GenMassachusetts-L ArchivesArchiver > GenMassachusetts > 2007-05 > 1178769436
Subject: [GENMASSACHUSETTS] Peine Forte et Dure - Death by Pressing - England
Date: Wed, 9 May 2007 23:57:16 EDT
"'This Death Some Strong and Stout Hearted Man Doth Choose'
The Practice of Peine Forte et Dure in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century
England" in LHR 23:2. The citation read as follows: "Most historical accounts
of punishment focus on those doing the punishing: the state and its agents.
In this insightful and original article, Andrea McKenzie examines the meaning
of the choices made by those enduring punishment.
This account of the use of peine forte et dure in seventeenth- and
eighteenth-century England argues that courts interpreted the refusal of criminal
defendants to answer charges against them as an attack on their own authority
Often, in fact, some defendants intended exactly that. In capital felony
cases, judges subjected the uncooperative accused to the peine forte, the most
gruesome method of physical torture at their disposal.
Famously employed against an accused wizard in late seventeenth-century
Salem, Massachusetts, the peine forte usually killed slowly and horribly.
Those subjected to it either bore their fate stoically or quickly changed
their minds and agreed to plead. McKenzies account emphasizes the nature of
legal and judicial authority and, just as important, the motives of those who
willingly chose the peine forte, knowing it probably meant death.
For some, the chance to invert the inherent power structure of the criminal
process was the opportunity to assert the ultimate moral authority in society.
Moreover, the display of manly courage and resolve in the face of torture
could be read as a rejection of the deferential, passive role thrust upon [such
offenders] by the courts. McKenzie employs an expressive literary style, in
keeping with the pathos of her sources, while unsentimentally exposing the
power of the judicial process in the lives of ordinary people.
This piece contributes fresh insights to the history of capital punishment,
the meaning of pain and suffering, the interweaving of legal authority and
religious faith, and the representation of masculinity in the early modern
period. Its skilful blending of cultural and legal history provides a model for
many other areas of inquiry."
************************************** See what's free at http://www.aol.com.