From Sovereignty to the State: The Tragicomic Clemency of Massinger's the Bondman

Oxford Handbook of English Law and Literature, ed. Bradin Cormack and Lorna Hutson (Forthcoming)

Stanford Public Law Working Paper No. 2756227

29 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2016

Date Written: March 2016

Abstract

The enthusiastic series of receptions of Philip Massinger’s 1623 play The Bondman by royalists and republicans alike has puzzled critics. This essay argues that the play appealed to disparate constituencies by displacing focus from the sources of sovereignty onto the stability of the state. Drawing on Stoic philosopher Seneca’s De Clementia, which Thomas Lodge had newly translated in 1614, The Bondman centers both generically and politically on clemency. Clemency infuses the play’s mode of tragicomedy and presents a vision of politics that prioritizes the general welfare of the state over any particular form of rule.

Keywords: stoicism, clemency, sovereignty, republicanism

Suggested Citation

Meyler, Bernadette A., From Sovereignty to the State: The Tragicomic Clemency of Massinger's the Bondman (March 2016). Oxford Handbook of English Law and Literature, ed. Bradin Cormack and Lorna Hutson (Forthcoming); Stanford Public Law Working Paper No. 2756227. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2756227

Bernadette A. Meyler (Contact Author)

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States

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