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Pain, Penance, and Protest
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  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Expected online publication date: January 2022
  • Print publication year: 2022
  • Online ISBN: 9781009067065
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Book description

In medieval England, a defendant who refused to plead to a criminal indictment was sentenced to pressing with weights as a coercive measure. Using peine forte et dure ('strong and hard punishment') as a lens through which to analyse the law and its relationship with Christianity, Butler asks: where do we draw the line between punishment and penance? And, how can pain function as a vehicle for redemption within the common law? Adopting a multidisciplinary approach, this book embraces both law and literature. When Christ is on trial before Herod, he refused to plead, his silence signalling denial of the court's authority. England's discontented subjects, from hungry peasant to even King Charles I himself, stood mute before the courts in protest. Bringing together penance, pain and protest, Butler breaks down the mythology surrounding peine forte et dure and examines how it functioned within the medieval criminal justice system.


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