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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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From Biblical Tragedy to Human Rights

From Biblical Tragedy to Human Rights

International Legal Personality in Grotius’ Sophompaneas and Milton’s Samson Agonistes

(p.160) 6 From Biblical Tragedy to Human Rights
Literature and the Law of Nations, 1580-1680

Christopher N. Warren

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the interlocking concerns of biblical tragedy and the early modern law of nations through Hugo Grotius’ Sophompaneas (1635; trans., 1652), a learned dramatization of Genesis 39–50 that deserves to be better known, and Milton’s much-debated Samson Agonistes (1671). It contributes to scholarship on Samson Agonistes by examining Samson’s role in law of nations discourse and shows how Grotius used tragedy and scripture to underpin his own international jurisprudence. Reading Samson Agonistes with Grotius’ biblical tragedy helps us not only to see Hebrew scripture’s influence on emerging global norms but also how biblical tragedy develops into two competing orders: a flat, unmediated politics of human rights and the highly allegorized mimetic structure of international legal personality.

Keywords:   biblical tragedy, Grotius, Milton, Samson Agonistes, Paradise Lost, Gentili, international legal personality, human rights, Leibniz

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