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The Art of Law in Shakespeare

By: Paul Raffield
Media of The Art of Law in Shakespeare
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Published: 27-06-2019
Format: Paperback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 312
ISBN: 9781509930074
Imprint: Hart Publishing
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
RRP: £40.00
Online price : £36.00
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About The Art of Law in Shakespeare

Through an examination of five plays by Shakespeare, Paul Raffield analyses the contiguous development of common law and poetic drama during the first decade of Jacobean rule. The broad premise of The Art of Law in Shakespeare is that the 'artificial reason' of law was a complex art form that shared the same rhetorical strategy as the plays of Shakespeare.
Common law and Shakespearean drama of this period employed various aesthetic devices to capture the imagination and the emotional attachment of their respective audiences. Common law of the Jacobean era, as spoken in the law courts, learnt at the Inns of Court and recorded in the law reports, used imagery that would have been familiar to audiences of Shakespeare's plays. In its juridical form, English law was intrinsically dramatic, its adversarial mode of expression being founded on an agonistic model. Conversely, Shakespeare borrowed from the common law some of its most critical themes: justice, legitimacy, sovereignty, community, fairness, and (above all else) humanity.
Each chapter investigates a particular aspect of the common law, seen through the lens of a specific play by Shakespeare. Topics include the unprecedented significance of rhetorical skills to the practice and learning of common law (Love's Labour's Lost); the early modern treason trial as exemplar of the theatre of law (Macbeth); the art of law as the legitimate distillation of the law of nature (The Winter's Tale); the efforts of common lawyers to create an image of nationhood from both classical and Judeo-Christian mythography (Cymbeline); and the theatrical device of the island as microcosm of the Jacobean state and the project of imperial expansion (The Tempest).

Table Of Contents

1. 'Fie, painted rhetoric!' Common Law, Satire and the Language of the Beast
I. Oratory, Empire and Common Law
II. Rhetoric, Method and the English Lawyer
III. Our English Martiall: John Davies of the Middle Temple
IV. Love's Labour's Lost, the Inns of Court and the Sweet Smoke of Rhetoric
2. Princes Set Upon Stages: Macbeth, Treason and the Theatre of Law
I. Compassing or Imagining Regicide
II. Of Such Horror, and Monstrous Nature: The Juridical Enactment of Betrayal
III. Royal Succession as Theatre of the Whole World
IV. Treason and the King's Two Bodies
3. The Winter's Tale: An Art Lawful as Eating
I. Law, Literature and Genealogy
II. Horticulture, Transformation and the Artifice of Law
III. The Nature of Law
IV. Inheritance, Gender and the Common Law Tradition
V. The Arts of Portraiture and Politics
4. Cymbeline: Empire, Nationhood and the Jacobean Aeneid
I. Some Footsteps in the Law
II. A Law Inscribed upon the Heart
III. Postnati. Calvin's Case and the Journey of Jacobean Law
IV. The Divine Purpose, Nature and the Equivocal Image
V. The Nationalist Ends of Myth
5. The Tempest: The Island of Law in Jacobean England
I. Cannibals, Colonies and the Brave New World
II. Utopia and the Legal Imagination
III. Enchanted Islands of Common Law


“[T]he book ... furnishes a wealth of information and insight for students of Shakespeare and of the history of British law alike. It provides ample proof that the kind of detailed scrutiny which is offered here can bring to light so much more in the exciting contact zone between law and literature in Elizabethan and Jacobean times which comprises the stage and the law courts and legal institutions alike.” –  Klaus Stierstorfer, Anglistik

“Shakespeare's relationship with Law may be well established, but Paul Raffield demonstrates its richness and variety in The Art of Law in Shakespeare.” –  Rachel E Holmes, University of Cambridge, The Review of English Studies

“[T]he discussions are worth the work required of the reader, and the extended treatment of the legal cases, and especially Sir Edward Coke's writings, are valuable.” –  Kelly Stage, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Renaissance Quarterly

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