The Mask of Shame

Technical description

Fiction description

The Mask of Shame


The “Mash of Shame” (Scolder’s Bridle) – a tool of torture, invented in Britain at the end of the XVI century.

The first mention of this device is a reference made of torture in 1567. In those times the punishment was quite common and used mainly on women or especially grumpy individuals, those convicted of witchcraft or violent behavior. For this reason, the instrument received its second name, The Gossiping Girl’s Bridle. Centuries later, the mask was used in forced labor camps to publicly humiliate female prisoners.

The Bridle is a mental structure that is fixed onto the head of its victim. The front part comes with a metal gag with spikes. The one inside the mask is unable to partake in food or drink. Any attempts to open his mouth end with a pierced tongue. As was such, it was exhibited in a public place in order to repent for inappropriate actions. That, in addition to showing spectators what the harsh consequences were for slander or rash behavior. A very interesting example of the Scolder’s Bridle comes from the XVIII century, kept in the museum of Berlin in Brandenburg (Märkisches Museum in Berlin). The Germans added an iron bell to the design to draw attention to the gossiper, thus elevating its offensiveness.

There is documentary evidence of the torture of one Teylifeyr Bessie (1567, Edinburgh), was sentenced to the Gossiper’s Bridle and accused of libel and unfounded accusations of fraud.

An interesting fact: There were more royal kinds of masks, intended for those who violated public order. As was custom, it did not have a gag, and physically they did not harm their victim. The appearance of the mask was symbolic enough. For example, seeing a woman clad in a steel head of an ass, you have no doubt that she looks ridiculous, as well as there being a mask with a long nose on it.

Fiction description


Why do you think a person takes to covering his face with a mask? Does it ever happen that someone is forced to wear such a mask against their will?

Here we have a woman being punished for her fowl temper. A “Gossiper’s Bridle” rests upon her head. Her face is distorted in a nervous tick, red eyes covered in mucus, her throat and the roof of her mouth parched from long-lasting thirst. All that she is allowed to do — gaze at respectable people through the metal bars of the mask and quietly whimper. She cannot eat, nor drink, nor even ask for indulgence — if she utters any word, she will suffer a more severe punishment, such as being beaten with rods. They lead her around on a chain like a wild animal.

Prison blacksmiths have invented many types of shaming masks. For gluttons, an iron helmet was conceived in the shape of a boar’s head through which they can’t partake in food. Gossipers are brought into the streets in comical masks, with a voice pipe sticking out of thier hammer-beaten mouths. Liars are donned long noses, and fans of eavesdropping — conical ears. Passersby clutch their bellies in laughter, poking at the fingers of those sentenced, and occasionally even throwing garbage at them. Tears of shame and impotence pour from the iron guises, searing tears of dishonor.

In addition, little plates are attached to those convicted, with their name, profession, address, and the type of crime committed, which are worn around their necks. They are lucky that in the days of the “Mask of Shame” there were no cameras.