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Shakespeare and Judgment

Edited by Kevin Curran

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Ranging widely across law, aesthetics, religion, and philosophy, this book offers the first account of the place of judgment in Shakespearean drama

Shakespeare and Judgment gathers together an international group of scholars to address for the first time the place of judgment in Shakespearean drama. Contributors approach the topic from a variety of cultural and theoretical perspectives, covering plays from across Shakespeare’s career and from each of the genres in which he wrote. Anchoring the volume are two critical contentions: first, that attending to Shakespeare’s treatment of judgment leads to fresh insights about the imaginative relationship between law, theater, and aesthetics in early modern England; and second, that it offers new ways of putting the plays’ historical and philosophical contexts into conversation. Taken together, the essays in Shakespeare and Judgment offer a genuinely new account of the historical and intellectual coordinates of Shakespeare’s plays. Building on current work in legal studies, religious studies, theater history, and critical theory, the volume will be of interest to a wide range of scholars working on Shakespeare and early modern drama.

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Introduction, Kevin Curran
Part I: Staging Judgment: Deliberation in the Plays
1. Preventive Justice in Measure for Measure, Virginia Lee Strain
2. Believing in Ghosts, in Part: Judgment and Indecision in Hamlet, Vivasvan Soni
3. Shakespeare’s Law and Plowden’s Authority
Constance Jordan
Part II: Audience Judgment: Deliberation in the Theater
4. “Gently to hear, kindly to judge”: Minds at Work in Henry V, Katherine B. Attié
5. “Practis[ing] Judgment with the Disposition of Natures”: Measure for Measure, the “Discoursive” Common Law, and the “Open Court” of the Theater, Carolyn Sale
6. The Laws of Measure for Measure
Paul Yachnin
7. Prospero’s Plea: Judgment, Invention, and Political Form in The Tempest
Kevin Curran
Part III: The Ethics of Judgment
8. Antinomian Shakespeare: English Drama and Confession across the Reformation Divide, John Parker
9. Bracketed Judgment, “Un-humanizing,” and Conversion in The Merchant of Venice, Sanford Budick
10. The Judgment of the Critics that Makes us Tremble: “Distributing Complicities” in Recent Criticism of King Lear
Richard Strier.

About the Author

Kevin Curran is Professor of Early Modern Literature at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and editor of the book series “Edinburgh Critical Studies in Shakespeare and Philosophy.” He is the author of Shakespeare’s Legal Ecologies: Law and Distributed Selfhood (Northwestern, 2017) and Marriage, Performance, and Politics at the Jacobean Court (Ashgate, 2009).


Curran’s Shakespeare and Judgment represents an achievement; a fresh look at judgment in Shakespeare’s plays.
- Thomas E Simmons, University of South Dakota, Edinburgh Law Review Vol 21
"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, a lesson extended even further by a significant collection of essays that Curran has also edited on Shakespeare and Judgment."
- Henry S. Turner, Recent Studies in Tudor and Stuart Drama , ‘SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900,’ Volume 58, Number 2, spring 2018,

'What is Judgment?,' Kevin Curran asks in this volume’s lucid introduction. The answers proffered here demonstrate the category’s centrality to religion, law, rhetoric, ethics and philosophy, as well as to the practice of theatergoing.  Shakespeare and Judgment illuminates a playwright profoundly interested in what (and how) judgment enables and disables.

- Garrett Sullivan, Pennsylvania State University

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