Shakespeare and the LawA Conversation among Disciplines and Professions

Shakespeare and the LawA Conversation among Disciplines and Professions

Bradin Cormack, Martha C. Nussbaum, and Richard Strier

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226924939

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

William Shakespeare is inextricably linked with the law. Legal documents make up most of the records we have of his life, and trials, lawsuits, and legal terms permeate his plays. Gathering a team of literary and legal scholars, philosophers, and even sitting judges, this book demonstrates that Shakespeare's thinking about legal concepts and legal practice points to a deep and sometimes vexed engagement with the law's technical workings, its underlying premises, and its social effects. It opens with three chapters that provide useful frameworks for approaching the topic, offering perspectives on law and literature which emphasize both the continuities and contrasts between the two fields. In its second section, the book considers Shakespeare's awareness of common law thinking and common law practice through examinations of Measure for Measure and Othello. Building and expanding on this question, the third section inquires into Shakespeare's general attitudes toward legal systems. A judge and a former solicitor general rule on Shylock's demand for enforcement of his odd contract; and two chapters by literary scholars take contrasting views on whether Shakespeare could imagine a functioning legal system. The fourth section looks at how law enters into conversation with issues of politics and community, both in the plays and in our own world. The book concludes with a freewheeling colloquy among Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Judge Richard Posner, Martha C. Nussbaum, and Richard Strier that covers everything from the ghost in Hamlet to the nature of judicial discretion.

Table of Contents

Front Matter

Introduction

Bradin Cormack, Martha C. Nussbaum, and Richard Strier

Part One How to Think “Law and Literature” in Shakespeare

Decision, Possession

Bradin Cormack

“Lively Evidence”

Lorna Hutson

Part II Shakespeare’s Knowledge of Law

Part III Shakespeare’s Attitudes toward Law

Law, Politics, and Community in Shakespeare

A British People

Marie Theresa O’Connor

Part Five Roundtable

A Justice, a Judge, a Philosopher, and an English Professor

Bradin Cormack, Martha C. Nussbaum, and Richard Strier

End Matter