Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Bday, WS

Here I am blogging.  It is April 23.  I picked this date to start my quixotic enterprise because today is the day that scholars have long deemed “Shakespeare’s birthday.”  No record demonstrates precisely when that guy from Stratford was born, however.  We just have a record of a christening date; and we know that Elizabethans liked to get the kiddos baptized muy pronto back then because, sadly, many did not make it to their first birthday.  Besides, British scholars like the date because April 23 is also St. George’s Day, which honors England’s patron saint.  And here’s another nice fortuity:  In a call-to-arms that would rouse even the most staunch pacifist, Shakespeare has young King Henry V, in the eponymous play, fire up the troops before the Battle of Agincourt by urging them to: “Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’”  That confluence—whereby England’s greatest poet wrote words for one of England’s greatest historical figures invoking the memory of England’s legendary patron—seems like a sufficient basis to accept that April 23 is Shakespeare’s birthday, at least if there is any poetic justice in this world.

Speaking of justice and poetry, that is what this blog is going to be about.  More specifically, I plan to use the Bard’s words as the impetus for blogging about the law.  Like any self-respecting blogger, most of my observations will be hopelessly anecdotal; my conclusions mired in all manner of cognitive biases.  And I am sure to blame the blog format for any and all typos and spelling errors.  Nevertheless, I hope this exercise will occasionally illuminate something out here in the darkness—at least for me.

The name of this blog/blawg comes from Measure for Measure.  More than any of Will’s plays I know of (except maybe A Merchant in Venice), Measure for Measure is explicitly about the law.  In particular, the play is about the difficult balance between the letter of the law and actual justice.  Shakespeare seems to acknowledge that, if a community is not required to adhere to legal rules about which it has notice, that community will grow cynical.  And The Law will suffer as a result.  But if those in power seek to stick it to the community for failing to tow the line with regard to laws that are too draconian, that too will have a demoralizing effect on The Law.  And when the folks in power who are trying to stick it to the little guy for failing to obey the letter of the law turn out to be flagrant hypocrites, well, that is a formula for all hell to break loose.

Therefore, Measure for Measure seems like a good place for this blawgger to start—although it will probably take several posts to get to the point about what constitutes a “true complaint.”  That in itself is a tad ironic since lawyers are supposed to front-load their conclusions and give away the punchlines.  Then again, as I hope to explain at some point, Measure for Measure is all about the challenge of practicing what you preach.

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