Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Department or School/College

Department of English

Committee Chair

John Hunt

Commitee Members

John Eglin, Robert Browning


beheading, Chapman, Dekker, early modern, execution, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Tudor England


University of Montana


This thesis explores the executions of noble men and women in Tudor and early Jacobean England and the theatrical representations of executions that mirrored real life spectacles of deadly punishment. Historical scaffold confessions followed a formulaic pattern and condemned traitors performed their final moments before a crowd of witnesses with the power to judge the quality of the actor’s deportment, costuming and words. As a public stage, the scaffold allowed the traitor a chance to assert and define his or her own individuality in the face of death and formulaic requirements, which I outline in the first chapter. Dramatic representations of executions both reflected and subverted the depictions of real life performances at the block. Playwrights employed the scaffold confession in a variety of ways. Execution spectacles within plays could—depending on the intention of the author—uphold the power of a just monarch, defy conventions and reveal societal ills, or show the agency of the individual characters facing execution.



© Copyright 2013 Jennifer Lillian Lodine-Chaffey