ABSTRACT

Th e English Execution Narrative is a new look at the descriptions of an old ritual: the execution of traitors, heretics and common criminals from the thirteenth century through to the seventeenth century. e thirteenth century is chosen as the entry point because it was the century in which these rituals of punishment were rst formalized in England. is book ends in the seventeenth century as the viability of the public execution as an exemplary strategy that served the interests of the state began to be called into question. Using contemporary accounts of these events, this work explores more than what happened to the body of the condemned. It examines the many ways the body on the sca old conveyed meaning, for that body was more than just the object of a technology

of power. In a series of chapters on the descriptions of dismembered traitors; the role of blood as a representational device; the changing relationship between death, time and descriptions of the body on the sca old; the role of clothing in the construction of identity in the execution narrative; and the history of the relationship between body and the last dying speech in the pamphlet literature, this book explores how over the course of ve centuries the role of the body on the sca old shi ed as the message of the execution ritual was swept up in rapidly moving currents of political and religious change. ese topics are woven together to argue that the conceptual resources that rst formed the execution ritual in the thirteenth century were challenged by a series of cultural shi s and political crises that led this ceremony to be reported in a series of di erent ways from late medieval to early modern England.