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
Date Written: January 16, 2011
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.
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