Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?

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Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?

A rhetorical question referring to an excessive amount of force that has been applied to achieve something minor, unimportant, or insignificant. The line is a quotation from Alexander Pope's poem "Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot." To "break upon a wheel" refers to a mode of torture, in which a victim has their bones broken while strapped to a large wheel. The government's use of drone strikes and artillery bombing on the town to wipe out a tiny faction of rebels is totally unjustifiable—who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?
See also: break, butterfly, upon, who
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
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References in periodicals archive ?
The film's title is taken from the quotation "Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?" from Alexander Pope's poem Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot.
6 Which newspaper criticised the jailing of the Rolling Stones for drugs offences with the headline who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?