In late nineteenth-century Italy, the court, and especially the court of assizes, became a new and important public space: the law began permitting an audience in order to help control the judiciary power. This article shows that the court audience, hitherto placed at the margins of both historical narratives and historiographical analysis, played a key role in emotional interactions in the modern courtroom. Drawing primarily on court reports published in newspapers, this article offers a systematic and detailed analysis of the way in which the court audience's emotional expectations, dispositions, experiences, and practices were described and critically evaluated by the press, by the judicial and political authorities, and by legal and social scholars. Furthermore, it highlights the gender and class dynamics at play in the portrayal and perception of the audience at court hearings. Finally, it analyzes the complex relationship between the court audience itself and consumers of court news. This article demonstrates that research on law and emotions should focus not only on the primary actors in the courtroom, that is the judge, defendant, plaintiff, and witnesses, but also on those at the margins: the audience in the courtroom as well as the virtual audience of consumers of court news. In doing so, it shows that the emotional interaction in the courtroom was a two-way process: those on trial performed for their audience, but the audience's reactions also shaped the way in which future trials played out.


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pp. 231-254
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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