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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Executioners Got No Respect

Accounts of criminal trials published in old books and documents generally go into much deatil of the court proceedings. The judge's name, the lawyers' speeches, evidence given by the witnesses, even the prisoners' protestations, are covered in full. And when executions were held in public, news sheets described each one minutely, dwelling avidly on the victims's behavior, the crowd's reactions. Yet little if anything was said about the official presiding over the dreaded finale. He was referred to only as the "executioner," thereby implying that he was unworthy of further identification, except as an object of scorn.

Geoffrey Abbott, Lords of the Scaffold, 1991

1 comment:

  1. I see it differently. I think naming the executioner would be far more disrespectful. I don't know how accurate it is, but movies typically depict executioners as hooded. I view them as a (debatably) necessary function of society, but not one for which anyone wants to be known. The anonymity is a way of saying that it's not an individual man, but society as a whole, who is executing someone. I doubt the executioner wants to be known as such, and I'd like to believe he takes no pleasure in it. I assume that's why his name is rarely mentioned.

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