Kenji Yoshino: Why I Chose Shakespeare

Academic and Author

Kenji Yoshino is the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at the NYU School of Law. Prior to moving to NYU, he was the inaugural Guido Calabresi Professor of Law and Deputy Dean of Intellectual Life at Yale Law School, where he taught from 1998 to 2008. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard College, took a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, and earned his law degree at Yale Law School.  A specialist in constitutional law, antidiscrimination law, and law and literature, Yoshino has published in major academic journals such as the Columbia Law Review, the Stanford Law Review, and the Yale Law Journal. He has also written extensively in other popular venues, such as The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. He has appeared on The O'Reilly Factor, Washington Journal, and The Tavis Smiley Show.

He is the author of Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights (2006) and A Thousand Times More Fair: What Shakespeare's Plays Teach Us About Justice (2011).

  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Kenji Yoshino: I was really at pains or really struggling to find the text that would be both common enough and complex enough in order to sustain those discussions about justice. And I only had two candidates ultimately. It was the Bible or Shakespeare. Because I think in our society the only text that also deals with something that is deep enough in order to sustain a conversation about justice are those two texts. As Harold Bloom tells us, no other texts have the circumference of the Bible and Shakespeare.

In a separation of church and state society, we’re not gonna use the Bible in order to inform what we believe justice to be, or what we believe the law should be. And so I’m left with Shakespeare. And so what this book is really trying to do is take the plays that most touch on legal topics – you know The Merchant of VeniceMeasure for Measure – Titus Andronicus, of all plays, I think is a really marvelous play about the origins of the law – and try and open up these plays, and try and give these plays back to readers in a form that makes the plays more exciting by showing them legal themes that they haven’t seen before; but also inviting us in to have conversations about what justice is in our society.


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