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Elizabethan Crime And Punishment Essay

1016 words - 5 pages

The word felon comes from the Saxon, or Old-English, language. The word is a compound of the words fell as in wrong-doing and one. So, when the world felon is broken apart, it can be translated to mean the evil or wicked one (Chapter XVII: Of Sundry Kinds of Punishment Appointed For Offenders). Felons are a common problem now and always have been. However, the way said criminals were treated was very different at the time of the Elizabethan Era, from 1558-1603. As Linda Alchin stated, Elizabethan England and Elizabethan Crime and Punishment- not a happy subject. Violent times,” (Alchin). During the Elizabethan Era, criminals were severely and brutally punished for even minor crimes such as ...view middle of the document...

As for the Elizabethan Era, the punishment was never short of cruel. As it was stated in Law and Punishment- Travel Through Elizabethan England, “Punishment in this era was meant to put you to shame and humiliate you for your crimes.” This statement is about as accurate as they come. Punishments were meant to humiliate you publicly. Theoretically, this public humiliation would deter future criminals and certainly prevented that specific criminal from committing another crime, mostly because usually they wouldn’t live to try again. For nobles, the most common punishment was beheading with an ax. After they had given their final speech, the noble would be put down onto the chopping block and the executioner would slice the head with one quick swing. Then, the executioner would grab the head by the hair and hold it up for the crowd to see. As imagined, these events were gruesome and disgusting. However, the public loved these events. Hundreds of people would gather to watch the beheadings. The other common punishment for nobles was burning at the stake. Criminals would be tied to a stake and burned alive, suffering a slow, painful death. Sometimes, gunpowder would be used to make the fire more explosive and the death slightly faster. Burning has often been a punishment associated with witchcraft (Law and Punishment- Travel Through Elizabethan England). Clearly, nobles were severely punished for their wrongdoings.

Unfortunately for the commoners, they did not have it any easier. Crimes as simple as begging for a little food could be punishable by humiliating public punishments, or possibly even death. When commoners were lucky enough to avoid the death sentence, they could be harmed in numerous ways. Commoners could be sent to the stocks to stand without food or water in the middle of town for days in a very uncomfortable position. Criminals could also be branded with various symbols or brutally whipped. If someone was caught stealing, they could suffer the cutting off of their hand so they could no longer steal. Various body parts could often be cut off...

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