The Invention of Suspicion: Law and Mimesis in Shakespeare and Renaissance Drama

The Invention of Suspicion: Law and Mimesis in Shakespeare and Renaissance Drama

by Lorna Hutson
     
 

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The Invention of Suspicion argues that the English justice system underwent changes in the sixteenth century that, because of the system's participatory nature, had a widespread effect and a decisive impact on the development of English Renaissance drama. These changes gradually made evidence evaluation a popular skill: justices of peace and juries were

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Overview

The Invention of Suspicion argues that the English justice system underwent changes in the sixteenth century that, because of the system's participatory nature, had a widespread effect and a decisive impact on the development of English Renaissance drama. These changes gradually made evidence evaluation a popular skill: justices of peace and juries were increasingly required to weigh up the probabilities of competing narratives of facts. At precisely the same time, English dramatists were absorbing, from Latin legal rhetoric and from Latin comedy, poetic strategies that enabled them to make their plays more persuasively realistic, more 'probable'. The result of this enormously rich conjunction of popular legal culture and ancient forensic rhetoric was a drama in which dramatis personae habitually gather evidence and 'invent' arguments of suspicion and conjecture about one another, thus prompting us, as readers and audience, to reconstruct this 'evidence' as stories of characters' private histories and inner lives. In this drama, people act in uncertainty, inferring one another's motives and testing evidence for their conclusions. As well as offering an overarching account of how changes in juridical epistemology relate to post-Reformation drama, this book examines comic dramatic writing associated with the Inns of Court in the overlooked decades of the 1560s and 70s. It argues that these experiments constituted an influential sub-genre, assimilating the structures of Roman comedy to current civic and political concerns with the administration of justice. This sub-genre's impact may be seen in Shakespeare's early experiments in revenge tragedy, history play and romance comedy, in Titus Andronicus, Henry VI and The Comedy of Errors, as well as Jonson's Every Man in his Humour, Bartholomew Fair and The Alchemist. The book ranges from mid-fifteenth century drama, through sixteenth century interludes to the drama of the 1590s and 1600s. It draws on recent research by legal historians, and on a range of legal-historical sources in print and manuscript.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The Invention of Suspicion serves as a successful example of how knowledge of both legal discourse and legal procedures can help us better understand what is at stake in a literary text." —AmeriQuests

"Comprehensive and deftly executed...Offering readers new insights into the complex relationships that determined the character of legal and dramatic literature in early modern England." —Modern Philology

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199212439
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
02/25/2008
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
9.30(w) x 6.20(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Lorna Hutson was born in Germany to Scottish parents and was educated in San Francisco, Edinburgh, and Oxford. At Oxford she wrote a PhD thesis on Thomas Nashe which was published by OUP as Thomas Nashe in Context (1989). From 1985-1998 she was Lecturer and then Reader at Queen Mary College, London, and wrote The Usurer's Daughter (Routledge, 1994). In 2001, as Professor of the University of California, Berkeley, she edited, with Victoria Kahn, Rhetoric and Law in Early Modern Europe. She was the recipient, in 2004-5 of an award from John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to write The Invention of Suspicion. She is currently Berry Professor of English Literature at the University of St Andrews, Scotland.

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