The last day of a condemned man

by Victor Hugo

with excerpts from Cesare Beccaria’s On Crimes and Punishments


In a scenario from one of Dante’s circles of Hell we see a man undergoing the slow and cruel experience of waiting for his life to be brutally ended so that “justice may be done.” The hammer blows of the carpenters who are setting up the guillotine worm their way into the mind of the condemned man, undermining his lucid perception of what is about to happen and plunging him pitilessly into the anguished state of waiting to play his macabre part before a loathsome crowd that is baying for his death.

As a counterpart, the clear thoughts of Cesare Beccaria who, as if wishing to indicate one of the possible lines to take, inserts into the course of the account the elements needed to take a stand, to decide what side you are on. 

“Every punishment which does not arise from absolute necessity is tyrannical”