Crime and punishment affected the Elizabethan Era by highlighting the difference between the lower class and the upper class. During this time England was separated into two different social classes, which were the noble and the commoners and punishments were determined not only according to social class but on the seriousness of the crime committed.The lower class was more prone to theft and poaching out of desperation and poverty their crimes were punished more with public humiliation tactics rather than killing the criminals like they did with most Nobel. Some public humiliation and torture tactics the Europeans had were carting, whipping and using the pillory. When carting they would put the criminal backward on a horse wearing a place card that stated the crime they had committed and the horse would be led through the town for everyone to see and watch (Picard). Usually, crimes such as petty theft or incest were punished with carting and then led to the center of the town and put in the pillory. A pillory was a wooden plank with three holes cut in it a hole for the head and two hands where they would stand there while people gathered around and mocked or threw items at, although the pillory was not meant to be deadly, the spectators would kill them depending on how bad the crime was (Picard).
As the crimes got worse the punishments would vary, whipping was a punishment they would often use for low treason which was the type of treason commoners were more prone to rather than high treason like the nobles. When a criminal was to get whipped their back would be placed bare and they would whip them however many times Queen Elizabeth assigned and then they would send them on a trail through the town to scare everyone in hopes that crime rates would drop. It can be inferred that during this time commoners punishments were more in the public eye and most of the crimes they committed were considered petty. The nobles were more prone to commit more serious crimes during this time because they had money and they either wanted more or wanted more power Queen Elizabeth. So their crimes dealt with treason and spying on the government, and Queen Elizabeth feared being overthrown from her throne therefor those offenses had serious punishments. Nobel criminals were never publicly humiliated, their punishments were fast and deadly.
Although their punishments would sometimes be held publicly in hopes of scaring people so the crime rates would drop. The nobles were often sentenced with beheading which is where their head would be dismembered from their body. Often when the head was completely removed they would hold it up for the people watching to see because there were eight seconds where the person was still conscious until lack of oxygen would finally kill them. (Alchin). “The most grievous punishment a person could receive was where one was hung until half dead, then they would take the person down and quartered alive after that their members and bowels were cut from their bodies and thrown into a fire, provided near hand and within their own sight” (Alchin). This punishment was only used if you offended the state. This information shows that the noble class was publicly humiliated less and did not suffer much tourte like the commoners, the nobles were just killed instantly with little to no public crowd.
During the Elizabethan Era courts were rarely used and when they were everyone went with the prosecution rather than the defendant. Today’s punishments are more thought out and usually don’t end up in death or public humiliation. During today’s time the judicial system has control over punishments there are three courts that make up the judicial system the supreme court, the court of appeal, and the high court. “Each court serves a purpose and deals with certain crimes the supreme court is the final court of appeal, the court of appeal is an appellate court and is divided into two divisions, Criminal and Civil, and high court is hears more serious and complex civil family cases” (Arden).
Each court that has judges come through to listen and determine the final decision. Common punishments include prison time, community sentences, fines, and discharges. Unlike the Elizabethan Era the judicial system does not determine punishments by class it’s more on the seriousness of the crime and each judge has a process they have to go through to determine the punishment. Based on the historical evidence crime and punishment during the Elizabethan Era were based on social class, commoners or nobel rather than going through a process to determine a punishment for the crime committed.
Unlike today’s judicial system the queen determined the punishment and when crimes went to the courts everyone was on the prosecutors side rather than listening to both sides of the arguments.