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New Book: 'Shakespeare's Strangers and English Law' by Professor Paul Raffield

Professor Paul Raffield's new book 'Shakespeare's Strangers and English Law' was published by Hart/Bloomsbury on 26 January 2023, his third sole-authored book on the subject of Shakespeare and the Law.

Through analysis of five plays by Shakespeare (Measure for Measure, The Comedy of Errors, Troilus and Cressida, The Merchant of Venice, King Lear), Paul RaffieldPaul Book Cover examines what it meant to be a ‘stranger’ to English law in the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean period. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, ‘stranger’ was the word applied to anyone in England who was not an English subject. The numbers of strangers increased dramatically in the late sixteenth century, as refugees fled religious persecution in continental Europe and sought sanctuary in Protestant England.

In the context of this book, strangers are not only persons ethnically or racially different from their English counterparts, be they immigrants, refugees, or visitors. The term also includes those who challenge, transgress, or are simply excluded by their status from established legal norms and mores by virtue of their faith, sexuality, or mode of employment.

Each chapter investigates a particular category of ‘stranger’. Topics include the treatment of actors by the legal institution in late Elizabethan England and the punishment of ‘counterfeits’ (Measure for Measure); the standing of refugees and immigrants under English law at the end of the sixteenth century and the reception of these people by the indigenous population (The Comedy of Errors); the establishment of Troynovant or Troia Nova (London) as an international trading centre on the banks of the Thames (Troilus and Cressida); the role of law and the state in determining the rights and obligations of citizens and aliens (The Merchant of Venice); and the disenfranchised, estranged position of the citizen in a dysfunctional society and an acephalous realm (King Lear).

This is the third sole-authored monograph by Paul Raffield on the subject of Shakespeare and the Law. The others are Shakespeare’s Imaginary Constitution: Late Elizabethan Politics and the Theatre of Law and The Art of Law in Shakespeare, both published by Hart/Bloomsbury.

Mon 30 Jan 2023, 12:29 | Tags: Publication, Staff in action, Book