Eternal Bonds, True Contracts: Law and Nature in Shakespeare's Problem Plays

SUNY Press
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In Eternal Bonds, True Contracts, A. G. Harmon closely analyzes Shakespeare’s concentrated use of the law and its instruments in what have often been referred to as the problem plays: Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida, The Merchant of Venice, and All’s Well That Ends Well. Contracts, bonds, sureties, wills—all ensure a changed relationship between parties, and in Shakespeare the terms are nearly always reserved for use in the contexts of marriage and fellowship. Harmon explores the theory and practice of contractual obligations in Renaissance England, especially those involving marriage and property, in order to identify contractual elements and their formation, execution, and breach in the plays. Using both legal and literary resources, Harmon reveals the larger significance of these contractual concepts by illustrating how Shakespeare develops them both dramatically and thematically. Harmon’s study ultimately enables the reader to perceive not only these plays but also all of Shakespeare’s writing—including his poetry—as integral with, and implicated in, the proliferating legalism that was helping to define early modern English culture.
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About the author

A. G. Harmon is Lecturer at the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America and the author of the novel A House All Stilled.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Published on
Feb 1, 2012
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Pages
203
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ISBN
9780791484920
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Law / Legal History
Literary Criticism / Drama
Literary Criticism / Shakespeare
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Through an examination of five plays by Shakespeare, Paul Raffield analyses the contiguous development of common law and poetic drama during the first decade of Jacobean rule. The broad premise of The Art of Law in Shakespeare is that the 'artificial reason' of law was a complex art form that shared the same rhetorical strategy as the plays of Shakespeare.
Common law and Shakespearean drama of this period employed various aesthetic devices to capture the imagination and the emotional attachment of their respective audiences. Common law of the Jacobean era, as spoken in the law courts, learnt at the Inns of Court and recorded in the law reports, used imagery that would have been familiar to audiences of Shakespeare's plays. In its juridical form, English law was intrinsically dramatic, its adversarial mode of expression being founded on an agonistic model. Conversely, Shakespeare borrowed from the common law some of its most critical themes: justice, legitimacy, sovereignty, community, fairness, and (above all else) humanity.
Each chapter investigates a particular aspect of the common law, seen through the lens of a specific play by Shakespeare. Topics include the unprecedented significance of rhetorical skills to the practice and learning of common law (Love's Labour's Lost); the early modern treason trial as exemplar of the theatre of law (Macbeth); the art of law as the legitimate distillation of the law of nature (The Winter's Tale); the efforts of common lawyers to create an image of nationhood from both classical and Judeo-Christian mythography (Cymbeline); and the theatrical device of the island as microcosm of the Jacobean state and the project of imperial expansion (The Tempest).
This is the first collection of criticism on Shakespeare's romances to register the impact of modern literary theory on interpretations of these plays. Kiernan Ryan brings together the most important recent essays on Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale and The Tempest, the greatest of the `last plays', staging a dynamic debate between feminist, poststructuralist, psychoanalytic and new historicist views of the masterpieces Shakespeare wrote at the close of his career.

The book aims not only to anthologise accounts of the last plays by leading Shakespearean critics, including Stephen Greenblatt, Janet Adelman, Leah Marcus, Howard Felperin and Steven Mullaney, but also to dramatise what is at stake in the choice of a particular critical approach. It allows the student to compare the strengths and limitations of a deconstructive and a feminist reading of the same romance, or to test the plausibility of one psychoanalytic angle on the last plays against another. The headnotes that preface the essays highlight their distinctive slants on Shakespearean romance, unpack the theoretical assumptions that steer their interpretations, and throw into relief the key points at which their authors collide or converge.

The editor's introduction places the essays in the context of twentieth-century criticism of the last plays and makes a powerful case for a fundamental reappraisal of Shakespearean romance. The comprehensive, fully annotated bibliography provides an unrivalled guide to further reading on all four plays.
If Shakespeare's last plays—Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, The Tempest, and Henry VIII—are to be neither debunked nor idealized but taken seriously on their own terms, they must be examined within the traditions and conventions of romance. Howard Felperin defines this relatively neglected literary mode and locates these plays within it. But, as he shows, romance was not simply an established genre in which Shakespeare worked at both the beginning and end of his career but a mode of perceiving the world that pervades and shapes his entire work.

The last plays are examined to answer such questions as: How does Shakespeare raise to a higher power the conventions of romance available to him, particularly those of the native medieval drama? How does he bring us to accept these elements of romance? Above all, how does romance, the mode in which the imagination enjoys its freest expression, become the vehicle, not of beautiful, escapist fantasy but of moral truth?

Originally published in 1972.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, King Lear, Hamlet, and Macbeth — the works of William Shakespeare still resonate in our imaginations four centuries after they were written. The timeless characters and themes of the Bard’s plays fascinate us with their joys, struggles, and triumphs, and now they are available in a single volume for Shakespeare fans. This edition of William Shakespeare's works includes all of his poems and plays in an elegant manner which makes it the perfect gift for any lover of literature — a book to read and treasure! Whether for a Shakespeare devotee or someone just discovering him, this is the perfect place to experience the drama of Shakespeare's words. It is one of the most authoritative editions of Shakespeare's Complete Works.

This ebook contains Shakespeare's complete plays and complete poems in a new, easy-to-read and easy-to-navigate format. This is the most reader-friendly introduction to Shakespeare available today. 'The Complete Works of William Shakespeare' collects all thirty-seven of the immortal Bard's comedies, tragedies, and historical plays in a Collectible Edition. This volume also features Shakespeare's complete poetry, including the sonnets. With this beautiful Collectible Edition, you can enjoy Shakespeare's enduring literary legacy again and again.

This collection features the following works:
THE PLAYS
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
All’s Well that Ends Well
Antony and Cleopatra
As You Like It
The Comedy of Errors
Coriolanus
Cymbeline
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
Julius Caesar
King Henry the Eighth
King Henry the Fifth
King Henry the Fourth, the First Part
King Henry the Fourth, the Second Part
King Henry the Sixth, the First Part
King Henry the Sixth, the Second Part
King Henry the Sixth, the Third Part
King John
King Lear
King Richard the Second
King Richard the Third
Love’s Labour’s Lost
Macbeth
Measure for Measure
The Merchant of Venice
The Merry Wives of Windsor
Much Ado About Nothing
Othello, the Moor of Venice
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Romeo and Juliet
The Taming of the Shrew
The Tempest
Timon of Athens
Titus Andronicus
Troilus and Cressida
Twelfth Night; or, What You Will
The Two Gentlemen of Verona
The Winter’s Tale

SONNETS AND POEMS
The Sonnets
A Lover’s Complaint
The Passionate Pilgrim
The Phoenix and the Turtle
The Rape of Lucrece
Venus and Adonis


(The Complete Works of William Shakespeare by William Shakespeare, 9789380914831)
 A.G. Harmon’s Some Bore Gifts is an eclectic collection of stories spanning the traditional to the satirical, with a kaleidoscope of viewpoints and characters that includes tree cutters, department store pianists, museum guides, physicians, florists, actresses, bank managers, junk salesmen, personal trainers, and English professors. Harmon is spellbinding in his depiction of the disenfranchised as of the socially poised, with vivid scenes of the quotidian as of the aberrant, the startling. This captivating book challenges and entertains from start to finish.

PRAISE FOR SOME BORE GIFTS:

A.G. Harmon is a writer of the first order. These are elegant and humble and ruminative stories of people reaching their worldly ends in one way or another, and their encounters there with grace and a hard-wrought hope. Some Bore Gifts is in itself a gift, and A.G. Harmon a writer who blesses us with his art. 
— Bret Lott, author of Dead Low Tide

A.G. Harmon is that rare thing, a writer who loves his characters without idolizing them. In prose that is alternately crystalline and gritty, he shows how a heart in hiding can be brought back to life through a chance encounter with another.Some Bore Gifts are stories that track the movement from despair to hope, loss to restitution, the seemingly random steps we take along the road of grace. Harmon’s consummate storytelling makes us believe in, not only the resilience, but also the essential grandeur of the human spirit.
— Suzanne M. Wolfe, author of The Confessions of X

In these stories, Harmon takes you—lyrically, sometimes brusquely, always with good humor—through a gallery of lives. Some full and wise, others shallow and self-concerned, still others stunted or misunderstood—a stunning human spectrum. I laughed out loud, flipped pages in worry, even felt a knife slice through my palm. But most visceral—and this is Harmon’s gift—I felt myself disappear in moments of true, transcendent beauty.
— Samuel Thomas Martin, author of A Blessed Snarl

A.G. Harmon’s new collection of stories, Some Bore Gifts, is stunningly diverse, displaying a vast range of characters and the skill to draw them that enchants his reader. From the glimpse of a migrant worker as he begins his story, “the impression he left upon the listener was that of a tune hummed from a porch step, during the long liquid hours of the first, floating dusk,” to the voice of a wounded piano tuner who “leans into the memory, his gaze fastened to what he must see,” Harmon creates a span of characters—an aging movie star, a college English professor—and falls into none of the possible and dangerous pitfalls. Readers are, indeed, invited to listen on the front porch. Their reward is seeing the redemptive moment of understanding that Harmon’s characters discover.
— Margaret-Love Denman, author of Daily, Before Your Eyes

For more than two hundred years after William Shakespeare's death, no one doubted that he had written his plays. Since then, however, dozens of candidates have been proposed for the authorship of what is generally agreed to be the finest body of work by a writer in the English language. In this remarkable book, Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro explains when and why so many people began to question whether Shakespeare wrote his plays. Among the doubters have been such writers and thinkers as Sigmund Freud, Henry James, Mark Twain, and Helen Keller. It is a fascinating story, replete with forgeries, deception, false claimants, ciphers and codes, conspiracy theories—and a stunning failure to grasp the power of the imagination.

As Contested Will makes clear, much more than proper attribution of Shakespeare’s plays is at stake in this authorship controversy. Underlying the arguments over whether Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon, or the Earl of Oxford wrote Shakespeare’s plays are fundamental questions about literary genius, specifically about the relationship of life and art. Are the plays (and poems) of Shakespeare a sort of hidden autobiography? Do Hamlet, Macbeth, and the other great plays somehow reveal who wrote them?

Shapiro is the first Shakespeare scholar to examine the authorship controversy and its history in this way, explaining what it means, why it matters, and how it has persisted despite abundant evidence that William Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the plays attributed to him. This is a brilliant historical investigation that will delight anyone interested in Shakespeare and the literary imagination.
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