Gary WattShakespeare's Acts of Will: Law, Testament and Properties of Performance
Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare, London, 2016, 304 pp.
Shakespeare was born into a new age of will, in which individual intent had the potential to overcome dynastic expectation. The 1540 Statute of Wills had liberated testamentary disposition of land and thus marked a turning point from hierarchical feudal tradition to horizontal free trade. Focusing on Shakespeare's late Elizabethan plays, Gary Watt demonstrates Shakespeare's appreciation of testamentary tensions and his ability to exploit the inherent drama of performing will. Drawing on years of experience delivering rhetoric workshops for the Royal Shakespeare Company and as a prize-winning teacher of law, Gary Watt shows that Shakespeare is playful with legal technicality rather than obedient to it. The author demonstrates how Shakespeare transformed lawyers' manual book rhetoric into powerful drama through a stirring combination of word, metre, movement and physical stage material, producing a mode of performance that was truly testamentary in its power to engage the witnessing public. Published on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's last will and testament, this is a major contribution to the growing interdisciplinary field of law and humanities.
1. 'Performance is a kind of will or testament'2. Handling Tradition: Testament as Trade in Richard II and King John
3. Worlds of Will in As You Like It and The Merchant of Venice
4. 'Shall I descend?': Rhetorical Stasis and Moving Will in Julius Caesar
5. 'His will is not his own': Hamlet Downcast and the Problem of Performance
6. Dust to Dust and Sealing Wax: The Materials of Testamentary Performance
Gary Watt is Professor of Law at the University of Warwick, UK. One of the founding editors of the journal Law and Humanities, he is a National Teaching Fellow and regularly delivers workshops on rhetoric for the Royal Shakespeare Company. In addition to texts on the law of trusts, he has written monographs on law and literature, law and dress, and has co-edited the collection ‘Shakespeare and the Law’. His previous books include Trusts and Equity (2003) and Equity Stirring: The Story of Justice Beyond Law (2009).