The cross-examination

‘He’s putting me in such a doldrum’

in Men on trial
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Verbal dexterity was particularly useful within a legal system where the cross-examination was a key mechanism for accessing truth. This chapter explores the cross-examination as a vehicle for truth and a technique for negotiating legal and social power relationships. This chapter begins with an exploration of how Irish-language speakers and Irish-English speakers with a ‘strong brogue’ were represented in the press, highlighting the tensions that multilingual Ireland caused for a truth formed through wordplay. It then explores banter and joke-telling as a key strategy during cross-examination, before looking at the limits of the possibilities of humour, particularly for elite men who conformed to codes of honourable manliness. Through providing an opportunity for men from different ranks to challenge lawyerly manliness, the cross-examination became a space to assert Irishness as an identity, one that was legitimate, manly and rooted in the way of life of the lower orders.

Men on trial

Performing embodiment, emotion and identity in Ireland, 1800-45

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