What Shakespeare's Plays Teach Us About
April 2011/ ISBN 006176910X
Nonfiction / Shakespeare / Law / Social Justice
by Carmen Ferreiro
The burden of proof, a jury of peers, the presumption of innocence
are things we consider necessary for the administration of justice
in XXI century America. But it was not always thus, as Kenji Yoshino
shows us in A Thousand Times More Fair, by examining the
different ways that justice was served (or not) in the different
time periods (from Rome to the XVII century) as presented by Shakespeare
in nine of his plays.
The plays Mr. Yoshino discusses and the points about justice he
takes from them are summarized as follows:
In Titus Andronicus (Roman times) he shows us how when revenge is
the substitute for justice the result is an unending circle of violence
In the Merchant of Venice, he criticizes Ms. Portia's use of rhetoric
to accomplish her own ends.
In Measure for Measure he questions whether an unfair law should
In The Henriad (the plays about Henry V) he discusses the concept
of the King as the source of absolute power.
In Othello he warns about the dangers of a blind faith in material
In Macbeth he underlines the pagan belief in natural justice.
In Hamlet he argues that the prince's hesitation comes from his
desire for a perfect justice, an unattainable end that causes unexpected
In King Lear, the king's madness separates him from human law and
gives him a clear vision into justice.
Finally, in The Tempest, he proposes that even the fairest of rulers
must give up power before it corrupts them.
In each chapter, Mr. Yoshino brings a parallel between the ideas
discussed in that particular play and current events, and, by doing
so, he shows how little the world has changed since Shakespeare's
The message, if there is one, I found in Kenji Yoshino's examination
of how justice is served in Shakespeare's' plays is that justice
is anything but fair.
A Thousand Times More Fair is a highly entertaining read,
both controversial and enlightening and I highly recommend it.