The Tragedy of Law in Shakespearean Romance

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Abstract:

This paper focuses on the status of law in regard to nature and art in Shakespeare's late play The Tempest. The inscription of law into nature as it can be seen in King Lear's trial to legitimize sovereignty with nature, leads to crisis and the suspension of law. Rather than being natural, it points to an ‘outlaw’ dimension of law internal to sovereignty, a dimension that also plays a central role in other Shakespearean tragedies. This ‘tragedy of law’ suffers a sea-change ‘into something rich and strange’ in the Shakespearean romance em>The Tempest. While Shakespeare's late plays do take up the setting of tragedy, they, with their artistic turn towards a special kind of comedy, play on possibilities of life, promise and forgiveness beyond the tragical patterns of law.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2007

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  • Law and Humanities is a peer-reviewed journal, providing a for for scholarly discourse within the arts and humanities around the subject of law. For this purpose, the arts and humanities disciplines are taken to include literature, history (including history of art), philosophy, theology, classics and the whole spectrum of performance and representational arts. The remit of the journal does not extend to consideration of the laws that regulate practical aspects of the arts and humanities (such as the law of intellectual property). Law and Humanities is principally concerned to engage with those aspects of human experience which are not empirically quantifiable or scientifically predictable.
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