Paul Friedland

in Seeing Justice Done

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780199592692
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741852 | DOI:

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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With the end of the Terror, government officials and many townspeople expressed abhorrence of the spectacle of execution, and guillotines throughout France were gradually moved from city centers to more remote locations. Although the law insisted that executions be public, and although many still clung to the idea that public punishment served the purposes of exemplary deterrence, contemporary sensibilities frowned on those who actually showed up to watch. Consequently, officials did everything in their power to dissuade the public from attending executions, and to limit the visibility of those who did. Executions were performed at twilight and with little warning; elevated scaffolds were banned. Although the number of executioners in France was reduced to a single practitioner, he continued to perform the vestiges of the penal spectacle until the curtain finally came down in 1939, after which all executions would be performed behind closed doors.

Keywords: elevated stage; spectacle; execution; guillotine; public punishment; exemplary deterrence; sensibilities

Chapter.  7335 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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