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Despite the Classical subject and the heroic couplets, the young Beddoes' macabre fascinations shine through--had the subject of the 1821 prize indeed been the Laocoon, it is hard to imagine it being awarded to a work of such untrammelled grisliness.
Although Peter is hardened to the grisliness of dissecting corpses, he does find some aspects of his work difficult to cope with.
From the horrible grisliness of the tasty head curry to the evocative sadness of the father whose transmission of metaphysical knowledge separates him from his son forever, the reader is drawn into Shulman's perspective on this material.
He writes, "The execution protocol serves as a necessary device to keep order in the prison around the time of an execution, to keep the execution party's mind off of the grisliness of their task over a period as long as 10 days, and to control the condemned man's fear by making him believe he was a part of a ritual that was being conducted in a competent way by trained people, including doctors and clergymen.
The grisliness of this tragic opinion is manifest by its impact on Nancy Cruzan and her parents.