THE STRATEGIC LAWYER + + + politics.::. get the jist.::

Shylock’s Appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada

One of the first Shakespeare plays I tackled, at the august age of eleven or so, was The Merchant of Venice. I managed to glean the jist of it, even if some (by which I mean “many”) of the details were lost in the translation from Shakespearean English into the brain of an eleven-year-old.

Portia, by Henry Woods, 1888 (Public Domain)

Portia, by Henry Woods, 1888 (Public Domain)

I did love Portia, though, and the fact that she robed up and ended up outsmarting the contract as written, on the basis of what I would now call “a technicality”–though it must be said, the contract itself does not strike me as being particularly enforceable.

Shylock’s speech was also striking. But, it was only as I grew older that the nuances and darkness of the play began to reveal itself to me in all its problematic complexity.

I live up the road from Canada’s Shakespeare town, Stratford–and apparently a couple of years ago, in conjunction with a production of the Merchant, they staged a one-time-only appeal to the Supreme Court of Stratford–featuring Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, retired Justice Ian Binnie, the dean of my alma mater, Mayo Moran and other stars of the Canadian Legal scene–of Shylock’s case. It’s a great idea (or maybe it’s only a great idea for a law nerd?). I would love to have been there, as I’m sure it was really fun as a live spectacle. I’m not sure that the actual argumentation bears out the promise of the concept–I feel like so much more could have been done with this–but I invite you to judge for yourself by clicking through and giving it a listen.


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This entry was posted on January 15, 2014 by in Contracts, Humour, Strange Cases.
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