Communal Justice in Shakespeare’s England: Drama, Law, and Emotion

By Penelope Geng

© 2021

The sixteenth century was a turning point for both law and drama. Relentless professionalization of the common law set off a cascade of lawyerly self-fashioning – resulting in blunt attacks on lay judgment. English playwrights, including Shakespeare, resisted the forces of legal professionalization by casting legal expertise as a detriment to moral feeling. They celebrated the ability of individuals, guided by conscience and working alongside members of their community, to restore justice. Playwrights used the participatory nature of drama to deepen public understanding of and respect for communal justice. In plays such as King Lear and Macbeth, laypeople accomplish the work of magistracy: conscience structures legal judgment, neighbourly care shapes the coroner’s inquest, and communal emotions give meaning to confession and repentance.

An original and deeply sourced study of early modern literature and law, Communal Justice in Shakespeare’s England contributes to a growing body of scholarship devoted to the study of how drama creates and sustains community. Penelope Geng brings together a wealth of imaginative and documentary archives – including plays, sermons, conscience literature, Protestant hagiographies, legal manuals, and medieval and early modern chronicles – proving that literature never simply reacts to legal events but always actively invents legal questions, establishes legal expectations, and shapes legal norms.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 296 pages
  • Illustrations: 10
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
Product Formats

SaveUP TO 9239

Book Formats

SKU# SP006510

  • AVAILABLE APR 2021

    From: $56.25

    Regular Price: $75.00

    ISBN 9781487508043
  • AVAILABLE APR 2021

    From: $56.25

    Regular Price: $75.00

Quick Overview

Providing a fresh examination of the relationship between literary and legal communities, Communal Justice in Shakespeare’s England examines the literature of the communal justice in early modern England.

Communal Justice in Shakespeare’s England: Drama, Law, and Emotion

By Penelope Geng

© 2021

The sixteenth century was a turning point for both law and drama. Relentless professionalization of the common law set off a cascade of lawyerly self-fashioning – resulting in blunt attacks on lay judgment. English playwrights, including Shakespeare, resisted the forces of legal professionalization by casting legal expertise as a detriment to moral feeling. They celebrated the ability of individuals, guided by conscience and working alongside members of their community, to restore justice. Playwrights used the participatory nature of drama to deepen public understanding of and respect for communal justice. In plays such as King Lear and Macbeth, laypeople accomplish the work of magistracy: conscience structures legal judgment, neighbourly care shapes the coroner’s inquest, and communal emotions give meaning to confession and repentance.

An original and deeply sourced study of early modern literature and law, Communal Justice in Shakespeare’s England contributes to a growing body of scholarship devoted to the study of how drama creates and sustains community. Penelope Geng brings together a wealth of imaginative and documentary archives – including plays, sermons, conscience literature, Protestant hagiographies, legal manuals, and medieval and early modern chronicles – proving that literature never simply reacts to legal events but always actively invents legal questions, establishes legal expectations, and shapes legal norms.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 296 pages
  • Illustrations: 10
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
  • Author Information

    Penelope Geng is an assistant professor in the Department of English at Macalester College.
  • Table of contents

    List of Illustrations

    Note on Texts

    Abbreviations

    Preface

    Introduction: A Double Obligation

    1. From Assise to the Assize at Home

    2. Judicature in Crisis: Henry IV, Part 2

    3. Neighbourliness and the Coroner’s Inquest in English Domestic Tragedies

    4. Repairing Community: Empathetic Witnessing in Acts and Monuments and King Lear

    5. Communal Shaming and the Limitations of Legal Forms: Henry VI, Part 2 and Macbeth

    Postscript

    Acknowledgments

    Bibliography

Related Titles