Peine forte et dure


Also found in: Encyclopedia.

PEINE FORTE ET DURE, Eng. law A punishment formerly inflicted in England, on a person who, being arraigned of felony, refused to plead and put himself on his trial, and stubbornly stood mute. He was to be laid down and as much weight was to be put upon him as he could bear, and more, until he died. This barbarous punishment has been abolished. Vide Mute.

References in classic literature ?
The proceedings seemed to have come to a definite end so far as he was concerned; for one had only to look at that granite face to realize that no peine forte et dure would ever force him to plead against his will.
Clitherow, the wife of a butcher from York's Shambles, was put to death by the state by the especially horrible method of peine forte et dure.
His discussion of poems such as |The Agonie' which depends for its effect on a knowledge of the practice of peine forte et dure (a defendant in court could refuse to plead in order to ensure that the estate would not pass to the crown but remain in the family; he or she would then be pressed to death) and |The Altar', which demands submission to God but relies upon a clear conception of human free will, results in a conception of God as fascinating as William Empson's vision of Milton's: |an omnipotent being whose power and love are to be feared and prized' (196).