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8 Law & Human. [i] (2014)

handle is hein.journals/lawhuman8 and id is 1 raw text is: Editorial
I am writing this editorial on the 450th anniversary of the date of Shakespeare's birth,
and I have the pleasure of celebrating the day at the Shakespeare450 conference in Paris.
Today will end with a reception hosted at the British Embassy where there will be read-
ings in French from the book Lettres a Shakespeare, edited by Dominique Goy-Blanquet,
who is the conference organiser, president of the Societe Frangaise Shakespeare and a
sometime contributor to this journal. How did it come to this, that Europe's major aca-
demic conference to mark the Bard's birthday should take place in Paris and (in some,
fine, parts) in French? Thinking with my comparative lawyer's hat on, I wonder if the
answer may be that the bonds of the humanities that are built up by Shakespeare's works
do not depend upon the playwright's Englishness, indeed that his common humanity
may be more acutely appreciated when he is not specifically bound to his British origins?
This is not to neglect his national context, of course, but only to acknowledge that we
need to look beyond it if we are to appreciate the quality of his works that gives them
global appeal. As in the field of comparative law, the camaraderie that flows from the
internationalising of Shakespearean scholarship may, in its way, be as important as the
intellectual content of the enterprise. In other words, we may see in Shakespeare a familiar
flag around which we can lay down our national flags and gather as friends. Shakespeare
is an excuse for an international conversation of the best sort. Other excuses would have
served just as well ... Homer, Dante, Goethe and any number of other candidates, but
Shakespeare has the advantage of speaking to modernity and in modernity's majority
tongue. Writing in The Daily Telegraph newspaper earlier this week, one of the members
of this journal's advisory board, the distinguished Shakespearean scholar Jonathan Bate,
identified Shakespeare's works as 'our most enduring cultural export'. And so they are,
along with English language and law, from which they are inseparable. (Or should I
say Anglo-American language and law, since Shakespeare was a founding export of the
British colonies in the New World?). But the internationalised Shakespeare affords UK
scholars the great opportunity to meet new Shakespeares. Some of the expatriate ver-
sions should surprise us natives with their strong sense of Shakespeare's pan-European,
even classical, qualities. Some expatriate versions might not be as charming as the origi-
nal, but they can be equally successful in their own right-witness the success of the US
version of the TV sitcom The Office, and the German version of the 'mini' car. Jonathan
Bate welcomes popular passion for Shakespeare as a way of 'opening up his world and
keeping it alive, wherever in the world we find it. Certainly one cannot have a full appre-
ciation of Shakespeare without appreciation of his local origins in Stratford-upon-Avon
and his life in London, but neither can one have a full appreciation without awareness
of his alien aspects. He is, after all, 'out of this world' precisely because he is so much 'of
this world', and of so much of it.

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