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Theaters of Pardoning$
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Bernadette Meyler

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781501739330

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501739330.001.0001

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Dramatic Judgments Measure for Measure, Revenge, and the Institution of the Law

Dramatic Judgments Measure for Measure, Revenge, and the Institution of the Law

(p.33) 1 Dramatic Judgments Measure for Measure, Revenge, and the Institution of the Law
Theaters of Pardoning

Bernadette Meyler

Cornell University Press

Analyzing William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure as the paradigm for theaters of pardoning, this chapter examines the relationships among judgment, pardoning and sovereignty in the play. It posits that Measure for Measure relies on a judicial model of pardoning and at the same time pits a more bureaucratic, institutional form of judgment against a vision of judgment as emanating from a sovereign decision on both the law and its application. The chapter further explains the connection between the institutional form of judgment staged in Measure for Measure and the work of early modern jurist Sir Edward Coke, who promoted a form of common law that he suggested derived from ancient Greek sources rather than the inheritance of Roman law from the Norman conquest. Drawing on this link with ancient Greece, the chapter then concludes with a comparison between Aeschylus’s Oresteia and Measure for Measure, contrasting both their genres and visions of justice.

Keywords:   William Shakespeare, Sir Edward Coke, Judgment, Sovereignty, Measure for Measure, Aeschylus, Oresteia, Common law

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