1st Edition

Shakespeare's Curse
The Aporias of Ritual Exclusion in Early Modern Royal Drama

ISBN 9780415517560
Published October 30, 2013 by Routledge
280 Pages

USD $170.00

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Book Description

Conceptualizing the curse as the representation of a foundational, mythical violence that is embedded within juridical discourse, Shakespeare’s Curse:The Aporias of Ritual Exclusion in Early Modern Royal Drama pursues a reading of Richard III, King John, and King Lear in order to analyse the persistence of imprecations in the discourses of modernity. Shakespeare wrote during a period that was transformative in the development of juridical thinking. However, taking up the relationship between theater, theology and law, Björn Quiring argues that the curse was not eliminated from legal discourses during this modernization of jurisprudence; rather, it persisted and to this day continues to haunt numerous speech acts. Drawing on the work of Derrida, Lacan, Walter Benjamin and Giorgio Agamben, among others, Quiring analyses the performativity of the curse, and tracks its power through the juristic themes that are pursued within Shakespeare’s plays – such as sovereignty, legitimacy, succession, obligation, exception, and natural law. Thus, this book provides an original and important insight into early modern legal developments, as well as a fresh perspective on some of Shakespeare’s best known works.

A fascinating interdisciplinary study, this book will interest students and scholars of Law, Literature, and History.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements  Introduction  1. Richard III and the Ostracized Heritage of Theater  1.1 Anne and the Supplement of the Eucharist  1.2 Margaret and the Excommunication of the Old Liturgy  1.3 Edward IV, the Oath and the Performance of the Social Contract  1.4 Hastings and the Fateful Prophecy  1.5 Henry VI and the Standing Army of the Dead  1.6 Clarence and the Diabolical Allegory  1.7 Buckingham and the Grounds of Theater  2. King John and the Ordeal of the Bastard Commodity  3. King Lear and the Naturalized State of Exception  3.1 Cordelia and the Problem of Equity  3.2 Goneril and Regan within the Liberties of Nature  3.3 Kent in Internal Banishment  3.4 Edgar and the benedictio vacui  3.5 The Fool and the Bonds of Fate  3.6 Storm still and the Perpetual Downfall of the Last Judgment

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Björn Quiring is Research Associate at the Peter Szondi Institute of Comparative Literature, Freie Universitat, Berlin.

Featured Author Profiles


"Shakespeare’s Curse is a compelling and original study of the terrible force of words in King Lear and the history plays. Written by one of Germany’s most brilliant young Shakespeare scholars, this book demonstrates the dramatic yoking of affect and order, act and expression, and sovereignty and ban within the primitive arc of the curse. Quiring combines deep juridical, philosophical and biblical knowledge with a compassionate and generous attention to the pathos of power in Shakespearean drama." - Julia Reinhard Lupton, author of Thinking with Shakespeare: Essays on Politics and Life

 "A damn good book." - Roger Lüdeke, Shakespeare Jahrbuch

"Björn Quiring's study 'Shakspeare's Curse' is quite remarkable. With notable thoroughness, it explains the presence and history of cursing as an act of violence within the making of legal codes and lawmaking moments." - Nigel Smith, Princeton University

"Shakespeare’s Curse is well-written and delivers an exciting argument that makes possible a wide range of subsequent studies." - Matthew Vadnais for Theatre Journal (Vol. 67, No. 1, Mar 2015)