Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9780226924939 Published April 2013
E-book $7.00 to $30.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226924946 Published April 2013

Shakespeare and the Law

A Conversation among Disciplines and Professions

Edited by Bradin Cormack, Martha C. Nussbaum, and Richard Strier

Edited by Bradin Cormack, Martha C. Nussbaum, and Richard Strier

344 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2013
Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9780226924939 Published April 2013
E-book $7.00 to $30.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226924946 Published April 2013
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 an extraordinary team of literary and legal scholars, philosophers, and even sitting judges, Shakespeare and the Law 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.
 
Shakespeare and the Law opens with three essays that provide useful frameworks for approaching the topic, offering perspectives on law and literature that 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 part 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 essays 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 volume 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.
 
Celebrating the sometimes fractious intellectual energy produced by scholars and practitioners tackling the question of Shakespeare and the law, this collection is a resource and provocation for further thinking and ongoing discussion.
Robin West, Georgetown University
Shakespeare and the Law is true to its word. This collection is filled with captivating and often convincing claims about not just the brooding omnipresence but also the moral necessity of law to Shakespeare’s characters, their fate, and the quality of justice depicted and dispensed in the plays, as well as in Shakespeare’s own life and in our own world. The essays provide an education, while the transcribed conversation that closes the volume, with a guest appearance by Justice Stephen Breyer, is an illuminating and delightful denouement.”
Julia Reinhard Lupton, author of Thinking with Shakespeare
“This splendid collection of essays embraces dramaturgical, legal-historical, legal-philosophical, and formal and linguistic approaches to the question of Shakespeare and the law. Although the Shakespeare we meet here is suspicious of the law’s formalisms, a world without law is no utopia in his plays. Instead Shakespeare seeks out and celebrates the forms of equity that might qualify and contextualize the letter of the law in order to explore the forms of civility and fellowship through which human beings resolve conflicts and build worlds. Funny, informative, fast-moving, and smart, this book is both a pleasure to read and a resource to savor and share.”
Stanley Fish
 “The main title of this excellent volume—Shakespeare and the Law—is too modest. The subtitle—A Conversation among Disciplines and Professions—is more accurate. A collection of brilliant conversationalists, taking law and literature as baseline frames of reference, explores the intersections of literary texts, jurisprudential conundrums, problems in the philosophy of language, the imperatives of morality, the abyss of history, the perils of statecraft, the legitimacy of authority, and the deep waters of race and gender. Always, however, the conversation returns to works of literature, with even the lawyers and judges acknowledging that the pleasures of the text exceed the (considerable) pleasures of analysis. Riches abound, but I must single out Martha Nussbaum’s weaving together of Julius Caesar (both historical person and character), Gandhi’s India, George Washington’s self-presentation, and the lessons imparted to her by her father on the way to a startling but inevitable and earned conclusion: ‘Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is a misleading, even a dangerous work.’”
Contents

Introduction: Shakespeare and the Law
 BRADIN CORMACK, MARTHA C. NUSSBAUM, and RICHARD STRIER

I. HOW TO THINK “LAW AND LITERATURE” IN SHAKESPEARE

DANIEL BRUDNEY
 Two Differences between Law and Literature

BRADIN CORMACK
 Decision, Possession: The Time of Law in The Winter’s Tale and the Sonnets

LORNA HUTSON
 “Lively Evidence”: Legal Inquiry and the Evidentia of Shakespearean Drama

II. SHAKESPEARE’S KNOWLEDGE OF LAW: STATUTE LAW, CASE LAW

CONSTANCE JORDAN
 Interpreting Statute in Measure for Measure

RICHARD H. MCADAMS
 Vengeance, Complicity, and Criminal Law in Othello

III. SHAKESPEARE’S ATTITUDES TOWARD LAW: IDEAS OF JUSTICE

RICHARD A. POSNER
 Law and Commerce in The Merchant of Venice

CHARLES FRIED
 Opinion of Fried, J., Concurring in the Judgment

DAVID BEVINGTON
 Equity in Measure for Measure

RICHARD STRIER
 Shakespeare and Legal Systems: The Better the Worse (but Not Vice Versa)

IV. LAW, POLITICS, AND COMMUNITY IN SHAKESPEARE

KATHY EDEN
 Liquid Fortification and the Law in King Lear

STANLEY CAVELL
 Saying in The Merchant of Venice

MARIE THERESA O’CONNOR
A British People: Cymbeline and the Anglo-Scottish Union Issue

MARTHA C. NUSSBAUM
 “Romans, Countrymen, and Lovers”: Political Love and the Rule of Law in Julius Caesar

DIANE P. WOOD
 A Lesson from Shakespeare to the Modern Judge on Law, Disobedience, Justification, and Mercy

V. ROUNDTABLE

 Shakespeare’s Laws: A Justice, a Judge, a Philosopher, and an English Professor

Contributors

Index

For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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