Dostoevsky on the Horrors of Capital Punishment

“The preparations are hideous. It’s when they read out the sentence, set up the machine, bind the man, lead him out to the scaffold, that’s the dreadful part …
Such torment! the criminal was an intelligent man, fearless, strong, getting on in years, Legros by name. Well, I’ll tell you, believe it or not, when he mounted the scaffold he wept, with a face as white as a sheet. Is it possible? Isn’t it horrible? Whoever weeps from fear? I’d never imagined that a person could weep from fear-not a child, after all, but a man who’d never wept in his life, a man of forty-five. What must be happening in his soul at that moment, for a man to be brought to such convulsions? An outrage on the soul, nothing less! It is said: Thou shalt not kill” – so does that mean because he killed he, too, must be killed? no, it’s wrong. I saw it a month ago, and I can still see it even now. I’ve dreamed about it repeatedly”

from “The Idiot”, page 26: the speaker is Prince Myshkin

The Idiot (book cover).jpg

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