Shakespearean Legal Thought in International Dispute Settlement

41 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2018 Last revised: 28 Jan 2018

See all articles by Thomas Schultz

Thomas Schultz

King's College London

François Ost

Saint-Louis University, Brussels

Date Written: December 28, 2017


In this article, the authors examine the contributions of Shakespearean legal thought to our understanding of core aspects of international dispute settlement. These aspects include: the sweeping role of masks in law and in the resolution of disputes; the construction and deconstruction of authority; the purpose of law in arousing desire and thus action; the limits in recognizing informal international law as law; the benefits of exaggeration; the problematic ambition of adjudicators; the key role of passion, against rationality, in understanding and dealing with international disputes; the decision-making resources to be found in logics of life; exercising measure in the enforcement and reach of law; remembering that law deals with human beings in our quest for law’s purity and systematic organization; resisting single-mindedness; the relevance of a dialectic form of proportionality; and the inescapable need to embrace uncertainty. The authors also discuss the general relevance of law & literature, and law & theatre, for all manner of legal professionals and review Shakespeare’s own legal background and thus his a priori ability to deal with legal matters.

Keywords: International dispute settlement, Shakespeare, international law, arbitration

JEL Classification: K10, K33

Suggested Citation

Schultz, Thomas and Ost, François, Shakespearean Legal Thought in International Dispute Settlement (December 28, 2017). King's College London Law School Research Paper No. 2018-01, Available at SSRN: or

Thomas Schultz (Contact Author)

King's College London ( email )

Somerset House East Wing
London, WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

François Ost

Saint-Louis University, Brussels ( email )

43 Boulevard du Jardin botanique
Brussels, 1000

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