Early modern notions of justice tended to be strongly linked to procedural ideals, casting the state rather than the individual as the guarantor of just order, even if specific officials and systems could be identified as falling short of those ideals. In this essay, I trace some early modern perceptions of the proper means of attaining justice and then explore how those means are represented in the period's drama. As I show, although Renaissance literature's supposedly "intima[te] . . . engagement with the law" has become a critical staple, there is a striking mismatch between the ways justice was done in early modern England and the judicial processes depicted on stage. I offer a number of explanations for why an accurate portrayal of English judicial procedure may have eluded Shakespeare and his contemporaries and delineate the (not necessarily detrimental) consequences of this misalignment for the dramatic representation of justice.


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pp. 63-85
Launched on MUSE
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