The words “scold”and “to scold”mean little to us nowadays. We all know the verb, but assign it to a nursery context: we get scolded for not eating our cabbage or spoiling our nice new clothes. The noun “scold”is effectively obsolete, though if pressed most of us find that we “know”that in the olden days sharp-tongued women were ducked in the village pond. In Tudor and Stuart times, in contrast, “scold”was a strongly negative term, in destructive impact second only to “whore”(and its equivalents such as “drab”, “jade”and “quean”) as a pejorative label applied to women. Yet it was also redolent of female strength and power, since it was traditionally supposed that a scold was capable of outfacing the devil. At the same time the scold was in some sense a figure of fun: the best way to taunt a scolding woman was to offer her a “wisp”, “bottle”or “wad”of hay as an object to rail at, since this was universally recognized as the “perfect token”of a scold.2 The concept of the scold thus offers an intriguing avenue for the exploration of some aspects of the lives of women in early modern England. It is that pathway that this paper follows, concentrating (in accord with the theme of the collection) on legal issues-the punishment of scolding as a crime.