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Eternal Bonds, True Contracts
Law and Nature in Shakespeare's Problem Plays
Eternal Bonds, True Contracts
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A. G. Harmon - Author
Price: $45.00 
Hardcover - 203 pages
Release Date: July 2004
ISBN10: 0-7914-6117-3
ISBN13: 978-0-7914-6117-4

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Price: $23.95 
Paperback - 203 pages
Release Date: 
ISBN10: 0-7914-6118-1
ISBN13: 978-0-7914-6118-1

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Summary Read First Chapter image missing

Uses legal and literary resources to explore Shakespeare's use of the law and its instruments in the problem plays.

In Eternal Bonds, True Contracts, A. G. Harmon closely analyzes Shakespeare's concentrated use of the law and its instruments in what have often been referred to as the problem plays: Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida, The Merchant of Venice, and All's Well That Ends Well. Contracts, bonds, sureties, wills—all ensure a changed relationship between parties, and in Shakespeare the terms are nearly always reserved for use in the contexts of marriage and fellowship. Harmon explores the theory and practice of contractual obligations in Renaissance England, especially those involving marriage and property, in order to identify contractual elements and their formation, execution, and breach in the plays. Using both legal and literary resources, Harmon reveals the larger significance of these contractual concepts by illustrating how Shakespeare develops them both dramatically and thematically. Harmon's study ultimately enables the reader to perceive not only these plays but also all of Shakespeare's writing—including his poetry—as integral with, and implicated in, the proliferating legalism that was helping to define early modern English culture.

“Harmon’s excellent analysis gives us a means to access the four problem plays, and he gives them some coherence. They are problems because we didn’t know how to approach them or see the through-line of law at work in each of them. Throughout the text Harmon aspires to provide precise and rich understanding of Shakespeare’s use of legal terminology as metaphorical devices. In this he succeeds.” — Sixteenth Century Journal

“…a useful contribution to Shakespearean studies and to law and literature.” — Renaissance Quarterly

"By explicating not only the language but also the social and moral ramifications of these plays within a densely articulated legal culture, Harmon brings them to the center of Shakespearean studies. He illuminates what traditionally has seemed most problematic about these plays, thus transforming the experience of reading them from an ambiguous negotiation to an intellectual adventure. Harmon's work also dispels any notion that Shakespeare's use of legal language constituted mere dabbling. The plays are shown to be immersed in the legal culture rather than merely gesturing toward it. I feel certain that Shakespeare scholars at every level will be as gratified as I have been to discover this fascinating piece of interdisciplinary scholarship." — Lana Cable, author of Carnal Rhetoric: Milton's Iconoclasm and the Poetics of Desire

A. G. Harmon is Lecturer at the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America and the author of the novel A House All Stilled.


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

1. The Semblance of Virtue: Law, Nature, and Shakespeare

2. Things Seen and Unseen: The Contracts in Measure for Measure

3. Perfection in Reversion: The Mock Contract in Troilus and Cressida

4. Matching Meanings: Contracts, Bonds, and Sureties in The Merchant of Venice

5. Lawful Title: Contractual Performance in All's Well That Ends Well

6. Nature's Double Name: Beyond the Problem Plays

Notes

Works Cited

Index



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