It’s an honor to be researching in the Folger Shakespeare Library archives this summer, working on my project about early modern legal violence. In the above picture, I’m reading a 1580 letter from Anne Broughton to her father about a jury who committed what we would call “jury nullification.” Anne writes,
this day a Jurie of glomer went on p..ression to the aboutes westner hall being m..shalled with tipstases with goodlie paper hatbandes for acquinting a prisoner at glourer that had killed on medlictmer Atkinsons man in glom..
At first I thought the jury was marching in protest, perhaps because they had been forced to acquit someone they believed to be guilty; juries’ decisions were often subordinate to the assize bench, and juries could be kept without food, fire, or water until the judge deemed their decision was correct. But Richard Crompton, in another Folger rare book, sheds light on the same event:
Eleven of a Jury… did acquite one Hodye of Felony before Sir Roger Manwood Chiefe Baron in his Circuit in Somersetshire against apparent evidence: they were fined in Star-chamber, and did weare papers in Westminster hall, circa 22.Eliz. (c. 1580) the which my selfe-saw.
The jury acquitted the defendant “against apparent evidence,” perhaps because they believed he killed “Atkinson’s man” in self-defense and that murder was too harsh a verdict. Eleven of the jury were thus sent to the Star Chamber and convicted of perjury, fined, and forced to march in a public shame procession, being marshaled by the court bailiffs while wearing paper hats (“goodlie paper hatbandes”) that likely read “for wilful perjury.” If convicted of jury nullification, jurists could be whipped, pilloried, have their ears cut off, be imprisoned, or “sometimes by more of these punishments joined together.” It gives poignant insight into what juries were willing to do to push back against the law’s violence.
Juries could be punished for their verdicts until 1670.
“Humanity does not gradually progress from combat to combat until it arrives at universal reciprocity, where the rule of law finally replaces warfare, humanity installs each of its violences in a system of rules and thus proceeds from domination to domination”
Michel Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History”
Seven years after William Shakespeare died, one of the world’s most important books was published: a collection of thirty-six plays that we now call the “First Folio.” Without the First Folio, we would not have Julius Caesar, Macbeth, The Taming of the Shrew, or two plays that have profoundly changed the way that I think , Measure for Measure and Twelfth Night. We also wouldn’t have the iconic stage direction, “Exit, pursued by a bear” (The Winter’s Tale). As Georgia Tech phases out its physical library, and as the world celebrates the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with a First Folio tour, this course will investigate what the First Folio affords us in the twenty-first century.
Christie’s staff member, Photo credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth
Shakespeare’s lines reverberate not only on stages, movie screens, and in classrooms, but also in courtrooms: he has been cited in more than 800 judicial opinions. This course will explore three of Shakespeare’s plays through the lens of the law, examining the ways in which justice, punishment, and litigation are a cultural practice often rooted in our shared stories. More specifically, all three of our plays this semester − King Lear, Measure for Measure, and Merchant of Venice − center around themes of the law’s violence. How violent does the law need to be to control violence? That’s the question that Shakespeare investigates, and one that we will consider in the context of our own legally violent society.
(The Chandos Portrait of William Shakespeare, c. 1600-1610, attributed to John Taylor. National Portrait Gallery, London.)
William Blake, Satan Watching Endearments of Adam and Eve. 1816.
For 350 years, John Milton’s Paradise Lost has awed, angered, and inspired its readers. It’s a poem of enormous ambition and profound beauty, one that novelists, classical composers, punk rock bands, political radicals, and contemporary filmmakers have engaged with in creative and provoking ways. Written by one of the most brilliant and educated men of the English Renaissance, this epic poem probes the core human experiences — from the sweetness of romantic love to the corruption of the political state — all the while demanding that its readers make active choices.
“Give me liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties,” Milton writes in Aeropagetica. Our course will center on knowing, uttering, and arguing freely about Paradise Lost and all that it enkindles.
This semester’s course emerges from a collaboration with Dr. Patricia Taylor. More than one hundred students in five classes will study Paradise Lost this spring.
Blake, William. Satan Watching the Endearments of Adam and Eve. 1816. Blake Archive. Illustrations to Milton’s Paradise Lost. Huntington Library. Web. 27 Dec. 2015.
Many of Shakespeare’s plays explore concerns about “faking it”: the anxious feeling people have about the authenticity of their social interactions. This course will examine three of Shakespeare’s plays (a comedy, a tragedy, and a history) through the lenses of authenticity and identity. Students will learn to formulate and defend their points of view via written essays, oral presentations, visual analysis, and through electronic and nonverbal communication. We will engage with Shakespeare through new media (data-mining, info graphics, and digital research) as well as through traditional aesthetics (films, handmade paper, book art, and palimpsests).
Twelfth Night: Or What You Will
The Life of Henry V
The Tragedy of Hamlet
Mass incarceration, police brutality, torture, and botched executions raise questions about the violence of the law: Must the law be violent to control violence? Does the law’s violence promote justice or disrupt it? How are law and punishment portrayed in literature, media, and art? We will analyze theory, literature, and visual imagery of the law’s violence ranging from Supreme Court Cases to Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan to photographs from Ferguson, Missouri.
“Springes to catch woodcocks…” This course will examine three of Shakespeare’s plays (a comedy, a tragedy, and a history) through the lens of authenticity and identity. Shakespeare lived in a time when it was crucial to put forth the right image in order to profit socially, politically, and materially, so late Elizabethans and early Stuarts were often torn between competing needs to protect and display themselves. Our current social media culture requires a similar crafting of public identity. This course will consider the ways that Shakespeare’s plays still speak to the ethics of authenticity. We will actively engage with Shakespeare through new media (data-mining and infographics) as well as through an aesthetic approach (film adaptations and book art).