In The Misfortunes of Arthur (1588), the Elizabethan lawyers who staged an allegorical confrontation between the Muses and Astraea, the classical goddess of justice and law, asserted that followers of the latter must "first ... forget and scorne" the "noble skils of language and of Arts," above all "Poesie." Taking the lawyers at their word, this dissertation argues that the hostility of law shaped Elizabethan literature. It accordingly revises arguments that assert a compatibility between law and literature based on Elizabethan lawyers' education in classical rhetoric and on the performance of plays at the Elizabethan legal societies, the Inns of Court. The introduction seeks to explain why later sixteenth-century England actually experienced a conceptual opposition between law and literature. The first half of the dissertation argues that the use of classical rhetoric in English trials and legal propaganda promoted an opposition between the objective truth accessible to law and the subjective experience of literature. Its second half argues that social and religious tensions at the Inns of Court exacerbated the opposition between a legal and a literary career. Chapters in each half of the dissertation reveal how distinctive features of Shakespearean tragedy and comedy encode the opposition between law and literature. The conclusion argues that Jonson's distinctive brand of possessive authorship sought to make peace with legal criticisms of literature at the expense of banishing the incompatible literary forms associated with Shakespeare.
|School Location:||United States -- Connecticut|
|Source:||DAI-A 78/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||British and Irish literature|
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