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Forensic Shakespeare By Quentin Skinner (Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities, Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities, Queen Mary University of London)


Quentin Skinner highlights the use of judicial rhetoric in some of Shakespeare's most famous works, shedding new light on Shakespeare's reading and the intellectual base of his work.

Forensic Shakespeare Summary

Forensic Shakespeare by Quentin Skinner (Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities, Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities, Queen Mary University of London)

Forensic Shakespeare illustrates Shakespeare's creative processes by revealing the intellectual materials out of which some of his most famous works were composed. Focusing on the narrative poem Lucrece, on four of his late Elizabethan plays (Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, Julius Caesar and Hamlet) and on three early Jacobean dramas, (Othello, Measure for Measure and All's Well That Ends Well), Quentin Skinner argues that major speeches, and sometimes sequences of scenes, are crafted according to a set of rhetorical precepts about how to develop a persuasive judicial case, either in accusation or defence. Some of these works have traditionally been grouped together as 'problem plays', but here Skinner offers a different explanation for their frequent similarities of tone. There have been many studies of Shakespeare's rhetoric, but they have generally concentrated on his wordplay and use of figures and tropes. By contrast, this study concentrates on Shakespeare's use of judicial rhetoric as a method of argument. By approaching the plays from this perspective, Skinner is able to account for some distinctive features of Shakespeare's vocabulary, and also help to explain why certain scenes follow a recurrent pattern and arrangement. More broadly, he is able to illustrate the extent of Shakespeare's engagement with an entire tradition of classical and Renaissance humanist thought.

Forensic Shakespeare Reviews

Forensic Shakespeare has all the qualities of erudition and lucidity one would expect from Quentin Skinner. * Neil Rhodes, Around the Globe *
This generous, helpful guide goes a long way towards explaining how Shakespeare's literary genius works. * Andrew Hadfield, Irish Times *
A magisterial, loving study of Shakespeare's infinitely varied use of the handbooks of judicial rhetoric shaping the thought of any Elizabethan (and us too, come to that). * Fred Inglis, Books of the year 2014, Times Higher Education *
a brilliant study of the teachings of classical legal rhetoric as used and misused by Shakespeare's speakers. * Brian Vickers, Book of the Year 2014, Times Literary Supplement *
clear and convincing ... It's doubly impressive to imagine the book's own oratorical origins, since its later chapters now work so well as something so textual as an index of Shakespeare's uses of the five parts of a judicial speech. * Matthew Ritger, Los Angeles Review of Books *
exemplary scholarship. * David Womersley, Standpoint *
a genuinely illuminating book and should be required reading for every serious student of [Shakespeare]. * Brian Vickers, Common Knowledge *
explores the idea that the Bard skilfully employed judicial rhetoric in the poem Lucrece and in some half-dozen of his most famous plays. A good one for Lawyers, Law students and anyone keen to sprinkle their dinner party conversation with some judiciously selected pearls of Shakespearean legalese. * Shakespeare Magazine *
the book is at its best on rhetoric and there is nobody better informed or more articulate on the subject of classical rhetoric than Skinner ... Skinner presents very engaging and detailed accounts of how judicial rhetoric develops through vernacular translations into a comprehensive language of performance and persuasion. There is no doubt that one of the greatest gifts of this book is the attention to the rhetorical texts themselves and their vigourous and learned analysis. * Charlotte Scott, The Year's Contribution to Shakespeare Studies *
Skinner's book is a fascinating read, rich with instruction, analysis and suggestions for further study. * B. J. Sokol, Notes and Queries *

About Quentin Skinner (Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities, Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities, Queen Mary University of London)

Quentin Skinner is the Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities at Queen Mary, University of London. He is Fellow of the British Academy and the Academia Europaea, and a foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei and other learned societies. His scholarship, which is available in more than twenty languages, has won him many awards, including the Wolfson Prize for History in 1979, a Balzan Prize in 2006 and the Bielfelder Wissenschaftspreis in 2008. He has also been the recipient of numerous honorary degrees. His two-volume study, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought (1978), was listed by The Times Literary Supplement in 1996 as one of the hundred most influential books of the previous fifty years. HIs other books include Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes (1996), Liberty Before Liberalism (1998), Hobbes and Republican Liberty (2008), and a 3-volume collection of essays, Visions of Politics (2002).

Table of Contents

Introduction 1: Classical Rhetoric in Shakespeare's England 2: Shakespeare's Forensic Plays 3: The Open Beginning 4: The Insinuative Beginning 5: The Failed Beginning 6: The Judicial Narrative 7: Confirmation: Juridical and Legal Issues 8: Confirmation: The Conjectural Issue 9: Refutation and Non-Artificial Proofs 10: The Peroration and Appeal to Commonplaces Appendix: The Date of All's Well That Ends Well Bibliography Index

Additional information

Forensic Shakespeare by Quentin Skinner (Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities, Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities, Queen Mary University of London)
Oxford University Press
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