April 19, 2012
Shakespeare, Law and Literature.
See from three years ago a post by Dan Ernst in Legal History Blog on "Law and English Literature". Ernst reviews and introduces two papers by Eric Heinze, of University of London School of Law. On the first Heinze paper:
Legal scholars' interest in Shakespeare has often focused on conventional legal rules and procedures, such as those of The Merchant of Venice or Measure for Measure. Those plays certainly reveal systemic injustice, but within stable, prosperous societies, which enjoy a generally well-functioning legal order.
By contrast, Shakespeare's first historical tetralogy explores the conditions for the very possibility of a legal system, in terms not unlike those described by Hobbes a half-century later. The first tetralogy's deeply collapsed, quasi-anarchic society lacks any functioning legal regime. Its power politics are not, as in many of Shakespeare's other plays, merely latent, surreptitiously lurking beneath the patina of an otherwise functioning legal order. They pervade all of society.
Dissenting from a long critical tradition, this article suggests that the figure of Henry VI does not merely represent antiquated medievalism or inept rule. Through Henry's constant recourse to legal process, arbitration, and anti-militarism, the first tetralogy goes beyond questions about how to establish a functioning legal order. It examines the possibility, and meaning, of a just one.
Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at April 19, 2012 11:01 PM