ENGL 399 - Honors Seminar: Shakespeare and the Law

A large and enthusiastic part of Shakespeare’s audience would have been the students from London’s Inns of Court law schools, uproariously responding to the famous line, “First, let’s kill all the lawyers!” This class will introduce several plays, especially attending to their relation to legal concepts, reasoning, and practice. Plays will be selected to illustrate concepts: for example, Othello (evidence), The Merchant of Venice (contract, argument), Measure for Measure (justice and sentencing), and The Comedy of Errors (mistaken identity, in a play to be seen in performance at McCain). Selected collateral readings will support our exploration: criticism; historical documents about women’s rights, witchcraft, and government; theoretical essays on language and performance; case analysis; and critical legal theory about using literature to understand law. There will be short exercises or quizzes or reports, one or two exams, one or two papers, and a final project.