At the center of the book is Shakespeare’s fascination with questions that are fundamental to both law and philosophy: What are the sources of agency? What counts as a person? For whom am I responsible, and how far does that responsibility extend? What is truly mine? Curran guides readers through Shakespeare’s responses to these questions, paying careful attention to both historical and intellectual contexts.
The result is a book that advances a new theory of Shakespeare’s imaginative relationship to law and an original account of law’s role in the ethical work of his plays and sonnets. Readers interested in Shakespeare, theater and philosophy, law, and the history of ideas will find Shakespeare’s Legal Ecologies to be an essential resource.
Chapter 1. Property: Land Law and Selfhood in Richard II
Chapter 2. Hospitality: Managing Otherness in the Sonnets and The Merchant of Venice
Chapter 3. Criminality: The Phenomenology of Treason in Macbeth
Chapter 4. Judgment: The Sociality of Law in Hamlet and The Winter’s Tale
Coda: Shakespeare’s Ethics of Exteriority
"Curran mobilizes for the study of Shakespeare a deep knowledge of Enlightenment and modern philosophy, and is equally adept at negotiating the complexities of early modern English law and culture."—Luke Wilson, author of Theaters of Intention: Drama and the Law in Early Modern England
“Shakespeare’s Legal Ecologies is intelligent, lucidly written, and consistently engaging. Kevin Curran demonstrates that Shakespeare’s 'thinking with' the law goes hand in hand with his articulation of a transactional and social, rather than bounded, conception of selfhood. This book is marked by scrupulous archival work and close engagement with twentieth- and twenty-first-century philosophy; its achievement is to demonstrate how early modern legal discourse provides Shakespeare with an imaginative resource for articulating an ethics of exteriority.” —Garrett A. Sullivan Jr., author of Memory and Forgetting in English Renaissance Drama: Shakespeare, Marlowe, Webster
"This law and literature text will be most helpful for those scholars, especially Shakespearean ones, who desire a new take on the nature of selfhood. The writer combines notions of national identity with larger concepts of justice, obligation, individualism, and society. Clearly recognizing the scholarship of seminal scholars—legal and political—Curran grapples with a new way to investigate law, literature, poetics, ethics, and the theater." —Renaissance Quarterly
“Curran’s book is a perfect example not only of how significant law was to Shakespeare but also of the theoretical and political resources it offers to literary criticism today." —Studies in English Literature
An electronic version of this book is freely available, thanks to the support of libraries working with Knowledge Unlatched. KU is a collaborative initiative designed to make high-quality books open access for the public good. More information about the initiative and links to the open-access version can be found at www.knowledgeunlatched.org.
To visit the KU edition of Shakespeare’s Legal Ecologies: Law and Distributed Selfhood visit https://doi.org/10.21985/n2-2z6n-e659.