On The Aesthetics of Suffering

On The Aesthetics of Suffering

It was a rainy August morning, and a light mist had descended on a large crowd gathering around Dorchester Gaol. The usual levity and callousness of the public by the gallows was replaced by another form of pleasure—not unlike the kind the Elizabethan groundlings experienced while watching Juliet, Ophelia, or Desdemona die on stage. The woman who provoked such sentiments was Elizabeth Martha Browne, a shopkeeper who murdered her husband with an axe a little less than a month before. Dressed in black, and looking much younger than her age, she resembled a portrait of a martyr. She was extraordinarily calm, and her composure in meeting her death invoked even more pity and compassion.

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