Kenji Yoshino: Why I Chose Shakespeare

Academic and Author
Law professor Kenji Yoshino finds in Shakespeare the ideal body of work that is deep enough to sustain a conversation about justice in our society.
  • 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.