Crime and Punishment

In the Elizabethan Era from 1550 to 1650, their were many crimes that are similar to those that are committed today. Along with these crimes, there were punishments. Although these punishments were much worse then the ones we have today, the law enforcers thought that these punishments would scare the people. They also thought that these punishments would convince the people not to commit the crimes to begin with. In the Elizabethan Era their were minor crimes, major crimes, and different types of punishments.



Crimes in the Elizabethan Era were classified as misdemeanors, felonies, or treason. (Andrews 80). Some crimes such as hunting at night with a painted face, escaping from a prison, stealing goods from a dead man, being drunk in public, and being naked in public were all considered misdemeanors, or minor crimes. (Swisher 80). Back in this era, their were not many jails, so the law enforcers believed that it was cheaper to have physical punishments rather then housing the criminals. (Andrews 82). A way that prisoners could be freed was if he or she read from the bible, and they had to read it in Latin. (Andrews 83). For minor crimes, the punishments weren't as bad as felony punishments. For instance, some people could be whipped, fined, or called bad names. Public humiliation was the mildest type of punishment. (Olsen 151). Today, mild punishments are not as harsh as they were in the Elizabethan Era.



Major crimes in the Elizabethan Era included murder, manslaughter, treason, rape, witchcraft, highway robbery, theft, and even suicide. (Picard 250). If a person committed suicide, there was still punishment given to the dead corpse, for example, their would be a stake driven through the dead corpse's heart. (Picard 251). People committed of a major crime were often punished by death. Most people who were sentenced to death were hung to death. The hangings drew large crowds and also included bleachers and refreshments. There were even people who would take the day off of work to witness a hanging. (Andrews 82). If someone was caught stealing, their right hand would be cut off, and their eyes would be plucked out with hot tongs. (Different Kinds). Also, if a person stole something that was worth more than one shilling, they were hung to death. (Emerson 126). In the Elizabethan Era, if a person committed a major crime, their punishment is far worse then the one's given to criminals today would be.



In the Elizabethan Era, punishments were very brutal and were often considered torture. Punishments ran from having needles put under their nails to being hung to death. People were even burned at stake, or boiled in either water or iron. (Picard 251). Also, some people were pressed to death. This happens when the criminal would lay on sharp rocks, and there would be a very heavy weight put on their chest that would crush them to death. (Swisher 80). Some people were even branded on the forehead. If someone was a pirate, they would be hung at low tide, and wouldn't be cut down until three tides have overflown them. (Picard 250-251). Some criminals even had a hole burned in their ear with an inch wide iron rod. (Olsen 157). Some major criminals were put in a device called The Rack. This device pulls on the victims arms and legs and pulls the joints apart. (Andrews 82). A special way that people were hung involved a cart, a rope, and The Gallow. The person is placed in the cart with a rope wrapped around the victim's neck. The other side of the rope is tied to The Gallow. The cart is moved until the person is left hanging. If the person's neck wasn't broken on contact, the villagers would pull on the person's legs. (Picard 250). For the worse crimes, the criminals were hung but cut down before they died. Then, they were disemboweled while the person was still alive. Also, the heart of the victim's heart would be burned, their head would be cut off, and their body would be cut into four different pieces. (Picard 250). These were the punishments, or torture methods, back in the Elizabethan Era.



Crime and punishment was very gruesome in 1550's and 1650's, which is the Elizabethan Era. There were minor punishments given to minor crimes and major punishments given to major crimes. If a person committed something simple, they could be whipped or fined, and death was usually the punishment for a major crime. Punishments were far worse back in this era then they are now. Law enforcers believed that giving these punishments would scare the people and convince them not to commit anymore crimes. Back in this era, there were minor crimes, major crimes, and punishments.


A Video!
(Branding Iron)





Pictures!
(The Wheel) (The Pillory) (Grabianowski)
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(Scavenger's Daughter) (Martin)
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(A Hanging)