Shrew's fiddle

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A shrew's fiddle at the torture museum in Freiburg im Breisgau
A shrew's fiddle for two at the torture museum in Freiburg im Breisgau
A shrew's fiddle being worn by a dummy at the Oberhausmuseum in Passau

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. It was originally used in the Middle Ages as a way of punishing those who were caught bickering or fighting.[1]


The shrew's fiddle was used in medieval Germany and Austria, where it was known as a Halsgeige, meaning "neck viola"[1] or "neck violin".[2] It was originally made out of two pieces of wood fitted with a hinge and a lock at the front.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.[1]

A bell was sometimes attached to this portable pillory, to alert townspeople that the victim was approaching so that s/he 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.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Halsgeige (neck-viola) and Shame-mask". Museum of Medieval Legal History. Retrieved 2008-05-04.
  2. ^ Rublack, Ulinka (1999). The Crimes of Women in Early Modern Germany. Oxford University Press. p. 75. ISBN 0-19-820637-2.
  3. ^ Kuenning, Geoff (2005). "Rothenburg: Torture 101". Adventures in Karlsruhe. Harvey Mudd College. Retrieved 2008-05-04.