Summer 2016: Shakespeare & Law

Shakespeare portrati

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.)