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Crime and Punishment in the Elizabethan Age.

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Crime and Punishment in the Elizabethan Age Punishments have evolved in many ways during the past four centuries. During the Elizabethan time, crimes of treason and offenses against the state were treated with the same severity that murder and rape are today. During the sixteenth century, certain nicknames were placed upon offenders. Priggers of prances was a code name for horse thieves In common English towns, people would pay the turnkey two pence for a chance to jeer at whoever was on display. Often, a victim would be in the audience to identify him. The punishment depended on the crime committed, and the price was usually a painful one. Shockingly enough, if one dared to commit a crime against the state, he would be taken from prison on a sled or hurdle, hanged until half-dead, then taken down and quartered alive. A woman found guilty of poisoning her husband was burned alive. A cook who poisoned his customers was boiled to death in a cauldron of water or lead. Further more, a servant who killed his master would surely be executed for petty treason. The interesting thing about punishments in the Elizabethan days was that all crimes were specifically punished. A baker guilty of default of weight, a butcher guilty of exposing unwholesome meat, got the pillory. Criminals weren't dealt with in private; they were displayed in the middle of the marketplace for all the townspeople to see. ...read more.


This torture, which replaced the earlier practice of deliberate starvation, was sometimes used to "persuade" the prisoner to confess, whether or not he was guilty. Though many of today's crimes may be similar to those in Elizabethan England, the methods of punishment have definitely changed a lot. Most of the punishments of the Elizabethan period would be deemed cruel and unusual by today's standards. The death penalty can no longer be enacted in cases of theft or highway robbery. One out of the ordinary punishment of the Elizabethan Era was the drunkard's cloak. It was a punishment for public drunkenness; the name of it is somewhat misleading. The flaw in the name comes from the fact that the cloak is less a cloak and more a barrel. The drunk was forced to don a barrel and wander through town while the villagers jeer at him. Holes were cut in the barrel for the person's hands and head, causing it to become like a heavy, awkward shirt. Another weird punishment was the brank, also known as the bride's scold. The brank was a punishment enacted on women who gossiped or spoke too freely. It was a large iron framework placed on the head of the offender, forming a type of cage. There was a metal strip on the brank that fit into the mouth and was either sharpened to a point or covered with spikes so that any movement of the tongue was certain to cause severe injuries to the mouth. ...read more.


Based on the level of the offense and the cruelty of the deciding party the woman could be "ducked" any number of times, and in some cases of extreme measures, the woman could drown from the time spent under water. Some of the ducking stools were mobile and could be taken to the water's edge at the necessary time, while others were fixed into place along the coast of the water as a grim reminder to the women of the town of what free speaking could lead to. One tool that was used, as punishment was the amputation saw. Much crueler than the axe, the saw was slower and more painful than the relative quickness of the axe blade. Villagers of the period could be considered twisted individuals because of the crowds of people that gathered for the public punishments and executions. The people of the period relished the public hangings, and the persons to be hanged were often falsely accused of treason, which called for them to be publicly disemboweled and then cut into quartered sections to be left on display after the person's death. In conclusion, the punishments of days past were much crueler than would be allowed today. Private executions have replaced the public hangings and cruel punishment! People are no longer executed for minor crimes like theft, and axes are no longer used to administer punishments. There are now holding cells for criminals awaiting trial instead of stocks. People of authority have gotten much nicer. And not as all cruel!! ...read more.

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