Drawn and quartered?

From what I understand, the drawing refers to dragging the condemned around behind a horse. After which, the dude is beheaded, then quartered.

Quartered = cut into four pieces.

So how is a torso + four limbs quartered? Seems to me that it would be fifthed (?)

Or, is this just semantics. That is, they cut off the limbs and call it a day?

Cecil once had something to say about this. What do “drawn and quartered” and “keelhauling” mean?

And, Here’s a link to a thread we did on this about six months ago.

Nothing semantic about hung, drawn & quartered.

Drawn means disembowelled.

After beheading the body is cut/chopped into quarters, making five pieces, plus assorted vicera and gore.

Try google, if your stomach is up to it.

I was always under the impression that being drawn and quartered was the act of the victim had his arms and legs fastened to 4 horses, and the horses were ridden/driven in 4 different directions, ripping the person apart. Is this incorrect?

Humans are REALLY really good at coming up with bizarre tortures and execution methods.
This may be one reason why we haven’t been asked to join the Galactic Confederation.

Drawn and quartering as the OP asks, is

Drawn - disembowelling (having your gut cut open and your bowels spilled out).

If that didn’t kill you the quartering would.

Quartering - using an ax and chopping your torso into four pieces, each with a limb attached, one portion of the upper torso peice would keep the head.

There were also variations to this, as previous posters have posted (beheading before quartering and using horses to arbitrarily quarter the body).

Medieval torture and execution was very gruesome.

Hmmm… In the column Cecil says only the Dutch enacted keelhauling as a punishment… but IIRC it was after I saw the Marlon Brando version of Mutiny on the Bounty in the early 1960’s that I asked my dad what keelhauling was.

I can’t believe Hollywood, especially in those days, would so callously ignore historical facts for a good story…

Both the Clark Gable and Marlon Brando versions of the story were ultimately based on novelizations that themselves callously ignored historical facts for a good story. Read Caroline Alexander’s The Bounty to learn the truth behind the matter, and to see how history has soiled the legacy of a genuine English hero.

Drawn and quartered? Isn’t that when having a painter make your portrait and being given a house to live?

It’s worse to be slaughtered, gutted and heartbroken.

Although its based on another book, 1984’s The Bounty is IMO the best (and most accurate) screen version of the affair.

Has what today would be a dream cast: Mel Gibson, Anthony Hopkins, Daniel Day Lewis, Liam Neeson, and Laurence Olivier!

In some countries this would be the scenario. I think this was how they did things in France.


That’s how I always heard it too; also that onlookers would place bets as to which limb the torso and head would stay attached to.

On the other hand, the Galactic Confederation may consider our methods too pedestrian and uncreative, especially in the past century or two.

They had such hopes for us as a species. Perhaps its time for them to come down and give lessons.

A recommendation I second. It sticks very close to the facts and the cast is stellar.

A note - it is uncertain what the word “drawn” means in the context. Some linguists think it refers to the act of being dragged along the ground, others think that it refers to the act of the entrails being pulled out.

If you pull all four limbs in different directions, eventually the body will be ripped into four pieces - three individual limbs, and one limb with the torso still attached, unless the torso itself is somehow secured to something.

To try something similar, put two parallel tears most of the way across a piece of paper. Then, by pulling only on the outside parts, try tearing the paper into three pieces with one pull. You can’t do it. The middle part will always stick to whichever end had a slightly better grasp on it.

If that were the case wouldn’t it be “drawn, hung and quartered”?

The article by Cecil expands on the meaning of “drawn” includingthis addendum:

*Dear Cecil:

In your column you suggest that the Encyclopaedia Britannica entry “drawing and quartering” is incorrect in interpreting the term “drawing” to refer to the prisoner’s disembowelment.

Although David M. Walker’s The Oxford Companion to Law agrees with the Britannica interpretation, we found your interpretation favored by several sources, including the Oxford English Dictionary as well as Sir Frederick Pollock and Frederick William Maitland’s The History of English Law Before the Time of Edward I. It is clear that in this context “drawing” is more correctly understood as referring to the act of dragging the prisoner to the place of execution, and the entry will be amended at the earliest opportunity.

Thank you for bringing the matter to our attention.

— Peter Meyerhoff, assistant editor, Encyclopaedia Britannica *