Sherwin on Escalus’ Dream: Re-Imagining Shakespeare’s States @RKSherwin @Palgrave @NYLawSchool

Richard K. Sherwin, New York Law School, is publishing Escalus’ Dream: Re-Imagining Shakespeare’s States in Law and Poetics (Palgrave, 2020). Here is the abstract.

Law and theater, like law and literature, and indeed like law and the humanities more generally, share a common reliance upon the performance of competing imaginaries. To experiment with different cognitive and affective registers, projecting divergent socio-political and legal realities, is to engage in a pedagogic and ultimately an ethical practice.

In Measure for Measure Shakespeare suggests that whether law’s sovereignty will be violently disruptive in its onset and coercive in its rule, or bound to an ethics of equity in conjunction with the accidents of grace, and the demands of shared moral values, depends on “the properties of government, character, and discourse that unfold.”

Measure for Measure plays out the intertwined complexities of politics and character. By identifying and assaying various characters, the play identifies diverse forms of political and legal knowledge and practice and, by extension, possible sources of self and state sovereignty based on the extra-legal beliefs and values that we hold most sacred. This insight provides a path to meaningful freedom in the development of self and political governance alike. At the same time, however, the dark challenge of humanist freedom remains. In shadows and grace, the entangled vicissitudes of secular power and transcendent meaning recapitulate the paradox of law.

Download the essay from SSRN at the link.