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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 Epic to Public International Law

From Epic to Public International Law

Philip Sidney, Alberico Gentili, and “Intercourse Among Enemies”

(p.31) 2 From Epic to Public International Law
Literature and the Law of Nations, 1580-1680

Christopher N. Warren

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that English Renaissance epic furnishes a surprising genealogy for public international law. At the heart of the chapter are two humanists whose legal, philosophical, and diplomatic interests cohered in the early 1580s around epic: Philip Sidney and Alberico Gentili. Although only Gentili has remained an important figure in the history of international law, Sidy’s fictions and Gentili’s legal theories help explain why epic’s conventional plots so surprisingly anticipate and so easily map onto the now canonical concerns of public international law—the formation and recognition of states, the acquisition of territory, the drafting and interpretation of treaties, and the laws of war. Tropes of supplication, enmity, and diplomacy constitute the “feigned examples” in the epic law of nations, suggesting that the would-be diplomats of the Sidney circle treasured epic for presenting international law in its most heroic dimensions.

Keywords:   Sidney, Gentili, New Arcadia, laws of war, epic, humanitarian law, public international law, supplication

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