Shakespeare's Curse: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Shakespeare's Curse

1st Edition

By Bjoern Quiring


256 pages

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Paperback: 9780415704229
pub: 2015-06-09

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Conceptualizing the curse as the representation of a foundational, mythical violence that is embedded within juridical discourse, Shakespeare’s Curse 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 theatre, theology and law, Bjoern 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.


"The book should be read by those with interests beyond the three plays it explicitly engages, offering conceptually ambitious reflections on law, history, and early modern theater. A good book, it provokes responses." - Christopher Pye, Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 68, No. 1 (Spring 2015)

"Quiring’s argument is immediate and exacting, with genuine stakes rendered in dynamic and clear prose. The book does much to satisfy its interdisciplinary objectives, offering a persuasive history of the secularization of legal thinking. Although the highly selective treatment of Shakespeare’s corpus raises questions about claims to a clearly chronological narrative of escalating deconstruction, the book’s painstakingly close readings of Richard III and King Lear are themselves quite convincing, providing much fodder for scholars of those individual plays."- Matthew Vadnais , Theatre Journal, Volume 67, Number 1, March 2015, pp. 148-149

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements Introduction 1. Richard III and the Ostracized Heritage of Theatre 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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Discourses of Law

This successful and exciting series seeks to publish the most innovative scholarship at the intersection of law, philosophy and social theory. The books published in the series are distinctive by virtue of exploring the boundaries of legal thought. The work that this series seeks to promote is marked most strongly by the drive to open up new perspectives on the relation between law and other disciplines. The series has also been unique in its commitment to international and comparative perspectives upon an increasingly global legal order. Of particular interest in a contemporary context, the series has concentrated upon the introduction and translation of continental traditions of theory and law.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General
LAW / Jurisprudence
LAW / Legal History