Alexander Thom: Shakespeare’s Bodies of Law (Special Episode)

As 23rd April is traditionally celebrated as Shakespeare’s birthday, today The Provocateur brings to you a special one-off episode in honour of the Bardiversary. We are joined by Alexander Thom, a PhD student at the Shakespeare Institute (University of Birmingham), for a fascinating discussion of the role of law in Shakespeare’s work, in particular the notion of banishment. We explore the relationships between law and literature in general before going on to talk about the significance of banishment as a legal and rhetorical device in the early modern period, as well as how the concept operates in Shakespearean texts. Drawing on how 20th-century thinkers such as Michel Foucault and Giorgio Agamben have taken up the idea, we discuss banishment as a way of delineating distinctions between the human and non-human, those within the political community and those who are excluded from it. We also touch on the continuing relevance of Shakespeare’s work today, particularly in view of the contemporary plight of immigrants and refugees.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Correction: At the start of the programme it is stated that 2017 marks the 451st anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. As keen-eyed mathematicians will know, it is of course the Bard’s 453rd birthday. Apologies!

Further Reading:

Primary texts (though we mainly discuss the Shakespeare plays):

Christopher Marlowe: Edward IIThe Jew of Malta.

William Shakespeare: As You Like ItCoriolanusCymbelineMeasure for MeasureThe Merchant of VeniceRichard IIRomeo & JulietSir Thomas MoreThe Tempest, Titus Andronicus.

John Webster: The Duchess of Malfi.

Secondary texts:

Agamben, G. (1998) Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. D. Heller-Roazen. Stanford, CA:  Stanford University Press.

Elden, S. (2014) ‘Bellies, wounds, infections, animals, territories: The political bodies of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus‘, in Edkins, J. and A. Kear (eds.) International Politics and Performance. London: Routledge.

Foucault, M. (1978) ‘About the Concept of the “Dangerous Individual” in 19th-Century Legal Psychiatry’, International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 1, pp. 1-18.

____ (1995) Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. A. Sheridan. New York: Vintage.

Kingsley-Smith, J. (2003) Shakespeare’s Drama of Exile. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Höfele, A. (2011) Stage, Stake, and Scaffold: Humans and Animals in Shakespeare’s Theatre. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Steiner, G. (1975) After Babel. London: Oxford University Press.

One thought on “Alexander Thom: Shakespeare’s Bodies of Law (Special Episode)

  1. Pingback: Suwita Hani Randhawa: The Idea of Genocide as an International Crime | The Provocateur

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