Reading for Law and the State: Theaters of Problematization and Authority
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Constructing a particular nation, that of early modern England, is seen here as a series of theatrical performances. Shakespeare's work is taken as a series of thought experiments. Some, like The Merchant of Venice, are reassuring that threatening circumstances and innovatory social practices are capable of being overcome or assimilated from the unknown to the known. Some, like King Lear and Hamlet, ponder the consequences of a failure to discover a resolution. Some writers have argued that England was historically quite early in beginning to conceive of itself as a nation, rather than as a population of possibly heterogeneous regions subject to a dynasty, a state of affairs summarized in the by now clich餠remark attributed to the Sun King, "L'Etat, c'est moi". For Shakespeare, if not for all of his contemporaries, the Englishman is a bit slow-witted, owing to his fondness for beef and red wine, but he is distinguishable from others and provides material for the second pieces of theater I look at. If there could be an Englishman, his experience with the absolutist pretensions of the Stuart monarchy allowed there to be a free-born Englishman (and, actually, Englishwoman). The two crucial battles of the English civil war, Marston Moor and Naseby, followed by the Army Debates of 1647-1649 form the stage for an at least aspiring egalitarianism we now know as the rights of man, or the rights of the civic person.
International Journal for the Semiotics of Law
© 2009 Springer Netherlands. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. The original publication is available at www.springerlink.com
Law and Legal Studies not elsewhere classified