Sunday, October 23, 2022

Quote of the Week, Bonus Edition: I Likes a Good Hanging, I Do

We assume our revulsion at brutal death ceremonies is natural and instinctive, but it is not. On the contrary, not only were public executions not particularly shocking to those who witnessed them in the Middle Ages, they were not particularly shocking to those who saw them in the eighteenth, nineteenth, or even twentieth centuries. It is our intensely imagined empathy for other people's pain in the twenty-first century that sets us apart, and even that may be a more fragile attribute than we would care to admit. If spectacular punishment seemed like a barbaric vestige from another age to men like Dickens and Thackeray, who both wrote to condemn capital punishment after watching Courvoisier hang, it was the intransigence of spectators as well as the suffering of the victims that proved increasingly disconcerting to the authorities.

 - Frances Larson, Severed, pp.101-102

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