Internet Shakespeare Editions


Humiliation and mutilation

The stocks.

The Fool, in King Lear, sees the disguised Kent in the stocks: "Ha, ha, he wears cruel garters" (King Lear 2.3.7.) The stocks (compare "stockings"), fitted over the ankles, the pillory, the more severe punishment, over the head and wrists. The person thus pinioned was at the mercy (or lack of it) of the bystanders.

Some lesser punishments of both civil and ecclesiastical courts involved the pillory, even first* offences for minor witchcraft. Other punishments meant mutilation: branding, or cutting of parts of the body.

Did the punishment fit the crime?


  1. Drastic measures

    More serious offences resulted in more draconian punishment:

    Witches are hanged or sometimes burned, but these are hanged (as I said before) generally on the gibbet or gallows.