A Thousand Times More Fair
What Shakespeare’s Plays Teach Us About Justice
A provocative exploration of justice in our time through fresh readings of Shakespeare’s greatest plays.
Celebrated legal scholar Kenji Yoshino’s first book, Covering, was acclaimed–from the New York Times Book Review to O, The Oprah Magazine, to the American Lawyer–for its elegant prose, its good humor, and its brilliant insights into civil rights and discrimination law. Now, in A Thousand Times More Fair, Yoshino turns his attention to the broad question of what makes a fair and just society, and he delves deep into a surprising source to answer it: Shakespeare’s greatest plays.
An enormously creative and provocative book, A Thousand Times More Fair addresses fundamental questions we ask about our world today: Why is the rule of law better than revenge? How much mercy should we show a wrongdoer? What does it mean to “prove” guilt or innocence? As Yoshino argues, a searching examination of Shakespeare’s plays–and the many advocates, judges, criminals, and vigilantes who populate them–can elucidate some of the most troubling issues in contemporary life.
With a great ear for Shakespeare and an eye trained steadily on current affairs, Yoshino considers how competing models of judging presented in Measure for Measure resurfaced around the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor; how the revenge cycle of Titus Andronicus illuminates the “war on terror” and our military engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq; how the white handkerchief in Othello and the black glove in the O. J. Simpson trial reflect forms of proof that overwhelm all other evidence; and how the spectacle of an omnipotent ruler voluntarily surrendering power in The Tempest, as Cincinnatus did before him and George Washington did after him, informs regime change in our own time.
A Thousand Times More Fair is an altogether original book about Shakespeare and the law, and an ideal starting point to explore the nature of a just society–and our own.
April 12, 2011
Published by Ecco
Hardcover / 320 pages
Advance Praise for A Thousand Times More Fair
“[A] fascinating collection of essays, loaded with perceptive and provocative comments on Shakespeare’s plots, characters, and contemporary analogs.”
–Justice John Paul Stevens, Supreme Court of the United States
“Until Kenji Yoshino’s book, I had found little of value in ‘Law and Literature’ studies. He redeems the mode. Shakespeare, most capacious of souls, is shown by Yoshino to illuminate the vast and complex structures that must inform the rule of law in our own struggle for a just society.”
–Harold Bloom, author of SHAKESPEARE: THE INVENTION OF THE HUMAN
“Shakespeare famously rewards intensity of engagement, and Kenji Yoshino brings to his lively reading of the plays the full force of his passionate brooding on issues of justice in contemporary society. Whether he is writing about Titus Andronicus and the post-9-11 war on terror, Portia’s parsing of words in The Merchant of Venice and Bill Clinton’s notorious “[i]t depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,” the dilemmas of judgment in Measure for Measure and the confirmation hearings for now-Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Desdemona’s handkerchief and the ill-fitting glove in the O.J. Simpson trial, Yoshino forges mutually illuminating connections between the theater and the law. A THOUSAND TIMES MORE FAIR is a book that will appeal to anyone interested in the uses of great art to reflect on some of our culture’s most vexing problems.”
–Stephen Greenblatt, author of WILL IN THE WORLD
“The ingenious and well argued premise of Kenji Yoshino’s new book is that justice in a form that we can understand and relate to modern concepts of legal justice is a pervasive theme of Shakespearean drama, rather than being confined to his two overtly ‘legal’ plays, The Merchant of Venice and Measure for Measure. Though he discusses them insightfully, he ranges as far afield of those ‘legal’ plays as Titus Andronicus and the Henry plays and The Tempest, juxtaposing them to modern legal and political controversies by doing so demonstrating that Shakespeare, in law as in so much else, remains our contemporary.”
–Judge Richard A. Posner, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
“Who knew that there was such a brilliant and fresh reading of Shakespeare waiting to be discovered? Only Kenji Yoshino, with a poet’s ear for language and a lawyer’s passion for justice, could have done it.”
–Carol Gilligan, University Professor, New York University
“With inspired and close readings, this beautiful book does justice to Shakespeare’s great plays. Kenji Yoshino persuasively reveals how much law and justice figure in the Bard’s art and vision. Journey with this brilliant civil rights scholar and you will learn far more about the limits and reaches of human justice than in countless volumes of conventional legal analysis.”
–Martha L. Minow, Dean and Jeremiah Smith, Jr., Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
“Literary critics comment on Shakespeare’s understanding of law; lawyers love the playwright’s eloquence on legal themes. Now, for the first time, we have a writer who is equally at home in both worlds, and the result is a new interpretation of startling power. Kenji Yoshino is the leading and widest ranging legal theorist of his generation, and he recovers Shakespeare’s lifelong concern with questions of justice—a concern as rich and as relevant in our own day as it was in Elizabethan England. No one interested in either law or literature can afford to miss this book.”
–Robert A. Ferguson, George Edward Woodberry Professor of Law, Literature, and Criticism, Columbia University
“…[A Thousand Times More Fair is an] insightful inquiry into the contemporary relevance of the Bard’s vision of justice… A refreshing reminder that questions of justice may lead to dramatic poetry, not legal jargon.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“It is a happy marriage between two enduring intellectual endeavors: Understanding Shakespeare and understanding our explicit and implicit notions of justice. Readers will find Yoshino provocative, often controversial, and Shakespeare, as always, entertaining.”
“A fresh promontory from which to view the marvelous and mysterious Shakespearean sea.”
“[P]erhaps the most enlightening study of the subject to appear in a century.”
–The Charlotte Observer
“[A] remarkably imaginative and scholarly work.”
“Neither a prosecutor nor a defense lawyer herein, Yoshino is a refreshingly engaging advocate for Shakespeare.”
–New Jersey Star Ledger