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Heir, Celebrity, Martyr, Monster: Legal and Political Legitimacy in Shakespeare and Beyond

43 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2009  

Eric Heinze

Queen Mary University of London, School of Law

Date Written: February 23, 2009

Abstract

The Seventeenth Century places Western political thought on a path increasingly concerned with ascertaining the legitimacy of a determinate individual, parliamentary or popular sovereign. Beginning with Shakespeare, however, a parallel literary tradition serves not to systematise, but to problematise the discourses used to assert the legitimacy with which control over law and government is exercised. This article examines discourses of legal and political legitimacy spawned in early modernity. It is argued that basic notions of 'right', 'duty', 'justice' and 'power' (corresponding, in their more vivid manifestations, to categories of 'heir', 'celebrity', 'martyr' and 'monster') combine in discrete, but always encumbered ways, to generate a variety of legitimating discourses. Whilst transcendentalist versions of those discourses begin to wane, their secular counterparts acquire steadily greater force. In addition to the Shakespearean histories, works of John Milton, Pierre Corneille, Jean Racine, Friedrich Schiller and Richard Wagner are examined, along with some more contemporary or ironic renderings.

Keywords: law and literature, legal theory, legal philosophy, Shakespeare

Suggested Citation

Heinze, Eric, Heir, Celebrity, Martyr, Monster: Legal and Political Legitimacy in Shakespeare and Beyond (February 23, 2009). Queen Mary School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 7/2009; Queen Mary School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 7/2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1348116

Eric Heinze (Contact Author)

Queen Mary University of London, School of Law ( email )

67-69 Lincoln’s Inn Fields
London, WC2A 3JB
United Kingdom

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