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The Ballad of Reading Gaol

by Oscar Wilde


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In 1895, Oscar Wilde was sentenced to two years of hard labor as punishment for having engaged in homosexual acts. While serving out his sentence at Reading Gaol in Berkshire, Wilde witnessed the execution by hanging of a young soldier who had murdered his wife by slashing her throat. Profoundly shaken by the execution and the crime that preceded it, Wilde composed this elegiac poem centered on the haunting refrain, "Yet each man kills the thing he loves."

Publication Details

Duke Classics
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The Ballad of Reading Gaol
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