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I am the author of Francis Bacon's Hand in Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice'" A Study of Law, Rhetoric, and Authorship (New York: Algora Publishing, 2018). It is an interdisciplinary study which was inspired by a book I had read in college and never forgotten: Mark Edwin Andrews' Law versus Equity in 'The Merchant of Venice': A Legalization of Act IV, Scene 1 (Boulder: University of Colorado Press, 1965). While taking a summer Shakespeare course from his former Princeton Shakespeare professor, Duncan Spaeth (translator of Beowulf), Andrews told Spaeth he thought a portion of the trial scene (Act IV, Scene 1) reminded him more of equity than law (law and equity being the two legal systems into which the English courts of Shakespeare's time were then divided). Spaeth asked Andrews to research it for two weeks and write a brief paper on what he found. Andrews' research went on all summer, in primary sources such as the old Year Books, and resulted in a book-length manuscript. At that time, equity was still being taught as a system in law schools, but that was beginning to change by the end of World War II. Writing in 1935, Andrews was able to recognize the concepts and procedure of equity in the play. However, his manuscript languished in a box in a law school attic until a law librarian found it, realized its merit, and helped arrange for its publication in 1965.
I had majored in history in college at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Illinois (SIU-C), with a classics major; and, legal history was my favorite subject in law school. In fact, I used my legal history professor Robert E. Beck's two-volume, 900-page compilation of materials for his legal history course at SIU-C (dated 1978, not for general publication) for my book's research which I finally began in earnest around 2015. Law is rooted in the past, but that is easy to forget when the focus is on keeping up with today's ever-changing legal scene.
Andrews' book had convinced me that, whoever Shakespeare was, he had to have been a lawyer. Of course, collaboration on the writing Shakespeare is now conceded by modern academicians, including Brian Vickers. It should be pointed out, however, that Peter Dawkins of the Francis Bacon Research Trust had previously pointed to evidence that Francis Bacon led a group of writers, his "good pens," in vast literary endeavors. Even in the nineteenth century, men such as Sir George Greenwood, a lawyer who questioned whether the Stratford actor was Shakespeare and wrote a great deal about the legal erudition which Shakespeare displayed, suspected collaboration.
I have always loved getting a better sense of what a word means by looking at its origins and how it evolved. In the same way, arguably, a study of legal history has the potential to inform the making of better law today and for the future. In his studies of Francis Bacon's jurisprudence, Boston College (and Visiting Harvard) Professor Daniel R. Coquillette has found that Francis Bacon was much more influenced by civilian law than is generally recognized in his writings and reforms. By civilian law, I mean that based on Roman law as preserved in the Justinian Code, rediscovered in the sixth century and forming the basis of law on the European Continent, canon and civil (See Daniel R. Coquillette, Francis Bacon (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992) and his scholarly articles on the civilians). Who or what does Bellario, the old Italian jurist in The Merchant of Venice, represent? More importantly, how is his message and the "spirit" shown in the Duke's courtroom timeless and thus, perhaps, more relevant than ever to us today?
There is an exciting new book called Law and the Christian Tradition in Italy: The Legacy of the Great Jurists, edited by Orazio Condorelli and Raphael Domingo (London: Routledge, 2020, copyright date 2021). It focuses on individual influential jurists, from Irnerius, the legendary first law professor at the University of Bologna in the twelfth century, through Pope Paul VI in the twentieth. Ironically, I only learned of the important twelfth century jurists by doing an in-depth study of The Merchant of Venice. Did the author intend to bury the names of Azolinus Portius (Azo), Bassianus, and Irnerius in that play? It seemed so to me. During the Protestant Reformation in England, anything that smacked of Roman influence was off-limits. The Renaissance had shown people that learning and knowledge could be obscured for centuries, but also that it could be resurrected. Some ideas are too important to be forgotten (This book is available on Bookshop. My book, Francis Bacon's Hidden Hand, is currently not.).
I am a 1985 graduate of Southern Illinois University School of Law at Carbondale, Illinois. I write for a publisher of legal reference materials. I am also writing and seeking publication of my novel (drafted in 1983) and stories for children. I am a member of the SCBWI. My website is https://christinagwaldman.com. It has a "Children's Corner" page and blog section where I plan to add new content for children from time to time.