Ep 144: 16th Century Executioners with DJ Guba


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Many famous people from history have had their lives come to an end by execution. We tell these stories with gusto, reverence, and sometimes even humor, but the person responsible for being the executioner goes largely unnoticed beyond the recognition that someone, albeit we rarely know who, had to actually be the executioner.

The word “executioner” comes up in Shakespeare’s plays 17 times, twice referred to as a “common” executioner, twice mentioned in context of characters expressing their distaste for the profession, and a few times mentioned in the stage directions as a character appearing on stage. But what was an executioner supposed to look like on stage in the 16th century? If it was a common profession, how did someone become an executioner? Who were England’s executioners, how were they hired for this repulsive job, and with something so repugnant as a career that several characters in Shakespeare’s plays verbalize how much they hate the idea of being an executioner, what must it have been like to live in early modern England as an executioner--were there personal ramifications against them for the performance of their duties?Here to help us answer these questions and explore the profession of official executioner in early modern England is our guest, DJ Guba.

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