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The Invention of SuspicionLaw and Mimesis in Shakespeare and Renaissance Drama$
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Lorna Hutson

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199212439

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199212439.001.0001

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From Penitence to Evidence: Drama and the Legal Reformation

From Penitence to Evidence: Drama and the Legal Reformation

(p.12) 1 From Penitence to Evidence: Drama and the Legal Reformation
The Invention of Suspicion

Lorna Hutson (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines representations of evidence gathering in 15th-century homiletic and dramatic texts, and finds that within the penitential theology of the period, these are ways of figuring the metaphysical terror of divine judgement in diabolic or purgatorial terms. It then shows how the play Mankind and the treatise Jacobs Well represent common law legal procedure as the diabolic, procedural antithesis of absolution and penance. The chapter concludes by showing how St German's writings helped to dismantle the conceptual structure that enabled canon law to claim jurisdiction over the secrets of the individual conscience. St German's writings absorbed and displaced the authority of the priest in confession by adapting his penitential concerns to the evidential limitations and concerns with public accountability that define the positive law.

Keywords:   evidence gathering, penance, confession, jurisdiction, St German, Purgatory, Mankind, Jacob's Well

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