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A shrew's fiddle at the torture museum in Freiburg im Breisgau

A shrew's fiddle or neck violin is a variation of the yoke, pillory or rigid irons whereby the wrists are locked in front of the bound person by a hinged board or steel bar.[1] It was originally used in the 18th century as a way of punishing women who were caught bickering or fighting.[1][2]

History

A shrew's fiddle for two at the torture museum in Freiburg im Breisgau

The shrew's fiddle was used in medieval Germany and Austria, where it was known as a Halsgeige, meaning "neck viola"[2] or "neck violin".[3] It was originally made out of two pieces of wood fitted with a hinge and a lock at the front. The shrew's fiddle consisted of three holes. One was a large hole for the neck and the other two were smaller holes which fastened the wrists in front of the face.[2] A bell was sometimes attached to this portable pillory, to alert townspeople that the victim was approaching so that she might be mocked and otherwise humiliated. Another version was a "double fiddle" by which two people could be attached together face-to-face, forcing them to talk to each other. They were not released until the argument had been resolved.[4]

References

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