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The Worst Breakups in Literature, Ranked

The Worst Breakups in Literature, Ranked

Warner Bros.

Look, no one likes to read books about people breaking up with each other with grace and maturity. We like to read books where people take a loving, stable relationship and burn it to the ground. That’s why most fictional breakups are the literary equivalent of a train going off a cliff while it’s also on fire—not because it’s realistic, necessarily, but because it’s more fun that way. Here are some of those breakups, ranked from “yikes” to “I can’t believe I had to read this catastrophe with my own eyeballs.”

Ron and Lavender in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
About midway through the book, Ron starts dating Lavender, on purpose. He then realizes he wants to stop dating her, but he doesn’t have the guts to end things. It’s Harry who has get the ball rolling. This is pathetic on Ron’s part but also sort of understandable, and it’s not like anyone died, so as far as I’m concerned things could certainly be worse.

Bingley and Jane in Pride and Prejudice
Bingley leaves Netherfield (and Jane) without so much as a “see ya,” which is just 19th-century ghosting. If you have ever been ghosted, you know that it is unpleasant, especially when you’re an unmarried woman in the Regency era and your family’s estate is entailed to a male heir.

Bella and Edward in New Moon
Is this a safe space? Can I quibble about this long-forgotten hot mess of prose for a second? In New Moon, Edward no longer wants to be dating Bella, which is unfortunate, given that he’s doing exactly that. So, like anyone sensible, he leads her out into the woods, breaks up with her, and leaves her there. To his credit, they aren’t far from her house. It’s not his fault she tries to run after him like a moron. Still, Bella goes missing for a few hours, all because Edward couldn’t be bothered to break up with her in a Starbucks like a normal person. (I’m not even going to get into their actual conversation, because if I do I’ll start talking about plot holes and sparkles and Alice, and then we’ll be here all day.)

Hamlet and Ophelia in Hamlet
Okay, now it’s heating up. We all like to THINK we’d handle a breakup better than this, but when one of you is a regular person and one of you is a lunatic who is also plotting a murder, things tend to get dicey. They just do. Ophelia tries to let Hamlet down easy, and Hamlet’s response is to blurt out “I NEVER LOVED YOU ANYWAY,” which is the relationship equivalent of “YOU CAN’T FIRE ME, I QUIT.”

Hero and Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing
I think we can all agree that one of the worst places to break up with someone is “at the altar.” One of the worst reasons to initiate said breakup is “based on an unfounded accusation.” In Much Ado About Nothing, Claudio receives word that his bride-to-be, Hero, has been unfaithful. In Shakespeare’s day, the correct response to “your betrothed is cheating on you, don’t ask how I know” was apparently “HOW SOON CAN I SHAME HER IN A PUBLIC SETTING?” So Claudio humiliates Hero and she fakes her own death, but this is a comedy, so everything works out just fine. (Eventually.)

Abigail and John Proctor in The Crucible
Now, when John Proctor cheated on his wife with Abigail Williams before the events of the play, got caught, and ended the affair, he probably thought the worst that could happen was that he’d feel terrible about it later. He probably did not think this whole thing would end with half the town being accused of witchcraft and sentenced to die, but, you know, sometimes that happens.

Medea and Jason in Medea
Every single one of us is going to go through a breakup at one point or another, and it’s going to be rough. Rest assured, however, that it will never be THIS rough. In the Euripedes play, Jason dumps Medea in favor of the Greek princess Glauce. Medea, well, she takes it somewhat badly. Rather than just, I don’t know, blocking him on Facebook or something, Medea decides to deal with the pain of losing Jason by murdering people. I don’t want to hear about your ex dumping you on your birthday or throwing your stuff out the window, because neither of those things holds a candle to “MY EX MURDERED OUR CHILDREN OUT OF SPITE AND THEN POISONED MY NEW WIFE.”

Topics: Books
Tags: harry potter, twilight, breakups, books we love, hamlet, pride and prejudice, the crucible, classic literature, funny lists, characters we love, much ado about nothing, rankings, breakups in literature, medea, 19th-century ghosting

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In real life, she goes by the name Courtney Gorter. This is a closely guarded secret, and you're the only one who knows about it, so be cool. You can follow her on Twitter or check out her website if you want, but it's just going to be a lot of complaining.

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