Article Title

Equity and Mercy in English Law and Drama (1405-1641)


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Shakespeare read a number of treatises on equity such as those by Plowden, William Lambarde, possibly Bacon, and Symboleographia by William West of the Inner Temple, as we know him from a line in Love's Labor's Lost. John Marston of Middle Temple and Ben Jonson picked up the weird syndereisis as misspelled in Christopher St. Germain's Doctor and Student, a treatise on equity thought to have influenced Merchant of Venice and Measure for Measure. All three dramatists probably encountered Epieikeia (1609) by Thomas Ashe of Gray's Inn and, in manuscript, works of the same title by Edward Hake and William Perkins. Of course "equity" would be familiar to the dramatists from the Geneva Bible which used it more than later translations. There was a flurry of literary and legal interest in equity during Shakespeare's time but the connection between equity and drama had been present in England, as well as Greece (in Hecuba, Antigone, the Oresteia, and the Odyssey), from the beginning.

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