Heaney measures his sense of injustice against a stone-age community’s brutal intolerance of rules perceived to have been violated. He illustrates the troubling irony: stone-age justice that puts an adulteress to death is not so far removed from contemporary Ulster society that metes out punishment when sectarian rules are seen to be breached. Conflicting loyalties, pity and guilt, private and collective, supply ‘Punishment’ with its emotional charge… Heaney is looking for a tenable position (MP p 137) The first person speaker attends the stages leading to the execution of a young woman accused of adultery. He senses the tug of the halter at the nape of her neck as she is pulled to the execution site; her upper body has […]