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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.
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.