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Who Will Hang?

Understanding the Unpredictability of the Bloody Code

This is a very controlled physical activity, with no free movement or role-playing so there’s minimal threat to good classroom order. The activity helps students understand the nature of punishments under the Bloody Code and its unpredictability. It is intended for GCSE use but could also be used in KS3.

The activity exactly follows the game on pp. 94-5 of the SHP Crime and Punishment book but, as often happens, taking the activity off the page and breathing life into it by putting students into the roles of the accused, makes the situations far more personal and may therefore enhance understanding and recall. There’s a very high chance that, later in the course or for revision, students will remember the day John was Charles Macklin, accused of murder, or Jane was Elizabeth Hardy who was transported to America. That identification is often crucial to better recall.

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A formatted version of this activity should print from your browser (omitting this support section).

Or, a WORD version of this activity can be downloaded, click here.

This activity is based on the ’Decision Making ’ style of model; for more examples of this model, click here.

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At the end of this Activity students should have developed:

  • knowledge of the kinds of crimes that carried the death penalty under the Bloody Code
  • knowledge of alternative punishments under the Bloody Code
  • understanding of the unpredictability of the Bloody Code and therefore why it did not necessarily deter people from crime.

Setting Up

You need:

1) Tabards for the 6 people accused of crimes:

  • Charles Macklin
  • Elizabeth Hardy
  • William York
  • Roderick Audrey
  • Dr Dodd
  • Ann Collins

2) Label a corner of the room as The Condemned Cell.

3) Numbered cards containing the information in the squares of the board game (on p.95 of Crime and Punishment). The text of these squares is provided below.


1. You are convicted of manslaughter. You are set free after being branded on the hand.

2. You are accused of stealing goods worth 13 shillings and sixpence. Go to square 19.

3. You are sentenced to hang and the sentence is carried out.

4. Your wealthy and well-known friends tell the court that you have a good character and collect signatures on a petition to save your life. Go to square 20.

5. The jury hears that you trained birds to fly through open windows so that if you were caught you could claim that you were only trying to get your bird back. Go to square 9.

6. You are desperate to speak up for yourself in court. To give yourself courage you have a drink of gin. Go to square 12.

7. You are accused of killing another actor in an argument. Go to square 16.

8. The jury recommends you should hang but the judge discusses your case with other judges because of your age. Go to square 21.

9. You have nobody respectable to speak to the court on your behalf. Go to square 3.

10. You are accused of forgery and obtaining £4300 by false pretences. Go to square 4.

11. You are sentenced to death. However there has not been much crime lately and the court is sorry for you. Go to square 24.

12. You drank too much. The judge thinks you are rude when you try to defend yourself and that you do not respect him or his court. Go to square 3.

13. You are accused of murdering a 5 year old girl. Go to square 23.

14. You are reprieved from hanging when you agree to join the navy and leave the country.

15. You are accused of stealing goods worth £1 but you really are innocent. Go to square 6.

16. Your wealthy and well-known friends tell the court that you have a good character. Go to square 22.

17. The King and government believe that forgery is a most serious crime. Go to square 3.

18. You are accused of stealing from houses. Go to square 5.

19. You tell the jury that your husband deserted you, leaving you alone in London without work. Go to square 11.

20. The jury finds you guilty but recommends you be reprieved from hanging. Go to square 17.

21. The jury decides that you are to be kept in prison for nine years with the death sentence hanging over you. Go to square 14.

22. Your acting skills come in useful. You show great respect for the judge and say how sorry you are for the accident. Go to square 1.

23. The jury hear that you planned the crime carefully and carried it out in cold blood. Go to square 8.

24. You are reprieved from hanging and sentenced to transportation to America.


The Activity

a) Choose 6 students to play the parts of the accused. Line them up (wearing tabards) at the front of the room as if they are about to enter a court to go on trial. Their crimes are as follows:

  • Case 1 - Charles Macklin - a famous actor. His story starts with card 7.
  • Case 2 - Elizabeth Hardy – aged 19. Her story starts with card 2.
  • Case 3 - Roderick Audrey – aged 16. His story starts with card 18.
  • Case 4 - William York – aged 10. His story starts with card 13.
  • Case 5 – Ann Collins – aged 20. Her story starts with card 15.
  • Case 6 - Dr. Dodd – one of the King’s chaplains. His story starts with card 10.

b) Announce the first accused and his/her crime. Ask the class whether they think he/she will hang if found guilty. Repeat for each of the accused and note on the board the predicted punishments for each accused.

c) Distribute the cards around the rest of the class. This enables the individual stories to be built up as in the following example:

Example Case

Ann Collins - start with card 15 - ask student holding card 15 to read it out, then students holding card 6 and so on until Ann Collins' story is told in full. Each story involves 4 or 5 cards. It's up to you how much drama and sense of "what will the next card reveal?" you build in. Pause before the last card for each character and ask if any students want to change their predictions. Repeat the story so students hear it all in one go. Ann Collins was hanged so send her to the condemned cell.


After you have been through all 6 stories you will have three people in the condemned cell and 3 with alternative punishments. Now is the time for debriefing e.g.

  • How accurate had been the class's predictions?
  • Why were some hanged and some not?
  • How effective was the Bloody Code likely to be in reducing crime?
  • Why was hanging used as a punishment for small thefts?
  • What have you learned from this activity?


  1. What exactly were you trying to achieve and was the impact of this activity on students’ understanding?
  2. What differences did it make approaching the Bloody Code through this activity instead of other approaches? Was this simply about initial interest or did this have a deeper effect on how students thought and tackled the topic?
  3. When and how will you refer back to this session later in your course? Will this reference back be more effective because of the use of hot-seating?

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Constructive feedback is always welcome, particularly anything that will help other teachers.

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This Page




Setting Up

The Activity