what does "mandaia" mean?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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In chapter 35 of The Count of Monte Cristo , by Alexandre Dumas, we find the Count entering Albert's apartments as per hisrequest. In the process of the conversation, the topic of European punishment methods came up, as a man from the town was about to be put through the punishment of the Mazzolata.

We know that the Count disagrees with capital punishment of that kind, but Franz and Albert seem to be pretty much into it. They later on talk about the "mandaia" and say:

You are thus deprived of seeing a man guillotined; but the mazzuola still remains, which is a very curious punishment when seen for the first time, and even the second, while the other, as you must know, is very simple. The mandaia never fails, never trembles, never strikes thirty times ineffectually, like the soldier who beheaded the Count of Chalais, and to whose tender mercy Richelieu had doubtless recommended the sufferer.

From this conversation we agree that the maindaia is another name for La Guillotine, or the guillotine. It is generally accepted that the guillotine is a more merciful method of capital punishment in that the death comes instantly and, presumably, painlessly. The latter is, of course, debatable.

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