LLAW3274 & LALS3014

General Course Information

1.1 Course details

Course code: LLAW3274 / LALS3014
Course name: Shakespeare and the Law
Programme offered under: LLB Programme
Semester: Second
Designated research course: Not applicable
Specialization: Not applicable
Prerequisites / Co-requisites: No
Course offered to non-law students: No
Credit point value: 6 credits
Cap on student numbers: 5 for LLAW3274

1.2 Course description

Shakespeare made extensive use of legal terms, ideas, and procedures in his drama.  In this course, we will examine the connections between Shakespeare and the law in two broad ways.  First, we will look at how law, and legal reasoning, contributed to Shakespeare’s construction of drama, including his famed creation of vivid, life-like characters.  We will explore how legal notions of intention, suspicion, and inference informed the “inwardness” or “interiority” of Shakespeare’s characters.  Students will be asked to bring early modern legal cases (such as Hales v Petit) and land law (Domesday Book) to bear on their analysis of Hamlet’s much discussed “delay”.  We will consider both how early modern legal training – including forensic rhetoric and evidentiary reasoning – informed Shakespeare’s dramatic technique, and how literary, narratological, and affective strategies informed the development of English law.

Second, the course will explore the interrelationships between language, law, and power.  The relationship between the crown and the law (rex v lex) was much debated in early modern England and was a central focus of Shakespeare’s history plays.  We will examine the intersection of law and power politics in 2 Henry VI, a play famous for the rebel cry: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”.  The line speaks to deep social grievances concerning the role and nature of law, the place of the commons, and the nature of authority.  Students will examine important texts in the early modern understanding of kingship and authority, including case law (Calvin’s Case, Case of the Duchy of Lancaster, Willion v Berkley), legal theory (Edward Coke’s foundational writings on the common law and Ernst Kantorowisz’s The King’s Two Bodies), and Elizabethan political theology (Homily on Obedience, Homily Against Disobedience).  2 Henry VI also offers an opportunity to examine Shakespeare’s treatment of the legal trial, the criteria for interpretation and judgement, and the connection between trial jury and theatre audience.

1.3 Course teachers

Name E-mail address Office Consultation
Course convenor Nicolas Luke nickluke@hku.hk TBA By email

Learning Outcomes

2.1 Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs) for this course

CLO 1 Describe and explain elements of the history and development of English law from c.1500-c.1640, including the development of the common law, and the origins and structure of institutions of legal education and training.

CLO 2 Describe and discuss major works of Shakespearean drama, in their social and historical context.

CLO 3 Demonstrate an awareness of the ways in which elements of language and rhetoric are shared between the fields of law and literature, and the ways in which these two fields may influence one another.

CLO 4 Use relevant information about early modern legal practices and institutions, and about literary genre and form, to examine critically the discourses of power, authority and the rule of law contained in both legal and literary works of the period.

2.2 LLB Programme Learning Outcomes (PLOs)

Please refer to the following link: https://course.law.hku.hk/llb-plo/

2.3 Programme Learning Outcomes to be achieved in this course



3.1 Assessment Summary

Assessment task Due date Weighting Feedback method* Course learning outcomes
Attendance and participation N/A 10% 1, 2, 3, 4
Oral presentation TBA 15% 2, 5 1, 2, 3
Mid-term essay TBA 25% 2 2, 3, 4
Final essay TBA 50% 2 1, 3, 4
*Feedback method (to be determined by course teacher)
1 A general course report to be disseminated through Moodle
2 Individual feedback to be disseminated by email / through Moodle
3 Individual review meeting upon appointment
4 Group review meeting
5 In-class verbal feedback

3.2 Assessment Detail

To be advised by course convenor(s).

3.3 Grading Criteria

Please refer to the following link: https://www.law.hku.hk/_files/law_programme_grade_descriptors.pdf

Learning Activities

4.1 Learning Activity Plan

Seminar: 3 hours / week for 12 teaching weeks
Private study time: 9.5 hours / week for 12 teaching weeks

Remarks: the normative student study load per credit unit is 25 ± 5 hours (ie. 150 ± 30 hours for a 6-credit course), which includes all learning activities and experiences within and outside of classroom, and any assessment task and examinations and associated preparations.

4.2 Details of Learning Activities

To be advised by course convenor(s).

Learning Resources

5.1 Resources

Reading materials: Reading materials are posted on Moodle
Core reading list: TBA
Recommended reading list: TBA

5.2 Links

Please refer to the following link: http://www.law.hku.hk/course/learning-resources/