Spring 2024

Thinking Law with Shakespeare and Seneca

Listed in: Classics, as CLAS-217  |  Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, as LJST-217


Niek Janssen (Section 01)
Adam Sitze (Section 01)


LJST 217 and CLAS 217

Shakespeare’s texts put into play an intricate set of juridical terms and forms. The premise of this course is that we can retrieve from this “putting into play” a unique way of thinking about modern juridical order at the moment of its inception, as well as its roots in Roman law. Through the close reading of four plays by Shakespeare and his influential predecessor, the Roman playwright Seneca, we will trace the composition of some of the most fundamental problems of modern Anglophone jurisprudence (such as person and impersonation, inheritance and usurpation, contract and oath, tyranny and sovereignty, pardon and mercy, matrimony and patrimony, civil war and empire, and marriage and divorce). The aim of this inquiry will not be to apply jurisprudence to Shakespeare and Seneca’s texts. Nor will it be to use their texts to humanize a legal training that otherwise would risk remaining sterile and unfeeling. Nor, finally, will it be either to historicize their texts (limiting them to a particular place and time) or else to universalize those texts (treating them as the exemplar for humanity as such). It will be to treat Shakespeare and Seneca’s texts as an occasion to rethink the genesis and basis of the ancient Roman and modern Anglophone jurisprudence that we inherit today in a specifically globalized form.

Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Sitze and Visiting Assistant Professor Janssen.

How to handle overenrollment: Priortiy given to LJST and Classics Majors

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: (a) emphasis on written work, and (b) emphasis on heavy readings.

CLAS 217 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 8:30 AM - 9:50 AM WEBS 217
Th 8:30 AM - 9:50 AM WEBS 217


Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2024