Journal article

Singing the News of Punishment The Execution Ballad in Europe, 1550-1900

Una Mcllvenna, Siv Goril Brandtzoeg, Juan Gomis

Quaerendo | BRILL | Published : 2021

Abstract

This article explores the pan-European phenomenon of the execution ballad, songs that told the news of true crimes and their punishment by public execution. Looking at examples across nine languages, from the sixteenth through the nineteenth century, this comparison reveals that these ballads share multiple features in textual content and format: a recognisable, formulaic narrative; sensationalist and emotive language; and a conservative perspective that confirms that the condemned is guilty and that 'justice' is being served. We also note key regional differences, such as in the use (or not) of contrafactum, the setting of new lyrics to familiar melodies, in the use of the first versus thir..

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