The genesis of the game design for Shakespeare Deathmatch comes out of a theory I have that unifies his plays; he often plays with the four elements, and ties these thematically to a set of motifs that recur across his plays. When you see what he's up to with the four elements, you can quickly get some insights into what's happening in scenes, between characters, or within characters. For example, I think I've been able to solve two questions of "Hamlet" (why does it take so long? Why the pirates??) by layering this theory over the play.
In brief, the four elements tie to four mental/emotional processes. On one axis (I put this on the horizontal) we have water and fire, and these represent emotions of love and hate. The prototypes of these are Ophelia (love - talks about water constantly) and Laertes (her brother - hate - talks about fire ad nauseum). The other axis (I place this one vertical) is intellect. At the top you have air, which is foolishness and deception. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are up there with all of their talk of clouds and wind and playing recorders. At the bottom you have stone, which is logic and kingly behavior - and you have Horatio, the most stable character in all of literature. Like, the dude is a rock. He's also a timekeeper, and he grounds the entire play. When Hamlet is interacting with Ophelia, he's an emotional wreck and dealing with love; he talks foolishness and is in full-out trickster mode when interacting with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. He has grounded conversations with Horatio (the key one is in a graveyard for criminy's sake).
Then I was thinking about how characters die in Shakespeare's plays, and realized that these also link to those ideas. There are blades for hate (or course), but poor Ophelia has all of those letters that break her little heart. Poison is a go-to for those deceiving others, while money is the way that kings get things done. Why kill someone when you can pay someone else to do it? These then became the ways that you deal damage to characters. My original draft had Hamlet as the quintessence (since that's his whole thing in the play - it takes so long because he has to integrate each of those four forces into his persona, and that's some heavy lifting), but he kind of breaks the game. I'm thinking that at some point there will be a special "Hamlet quintessence" card that shows him at full Hamlet or something, but for now I'm happy enough with how he turned out. I kept going back and forth between wanting to mirror the plays and the characters, and needing to balance a game for fluid play. I am happy with the sweet spot I found on it. For example, Lady Macbeth is rich and thinks she can social order her way to power, but she also is willing to pick up a dagger and stick a dude when necessary. This is the type of damage she's hurt by. However, she isn't very worried about little things like love (so letters roll off her back) and her blood is poison, so for her that's like drinking tea. That's the kind of thinking that went into each of the character cards.