In addition to being one of the highest-ranking members of the “Friends of Constitutional Government” party, Hara Tsuyoshi was a great admirer of Western philosophy and literature. His home in central Tokyo was famous for its library of Japanese translations of Shakespeare and Locke, and he functioned as a sort of lending library to younger members of the “Friends.”

The Japanese military was implacably opposed to the “Friends” program of constitutional democracy, and after the assassination of Tsuyoshi’s patron, Prime Minister Takashi, the old man knew that he was in danger. So when he returned home one afternoon to find junior officers of the Imperial Army standing over the bodies of his wife and son with bloodied daggers, he calmly walked into his library.

They found him seated in his favorite armchair with a Japanese translation of Macbeth in his lap. They did not approach, wary of the Type 26 revolver that lay conspicuously on the end table nearby. Tsuyoshi read to them from Act IV, Scene 3, in which Macduff learns of his murdered family. The assassins, not understanding, assumed that he was laying a curse upon them. They charged; Tsuyoshi took up his revolver and ended his own life before they covered even half of the distance.

What became known as the “Murdered Deer” incident, from a line in the bloodstained scene Tsuyoshi was reading at the moment of his death, might have been forgotten before long if not for one final irony.

There were five assassins that night, and each of them died during Japan’s subsequent conquests–each on the anniversary of Dr. Tsuyoshi’s suicide.

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