(usually plural: bilboes
) is a tool of corporal punishment
for men and women alike. The bilboes combine physical discomfort with social humiliation; they were popular in England
and America in the colonial and early Revolutionary periods (such as in the Boston Bay colony
) until they were superseded by the use of stocks
. The device consisted of a heavy bar of iron with two loops of iron attached such that they could slide up and down and be tightened; the malefactor's two legs would be slipped into the two loops, and the loops would be tightened such that the malefactor's movement would be considerably impaired and they would be otherwise discomfited.
It was used in England to "punyssche transgressours ageynste ye Kindes Maiesties lawes". According to legend, the device was invented in Bilbao, Spain, and was imported into England by the ships of the Spanish Armada for use on prospective English prisoners. Bilboes appear occasionally in literature, including Hamlet (Act V, Scene 2: "Methought I lay worse than the mutinies in the bilboes") and the journals of Captain Cook.