'This Power Isn’t Power If It’s Shared': Law and Violence in Jean Racine’s 'La Thébaïde'
Law & Literature, Vol. 22, No. 1, 2010
Queen Mary University of London, School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper
42 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2009
Date Written: October 4, 2009
The Seventeenth century witnesses the steady demise of the fragmented or overlapping power regimes that had been rooted in the European Middle Ages. Centralised control increasingly structures emerging states. Jean Racine's La Thébaïde, recreating a chapter in the Oedipus myth, displays the Hobbesian drive for undivided sovereignty pushed to its logical conclusion: even two shareholders in power become one too many. Legal norms are constantly invoked to resolve a political and military power struggle, including discourses of absolute and shared sovereignty, separations of powers, popular consent, public welfare, national interest (raison d’état), natural law, and just war. Far from overcoming a brute power dynamic, however, those legal discourses show how the emerging modern state turns them into a tool of coercive power.
Keywords: absolutism, Hobbes, just war, law and literature, modernity, natural law, Oedipus, Racine, raison d’état, Shakespeare, sovereignty, theodicy
JEL Classification: K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation