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Literature and the Law of Nations, 1580-1680$
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Christopher N. Warren

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198719342

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198719342.001.0001

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The Tragicomic Law of Nations

The Tragicomic Law of Nations

The Winter’s Tale and the Union

(p.96) 4 The Tragicomic Law of Nations
Literature and the Law of Nations, 1580-1680

Christopher N. Warren

Oxford University Press

This chapter looks at the tragicomic law of nations through The Winter’s Tale and argues that the play’s remarkable spatiality is informed by the generic dimensions of the law of nations in the context of the Union debates. By using Francis Bacon’s emphasis on “new forms,” I argue that it becomes possible to see how the generic experiment of The Winter’s Tale is related to the proposed “new forms” of law based on the law of nations that would bind English and Scots citizens together. The argument for new forms in both cases had to do with the power of old forms. What became clear in the Union debates was that legal conventions, like literary conventions, could generate unthinking or illicit allegiance. New forms, by contrast, challenged customary patterns of identification and, even more, provoked vibrant new bonds.

Keywords:   Shakespeare, Bacon, Winter’s Tale, Union, law of nations, tragicomedy, Guarini, Scotland, England

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