Witch of Lynx Crag, who seduced a knight that came to ask for her help with a drought eons ago. When he felt guilty about cheating on his fiancée and tried to return to her, the witch indirectly killed him and says to Geralt, "Was I to let another woman have a man who belonged to me? Hmph. I could not abide it."
    • If Geralt angers the witch, then she ends up killing the man who hired him out of spite, showing that you don't even have to be the one who caused the scorn to become a victim.

Man Kills Woman

    Film — Live Action 
  • One of the stories in Creepshow is about a man who murders his cheating wife and her lover by burying them on the beach at low tide and leaving them to drown.
  • Fracture (2007) begins with the protagonist shooting his wife for cheating on him with a policeman.
  • In The Grudge, Saeki Takeo murders his wife in a rage for being attracted to another man.
  • Hide and Seek appears to start with a woman's suicide, but it is eventually revealed that her husband murdered her after seeing her kiss another man.
  • In The Mailman the protagonist's father killed his wife and her lover, then himself.
  • In Nightmare Castle a man finds his wife having sex with the gardener and tortures them both to death.
  • The Private Life of Henry VIII includes the fates of Anne and Catherine Howard.
  • The Willie Nelson film Red Headed Stranger has protagonist Shay, a fallen preacher, gunning down his wife Raysha for running off with another man before wandering and getting involved in the affairs of a single mom and a sheriff who wants him to help fight outlaws.
  • Subverted in The Shawshank Redemption: Andy's wife was cheating on him, and he goes to jail for her murder. Although he did consider killing his wife, he's actually innocent of the crime (someone else got her first).
  • In Star 80, a man murders his wife after finding out she's having an affair and trying to leave him. Sadly based on a true story, and not played as a positive trope.

  • In Oscar Wilde's "Ballad of Reading Gaol," this is the condemned prisoner's crime.
    He did not wear his scarlet coat,
    For blood and wine are red,
    And blood and wine were on his hands
    When they found him with the dead,
    The poor dead woman whom he loved
    And murdered in her bed.
  • The Moonlit Road by Ambrose Bierce is a ghost story about the murder of a woman and one of the perspectives suggests that her husband strangled her in a jealous rage after seeing a man outside and assuming she was being unfaithful.
  • In the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box," this turns out to be the motive for the murder. When a man rejected the overtures of his sister-in-law, she poisoned his wife's mind against him and introduced her to a man with whom she began an affair. He ended up following them and murdering them in a fit of jealous rage.
  • Part of the backstory in Stranger in a Strange Land accounting for why Valentine Michael Smith is an orphan. His mother—an ingenious engineer—cheated with the ship's historian and conceived a son. Her husband, the ship's doctor, delivered the baby by Caesarean and let her bleed out. He then killed the man she'd been with and himself.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Decisiones Extremas depicted in the episode "A imagen y semejanza". Gloria cheats on her husband Esteban with another man, which prompts Esteban to murder her before she could run away with said man.
  • Weirdly appears on Rome when Vorenus finds out his grandson is in fact his wife Niobe's son by another man. According to Roman custom at the time it was not only Vorenus' right to kill her for her infidelity, but it was also what honor demanded (and Vorenus is constantly shown to put Honor Before Reason). He grabs a knife but doesn't seem like he will be able to actually kill her, so she flings herself off a balcony and takes her own life as a final act of love.
  • Depictions of the life of Henry VIII are likely to include a bit of this since two wives (Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard) were executed for adultery, whether true or not. That includes The Six Wives of Henry VIII, The Tudors and Wolf Hall.

  • Ambiguously implied in "Laura (What's He Got That I Ain't Got)," a No. 1 country hit by one-hit wonder Leon Ashley in 1967 (and re-recorded many times, including by Kenny Rogers). The ambiguity comes at the end of the song's second verse, where the cuckolded husband — having snapped for not knowing why his wife has been unfaithful or what qualities her lover has that he might not — takes a gun and demands an immediate answer, "if there's time before I pull this trigger."
  • Garth Brooks's "Papa Loved Mama" is presented as comedy. This version is presented from their offspring's POV who remains sympathetic to both their cheating mother and their cuckolded, murderous father:
    Mama was a looker, lord how she shined
    Papa was a good'n, but the jealous kind
    Papa loved Mama
    Mama loved men
    Mama's in the graveyard
    Papa's in the pen
  • Appears to be the case in Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds "We Came Along This Road". The song's lyrics start with "I left by the back door, with my wife's lover's smoking gun" and then describe the protagonist going on the run.
  • Possibly subverted in The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets' "Jimmy the Squid". Jimmy is accused of killing his mate for sleeping with another squid. He says he's innocent.
  • The third verse of Dr. Dre and Eminem's "Guilty Conscience" has the two arguing as a man's conscience on whether or not to kill his cheating wife and her lover (Dre tries to talk him out of it, but Slim Shady is goading him to go ahead). They both agree to do it after Slim calls Dre out on his own past ("You gonna take advice from somebody who slapped Dee Barnes?").
  • "Hey Joe", recorded by a number of artists, most famously by Jimi Hendrix.
  • Blake Shelton's "Ol' Red" has this as the reason the protagonist is in prison:
    Well, I caught my wife with another man
    And it cost me ninety-nine
    On a prison farm in Georgia
    Close to the Florida line
  • The ambiguous ending of George Jones' "Radio Lover" can be interpreted as this, involving a cuckolded DJ husband who comes home to catch his wife in bed with another man, and then sings the song's chorus, "The last words they ever heard."
  • The rap song "Scandalous Hoes II" by Mike Jones, which ends with murdering the woman for cheating, presented as completely justified.
  • Tom Jones' "Delilah".
  • The end of the video for "Down Low" from R. Kelly featuring Ron Isley as Mr. Biggs. After the latter walks in on his wife cheating on him with the former, who was told to keep her company in Biggs's absence but not to touch her, he has the former beaten by his bodyguards and left in the desert. Biggs's wife is found in intensive care, having also been beaten for her infidelity, by a wheelchair-bound R. Kelly, who witnesses her succumb to her injuries.
  • Played with in "The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia" (a No. 1 pop hit by Vicki Lawrence and famously covered by Reba McEntire). A man finds out that his wife's been the town bicycle while he's been gone, and goes to kill her and his friend with whom she was last cheating on him. He gets arrested for it, and as the title suggests, gets the death penalty. Subversion: the husband didn't do it. His little sister got to the cheating wife and the friend first.
  • Richard Marx, "Hazard", maybe. The male character's accused of it, but the truth is intentionally ambiguous.
  • "E," a piece of Country Music by Matt Mason, is a case where it's clearly unjustified being a variation on the folk song "Matty Groves": the husband (the singer) finds his wife ("you") in bed with her lover, and, instead of just killing them, decides to give them a fighting chance, giving them a car, a gun, and a short chance to run before he comes after them.
  • Threatened in the song "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town"—written by Mel Tillis and recorded by, among others, Waylon Jennings and Kenny Rogers—but the point of the song is that the male character is paralysed, thus why he thinks she's leaving him, and why he can't carry out the threat of "if I could, I'd get my gun and put her in the ground"
  • "Blood Red and Goin' Down," a No. 1 country hit by Tanya Tucker in 1973. Then a winsome teenager, the lyrics of this murder ballad fit Tucker well as a young pre-teen, forced to tag along with her father, who is bloodthirstily angry at his wife after learning she had slept with another man (the latest in a line, as implied by the lyrics). Eventually, the man finds his wife, in the arms of another man, in a ramshackle tavern and carries out his brutal deed... but not before sending the daughter outside. However, unknown to the father, the girl watches the slaying.
  • "The Cold, Hard Facts of Life," most famously by Porter Wagoner. Here, the cuckolded husband is a traveling businessman whose frequent trips away drive the wife to cheat. He finally finds out when he comes home unexpectedly, hoping to surprise his wife with wine and a romantic dinner... but at the liquor store, he runs into a man that — unknown to him — is sleeping with his wife. The ending is clear: the main protagonist stabs his wife and her lover to death, and he's left to rot in a jail cell as he awaits trial.
  • "She Wore Red Dresses," an album cut and de facto title tune to Dwight Yoakam's 1989 album Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room. Yoakam takes the role of the cuckolded husband, who married a beautiful young woman purely for how sexually enticing she was while wearing red dresses. The lust eventually dies and she walks out on him; betrayed, the angered husband stalks his wife, tracking her down to a lonely hotel, where he finds her asleep in the arms of her lover. After summoning his courage and bitterly cursing his wife, he walks in, holds the gun to his wife's head... and fires before she knows what's going on. "She wore red dresses/but now she lay dead."
  • Warren Zevon's "A Bullet For Ramona".

  • A large number of Elizabethan/Jacobean plays, commonly described as "domestic tragedies", culminate in wives being murdered in revenge for their infidelity. Some of these plays had titles like A Warning To Fair Women or A Woman Killed with Kindness.
  • Shakespeare's play Cymbeline deals with a man attempting to kill his wife because he believes she has committed adultery.
  • Othello is about a man being driven by his own paranoid jealousy to murder his wife for her perceived infidelity.

    Video Games 
  • Played for Laughs in one of the in-game books in Daggerfall. A Dark Elf man returns home to find his wife cheating on him and murders her in a rage. When questioned at his trial why he murdered his wife instead of her lover, he replies, "I thought it better to kill one woman than to kill a different man every night."
  • Played for Drama in Prison Architect, which opens with you executing a prisoner who found his wife in bed with another man, responding by shooting them both dead.

Attempted Murder/Other

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Adam's Rib, a wife shoots her husband after finding another woman in his arms, but he survives. Her defense attorney Amanda Bonner gets the jury to excuse her actions under the Double Standard grounds that a man shooting at an unfaithful wife would not be judged so harshly. Keep in mind that this movie was made in 1949.
  • Played for Laughs with Jake's unnamed ex-fiancée in The Blues Brothers who spends the course of the movie trying to kill him (and his brother, who didn't even know her) with military hardware after he ditched her at their expensive wedding over three years prior.
  • Almost taken to downright ludicrous extremes in Iron Sky: So Klaus Adler, new self-appointed Moon Nazi Führer, had a fling with Vivian Wagner who works for the President of the U.S. He cuts it short, though, and returns to the Moon — without her. Big mistake. Vivian has herself promoted to the position of Captain of the space battleship U.S.S. George W. Bush with the clear intent to dump, quote, "dozens of megatons of nuclear warheads" on, quote again, "Klaus' kraut ass." Just because he dumped her. It's just awfully convenient that Klaus happens to be launching an all-out invasion on Earth right then which George W. Bush has to help fend off before Vivian can nuke the Moon Nazi base to kingdom come. What actually ends up killing Klaus is his girlfriend Renate slamming one of her stiletto heels into his forehead.
  • In Oz the Great and Powerful, Theodora brings down Oz's hot-air balloon down in flames. He wasn't on it.
  • In Titanic (1997) after Rose jumps out of the last lifeboat onto the ship to be with Jack, Cal is shown looking extremely jealous as they embrace, so much so that he takes a gun and shoots at them, intending to kill them both.
  • In Unfaithfully Yours a man becomes convinced his wife is cheating on him, so he invents schemes to murder her in revenge. Things don't work out as expected.

  • In Dragon Bones, Bastilla tries to get a man killed simply for rejecting her and then being vaguely interested in some other woman. More precisely, she puts a spell on Penrod, so that he stabs Ward in the back after Ward dared to reject her and smile at Tisala. Penrod is then killed by Tosten, in order to save Ward. Maybe she had planned for Penrod's death, as she still needs Ward, and killing Penrod in this way causes him severe emotional pain. She's a villain, and not exactly well-adjusted, mentally.
  • This trope comes up in Let Me Call You Sweetheart, and is ultimately defied. Namely, when Charles Smith found his daughter Suzanne had been fatally strangled, he believed her husband killed her for having an affair. He believed that a jury would be more sympathetic towards her husband if they knew of her infidelity, so he hid the evidence of her affair – including some jewellery her lover gave her and a note he'd sent her – then testified that as far as he knew Suzanne was a faithful wife who was afraid of her husband's jealous rages. Consequently, Skip received life in prison despite insisting that his father-in-law was lying. The irony is that Skip didn't kill Suzanne and Smith's actions have enabled the real murderer to get away with it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One episode of CSI revolved around trying to find out who placed a bomb in a rental car that killed an Air Marshal. While it was originally presumed to be some kind of terrorist act, it turns out that it was placed by a science teacher who got murderously pissed that her husband had a second secret family complete with children. Her attempt got screwed because the rental car's clock was badly wired, which made the bomb go off several hours later than planned.
  • Played with in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where the plot goes both ways - a male character sees himself cheated on, murders both parties, and commits suicide, then a female character goes through the exact same scenario and reacts the same way. In actuality, both characters were caught up in the psychic playback of events that happened to someone else in the past. And that someone else was not presented as justified, but as disturbed.

    Video Games 
  • In Dragon's Dogma, the Duke attempts to murder the young Duchess for sleeping with the player character. However, he will do this whether or not the infidelity has actually taken place, being pretty much off his rocker, and in either case, he is prevented from succeeding.
  • Required as part of the Goblin newbie zone in World of Warcraft regardless of gender - you have a romantic partner, that romantic partner then leaves you for someone else, and you have to hunt them down and rip out their cheating heart.

    Western Animation 


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): He Had It Coming


Pineapple Heiress Scorned

Kitty comes home to find Harry in bed with two women, and she responds like any scorned woman would.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / DeathByWomanScorned

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