Stevenson's 'The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' as a Criminal Law Text

Law & Policy Book Review, Vol. 18, p. 356, 2008

4 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2011 Last revised: 1 Nov 2017

See all articles by Simon Stern

Simon Stern

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

Date Written: January 16, 2011

Abstract

This short review of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, (1886) talks about how Robert Louis Stevenson's novella may be used as a text in a criminal law class. Jekyll's written confession is ambiguous about his responsibility for the murder he has committed. He seems to deny that he was "morally sane" at the time of the murder, yet he also makes a point of declaring that he had "voluntarily stripped [him]self of all those balancing instincts" that would have allowed himself to control himself, and he compares himself to "drunkard." Jekyll further complicates the issue by tracing his violent impulses back to the "thorough and primitive duality" of humans in general. Around the time the novella was published, English courts were starting to ask whether mental conditions resulting from voluntary intoxication may negate specific intent. Students may be provoked to think more deeply about criminal responsibility by reading Jekyll and Hyde in relation to those judgments, and in relation to more recent judgments in which a party's voluntary act triggered the manifestation of a preexisting illness.

Suggested Citation

Stern, Simon, Stevenson's 'The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' as a Criminal Law Text (January 16, 2011). Law & Policy Book Review, Vol. 18, p. 356, 2008, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1742087

Simon Stern (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.utoronto.ca/faculty-staff/full-time-faculty/simon-stern

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