Shakespeare on Trial
Last night three U.S. Supreme Court judges participated in the annual mock trial event in Washington D.C. Law professor Kenji Yoshino explains how these events use Shakespeare to teach us about justice.
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).
Every years since 1994, the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington D.C. presents mock trials, often based on characters from Shakespeare's plays. On April 10 this year, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Samuel Alito Jr. and Sonia Sotomayor presided over a trial involving characters from Oscar Wilde's 1895 play An Ideal Husband, a play in this season's repertoire. Past mock trials have involved the guilt or innocence of characters who committed murder, and the use of the insanity defense for Hamlet.
What's the Big Idea?
While the event is all in good fun, and often has a humorous tone behind it, Constitutional Law professor Kenji Yoshino told Big Think the mock trials often have serious undertones, and allow us to view contemporary issues of justice through the works of Shakespeare.
For instance, Yoshino tells the story of how he tried a case involving the guilt or innocence of King Henry V, who he tried in a mock trial as a war criminal:
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