Opening today, a new exhibit featuring the Yale Law Library’s collection of books and student publications will bridge Shakespeare’s works and the law.
Part of the Shakespeare at Yale initiative, “Shakespeare and the Law” explores the role of British law in the context of Shakespearean plays. Margaret Chisholm, a librarian at the Lillian Goldman Law Library, where the show is on view, said that many people are not aware of the academic field focusing on manifestations of law in Shakespeare’s works. This exhibit aims to raise interest in this area of study by placing Shakespeare in a modern legal context, she said.
At the heart of the exhibit is a book written by Kenji Yoshino LAW ’96 titled “A Thousand Times More Fair: What Shakespeare’s Plays Teach Us About Justice,” published in 2011. The book explores justice in contemporary society through the lens of Shakespeare’s greatest plays.
Chrisholm, who worked closely with Michael Widener, the Law School’s rare book librarian, to curate the exhibit, said that drawing on the Law Library’s own resources, rather than borrowing from other institutions, was a crucial aspect of the exhibit’s organization. She added that the help of former and current students and faculty of the Law School was essential to the formation of the show.
“We didn’t want to borrow books from other libraries,” Chisholm said. “We felt that we should show ourselves as we are, without any additional resources, because our own collections have helped us define who we are and consequently what this exhibit is about.”
The Law Library has been acquiring works about Shakespeare and the law since the early 20th century, Chrisholm said, adding that this emerging academic subfield has a lot to offer.
Along with Yoshino’s book, Chrisholm said the exhibit will feature articles from the Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities, a graduate student publication that explores the intersection between law and the liberal arts. The show also displays literary and legal scholarship, Shakespearean texts relating to the law and recordings from Shakespeare’s plays including “Measure for Measure” and “As You Like It,” accessible to visitors in the library’s reading room.
English professor David Kastan, who originated this semester’s celebration of the Bard, said in an email that Law School Dean Robert Post LAW ’77 asked how the Law School could be involved with Shakespeare at Yale last year. Chrisholm said she worked with her fellow members of the library’s communications committee to organize the exhibit as part of a plan to give the Law Library’s collections greater visibility and a stronger presence in campus life.
The exhibit will be on view through Aug. 15.