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Introduction: Renaissance, Law and Literature

  • Erica Sheen
  • Lorna Hutson
Part of the Language, Discourse, Society book series (LDS)

Abstract

This collection had its beginnings in a conference on ‘Renaissance, Law and Literature’ organized by the editors at Wolfson College, Oxford in July 1998. The conference was the first of its kind to focus on the Renaissance, bringing together scholars from literary studies, English legal history, critical legal studies, intellectual and social history and the history of political thought.1 The present collection of essays by a selection of the participants in the conference takes as its focus connections between law, literature and politics that are particular to England in the period 1580–1660, and as such, of course, it raises questions concerning the justification of its defining historical and geographical parameters.2 What makes the study of English legal developments in relation to literary questions — questions of representation, subjectivity, authorship, genre — a subject of more than antiquarian or occasional interest? Why should we care about trying to understand relationships between the legal and the literary in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries?

Keywords

Seventeenth Century Personal Attack Legal Discourse Critical Legal Study Privy Council 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    A number of the contributions to the 1998 conference appear in Victoria Kahn and Lorna Hutson (eds), Rhetoric and Law in Early Modern Europe (Yale University Press, 2001).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    C.J. Clover, ‘Law and the Order of Popular Culture’, in Austin Sarat and Thomas R. Kearns (eds), Law and the Domains of Culture (University of Michigan, 1998); see also Carol Clover, ‘God Bless Juries!’, in Nick Browne (ed.), Refiguring American Film Genres: History and Theory (University of California Press, 1998), 255–77.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    A. Welsh, Strong Representations: Narrative and Circumstantial Evidence in England (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    P. Brooks, Troubling Confessions: Speaking Guilt in Law and Literature (University of Chicago Press, 2000).Google Scholar
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    J. Barrell, Imagining theKings Death: Figurative Treason, Fantasies ofRegicide, 1793–1796 (Oxford University Press, 2000).Google Scholar
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    P. Goodrich, Legal Discourse: Studies in Linguistics, Rhetoric and Legal Analysis (Macmillan, 1987), 176–8.Google Scholar
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    J.H. Langbein’s Prosecuting Crime in theRenaissance:England, Germany, France (Harvard University Press, 1974) details the differences between sixteenth-century French and German Inquisitionsprozess, and the criminal justice system obtaining in England at the same time. The French ordonnance royale of 1539 established the ‘penal arithmetic’, or the ‘arithmetic modulated by casuistry’ which constitutes the secret, written trial which Foucault analyses in Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (Penguin, 1977), 37. As Foucault notes, ‘In France, as in most European countries, with the notable exception ofEngland, the entire criminal procedure … remained secret’ (our italics), 35.Google Scholar
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    G. Wither, Hymn XXXI, ‘for a Lawyer’, in Haleluiah, or Britans [sic] second remembrancer (1641).Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    On John Selden see Sir Leslie Stephen and Sir Sidney Lee (eds) (1921–22), The Dictionary o f National Biography from the earliest times to 1900 (henceforth DNB); Winifred Schleiner, ‘John Selden’s Letter to Ben Jonson on Cross-Dressing and Bisexual Gods’, English Literary Renaissance 29:1 (1999), 44–74. On John Hoskyns, see Louise Brown Osborn, The Life, Letters and Writings of John Hoksyns 1566–1638 (Yale University Press, 1937); David Colclough, “The Muses Recreation”: John Hoskyns and the Manuscript Culture of the Seventeenth Century’, Huntington Library Quarterly 61:3 and 4 (2000), 369–400. On George Wither, see Michelle O’Callaghan, The ‘Shepheards Nation’: Jacobean Spenserians and Early Stuart Political Culture, 1612–1625 (Clarendon Press, 2000). On John Webster, see T.S. Eliot, ‘Whispers of Immortality’, Collected Poems 1909–1962 (Faber and Faber, 1963), 55; Gunby’s introduction to D.C. Gunby (ed.), John Webster: Three Plays (Penguin Books, 1972), 9–14. On William Fulbeck, see DNB and Henry Carson Grumbine (ed.), The Misfortunes of Arthur by Thomas Hughes and Others (Berlin: 1900), 58–9. On Brathwaite (also spelt ‘Brathwait’ and ‘Braithwaite’) see DNB. Google Scholar
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    On equity in the common law in this period, see Stuart E. Prall, ‘The Development of Equity in Tudor England’, American Journal ofLegal History 8 (1964), 1–19; J.H. Baker, The Reports of Sir John Spelman, 2 vols (Selden Society, 1978) 2:40–3; Lorna Hutson, ‘Not the King’s Two Bodies: Reading the “Body Politic” in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, parts 1 and 2’, in Kahn and Hutson (eds), Rhetoric and Law in Early Modern Europe, 166–98. On the affinity between equity and drama, see Joel Altman, The Tudor Play of Mind (University of California Press, 1978); Kathy Eden, Poetic and Legal Fiction in the Aristotelian Tradition (Princeton University Press, 1986); Luke Wilson, ‘Hamlet: Equity, Intention, Performance’, Studies in the Literary Imagination 224 (1991), 91–113.Google Scholar
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    See J.H. Baker, ‘Unity of Person’, in An Introduction to English Legal History, 2nd edition (Butterworths, 1979), 395: ‘It was a common saying among canonists and common lawyers alike that in the eyes of the law husband and wife were but one person … This one person was the husband.’Google Scholar
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    See Peter Goodrich, ‘Laws of Friendship’, Law and Literature 15:1 (2003), 23–52; ‘The Immense Rumor’, Yale Journal o fLaw and Humanities (forthcoming).Google Scholar
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    P. Goodrich, ‘Salem and Bizance: a Short History of Two Laws’, Law in the Courts o f Love and Other Minor Jurispmdences (Routledge, 1996), 9–28.Google Scholar
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    R. Brathwaite, The English Gentleman Uohn Haviland, 1630), sig. Ii2r.Google Scholar
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    See ‘Epistemologies of the Early Modern Closet’, in Alan Stewart, Close Readers: Humanism and Sodomy in Early Modem England (Princeton University Press, 1997), 161–87.Google Scholar
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    F. Bacon, A Declaration of the Practises & Treasons attempted and committed by Robert late Earle of Essex and his Complices (Robert Barker, 1601) sig. B1.Google Scholar
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    The ‘Memoirs of William Lambarde, Esq’ are published in J. Nichols (ed.), Bibliotheca Topographica Brittanica (London 1780–90), Vol. 1, 493–531.Google Scholar
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    See Altman, The Tudor Play of Mind; Eden, Poetic and Legal Fiction; Wilson, ‘Hamlet: Equity, Intention, Performance’; Terence Cave, Recognitions (Clarendon Press, 1989), 283; Barbara Shapiro, ‘Classical Rhetoric and the English Law of Evidence’, in Kahn and Hutson (eds), Rhetoric and Law in Early Modem Europe, 54–72.Google Scholar
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    Shapiro, ‘Classical Rhetoric and the English Law of Evidence’, 55–9, 61–70; Martin J. Herrick, Comic Theory in the Sixteenth Century (University of Illinois Press, 1950).Google Scholar
  20. 23.
    See William Lambarde, Eirenarcha, or of the office o f lustices of the Peace, in foure bookes: reiussed, corrected and enlarged (1614), 217. See also Lorna Hutson, ‘Spenser and Suspicion’, The Spenser Review 33:1 (2002), 32–40.Google Scholar
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  22. 25.
    K. Eisaman Maus, ‘Horns of Dilemma: Jealousy, Gender and Spectatorship in English Renaissance Drama’, ELH 54 (1987), 561–83. See also Maus, ‘Prosecution and Sexual Secrecy: Jonson and Shakespeare’, in Inwardness and Theater in English Renaissance Drama (University of Chicago Press, 1995), 128–81.Google Scholar
  23. 26.
    T. Heywood, A Woman Killed with Kindness, in Keith Sturgess (ed.), Three Elizabethan Domestic Tragedies (Penguin, 1969), II.i.3–11; 203.Google Scholar
  24. 28.
    C. St German, Doctor and Student, or Dialogues Between a Doctor of Divinity and a Student in the Common Laws of England, revised and corrected by William Muchall (Lawbook Exchange, 1998), 45. See also John Guy, ‘Law, Equity and Conscience in Henrician Juristic Thought’, in John Guy and Alistair Fox, Reassessing the Henrician Reformation, 1500–1550 (Basil Blackwell, 1986); John Guy, Christopher St German on Chancery and Statute (Selden Society, 1985).Google Scholar
  25. 31.
    On Webster’s anti-Catholicism, see Alison Shell, Catholicism, Controversy and the English Literary Imagination, 1558–1660 (Cambridge University Press, 1999), 23–55.Google Scholar
  26. 32.
    But see Laura Gowing, Domestic Dangers: Women, Words and Sex in Early Modern London (Clarendon Press, 1996) for a sophisticated reading of women’s testimony in the spiritual courts, in which women were obliged to testify in cases of rape and sexual slander using a masculine language which ascribed blame for sexual dishonour solely to women. For women and the criminal courts, see Jennifer Kermode and Garthine Walker (eds), Women, Crime and the Courts in Early Modem England (UCL Press, 1994) and Laura Gowing, ‘Secret Births and Infanticide in Seventeenth Century England’, Past and Present 156 (1997), 87–115; for women and property, see Tim Stretton, Women Waging Law in Elizabethan England (Cambridge University Press, 1998) and Amy Louise Erikson, Women and Property in Early Modern England (Routledge, 1993). For the legal affinities of ‘complaint’ literature by women, see Lorna Hutson, ‘Renaissance Equity and the Literary Voices of Women’, in Danielle Clarke and Elizabeth Clarke (eds), ‘This Double Voice’: Gendered Writing in Early Modern England (Macmillan, 2000), 142–63.Google Scholar
  27. 33.
    See Luke Wilson, Theaters of Intention: Drama and the Law in Early Modern England (Stanford University Press, 2000), 33.Google Scholar
  28. 34.
    See Post’s introduction to Robert Post (ed.), Censorship and Silencing: Practices of Cultural Regulation (Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1998), 2.Google Scholar
  29. 35.
    The standard Whig history, which has now been discredited by the revisionists, is Frederick S. Siebert, Freedom of the Press in England 1476–1766 (University of Illinois Press, 1952). Revisionist work, which emphasizes the haphazard nature of mechanisms of censorship of the drama and the press, includes Richard Dutton, Mastering the Revels: the Regulation and Censorship o f English Renaissance Drama (1991); Sheila Lambert, ‘State Control of the Press in Theory and Practice: the Role of the Stationers’ Company before 1640’, in Robin Myers and Michael Harris (eds), Censorship and the Control of Print in England and France 1600–1910 (1992), 1–32; Cyndia Susan Clegg, Press Censorship in Jacobean England (Cambridge University Press, 2001).Google Scholar
  30. 36.
    D. Shuger, ‘Civility and Censorship in Early Modern England’, in Post (ed.), Censorship and Silencing: Practices of Cultural Regulation, 89–110 and ‘Roman Catholicism, Roman Law, and the Regulation of Language in Early Modern England’, paper delivered at the University of Southern California Center for Law, History and Culture, 13 May 2002.Google Scholar
  31. 37.
    See T.F.T. Plucknett, A Concise History of the Common Law (Little, Brown and Co., 1956), 487–90; Sir Edward Coke, ‘The Case de Libellis famosis, or of Scandalous Libels’, in The Reports o f Sir Edward Coke, in English, 7 vols (1776–77), vol. 5, 126, and O’Callaghan’s and Colclough’s analyses, Chapters 7 and 8.Google Scholar
  32. 38.
    See Martin Butler, Modern Philology 89 (1992), 469–81 and C.H. Herford and Percy and Evelyn Simpson (eds), Ben Jonson, 11 vols (Clarendon Press, 1925–52) I.141.325–6.Google Scholar
  33. 39.
    G. Wither, A Satyre dedicated to His Most Excellent Majestie (1614) sig. D2°.Google Scholar
  34. 40.
    On the defamatory posting of libels as oppositional political activity in late medieval England, see Wendy Scase, “Strange and Wonderful Bills”: Bill-Casting and Political Discourse in Late Medieval England’, in Wendy Scase, Rita Copeland and David Lawton (eds), New Medieval Literatures (Clarendon Press, 1998), 225–47.Google Scholar
  35. 41.
    The Quaker historian W.C. Braithwaite was one of the first modem writers on the movement to assert that the Friends advanced the ‘equality of men and women in spiritual privilege and responsibility’; The Second Period of Quakerism, 2nd edition (Cambridge, 1961), 270. Feminist literary scholars have been quick to follow this lead. See, for instance, Hilary Hinds, Gods Englishwomen: Seventeenth-Century Radical Sectarian Writing and Feminist Criticism (Manchester and New York, 1996); Phyllis Mack, Visionary Women: Ecstatic Prophecy in Seventeenth-Century England (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1992); Elaine Hobby, Virtue o fNecessity: English Womens Writing, 1649–1688 (London, 1988). However, recent revisionist work has begun to question the assumption that the movement’s advocacy of spiritual equality necessarily reveals a commitment to more straightforward gender equality amongst Friends. See Su Fang Ng, ‘Marriage and Discipline: the Place of Women in Early Quaker Controversies’, The Seventeenth Century 18:1 (2003), 113–140.Google Scholar

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© Erica Sheen & Lorna Hutson 2005

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  • Erica Sheen
  • Lorna Hutson

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