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A Thousand Times More Fair: What Shakespeare's Plays Teach Us About Justice Paperback – April 17, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Yoshino, a constitutional law professor at NYU, looks at the concepts of justice in Shakespeare's major plays as they relate to the role of law in modern society and to particular events in today's world. Perhaps for the shock value alone, he begins with the horrifically violent Titus Andronicus, a play driven by an ever-widening circle of revenge. After contemplating the meaning of revenge, Yoshino surprises, as he often does, by arguing that America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are wars of revenge. As another example, he mines Measure for Measure for thoughts on the qualifications judges need and applies those ideas to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings, which were a debate on "a timeless conflict between alternate visions of judging." Yoshino uses Hamlet to examine the danger of ideas unlimited by pragmatism; Lear to explore the limitations of law; The Tempest for self-restraint in governance-all to frame his views of fundamental questions of jurisprudence. It is a happy marriage between two enduring intellectual endeavors: understanding Shakespeare and understanding our explicit and implicit notions of justice. Readers will find Yoshino provocative, often controversial, and Shakespeare, as always, entertaining. (Apr.)
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Review

“A sensitive and lively mind work[s] its way through the legal themes in some of the most beautiful passages in English literature.” (New Republic)

“[An] insightful inquiry into the contemporary relevance of the Bard’s vision of justice. . . . A refreshing reminder that questions of justice may lead to dramatic poetry, not legal jargon.” (Booklist (starred review))

“Readers will find Yoshino provocative, often controversial, and Shakespeare, as always, entertaining.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Neither a prosecutor nor a defense lawyer herein, Yoshino is a refreshingly engaging advocate for Shakespeare.” (Newark Star Ledger)

“[W]ell-informed by scholarship, nuanced and appealingly written. . . . [P]erhaps the most enlightening study of the subject to appear in a century.” (Charlotte Observer)

“In the enlightening and readable A Thousand Times More Fair, author Kenji Yoshino opens a window on Shakespearean dramaturgy and scholarship and lets in a breath of fresh air.” (New York Journal of Books)

“A remarkably imaginative and scholarly work. It reminds us that in Shakespeare’s time, like our own, the law and ideas of justice were in flux.” (California Lawyer)

“Fascinating. . . . Loaded with perceptive and provocative comments on Shakespeare’s plots, characters, and contemporary analogs.” (Justice John Paul Stevens, Supreme Court of the United States)

“Until Kenji Yoshino’s book, I had found little of value in ‘Law and Literature’ studies. He redeems the mode. Shakespeare, most capacious of souls, is shown by Yoshino to illuminate the vast and complex structures that must inform the role of law in our struggle for a just society.” (Harold Bloom, author of SHAKESPEARE: THE INVENTION OF THE HUMAN)

“Kenji Yoshino brings to his lively reading of the plays the full force of his passionate brooding on issues of justice in contemporary society. A THOUSAND TIMES MORE FAIR will appeal to anyone interested in the uses of great art to reflect on some of our culture’s most vexing problems.” (Stephen Greenblatt, author of WILL IN THE WORLD)

“Who knew that there was such a brilliant and fresh reading of Shakespeare waiting to be discovered? Only Kenji Yoshino, with a poet’s ear for language and a lawyer’s passion for justice, could have done it.” (Carol Gilligan, University Professor, NYU)

“The ingenious and well-argued premise of Kenji Yoshino’s new book is that justice in a form that we can understand and relate to modern concepts of legal justice is a pervasive theme of Shakespearean drama. . . . Shakespeare, in law as in so much else, remains our contemporary.” (Judge Richard A. Posner)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; Reprint edition (April 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061769126
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061769122
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #595,203 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By TChris TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Law Professor Kenji Yoshino majored in English at Harvard before attending Yale Law School. Unsurprisingly, he never lost his love of Shakespeare. In A Thousand Times More Fair, Yoshino explores the oft-considered relationship between beauty and justice -- specifically, what Shakespeare's beautifully written plays can teach us about justice.

Reading Shakespeare is like reading the Bible (or, for that matter, the Constitution): there is much of value to be mined, but the reader must be wary of fanciful interpretations. Fortunately, Yoshino's legal scholarship compels him to base his conclusions on evidence. Yoshino engages in a careful reading of the plays, liberally quoting lines and citing a variety of external sources to divine their meaning. Readers who are more interested in the plays than the law will appreciate this book for its nuanced understanding of Shakespeare. Indeed, this is not a book just (or even primarily) for legal scholars. Although Yoshino's discussion of the plays is informed by a lawyer's perspective, the legal principles that he elucidates almost become secondary to his broader reading of the plays. Nearly everyone should learn something new, or see a play or two in a different way, after reading this book.

Yoshino argues that Titus Andronicus teaches audiences that the rule of law is preferable to vengeance; that retribution must be left to the public (i.e., government) rather than the private individual because, as the play demonstrates, private revenge "necessarily dooms the avenger and his society." Although Hamlet also centers upon a desire for vengeance, Yoshino uses it to discuss the concept of perfect (or poetic) justice.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Kenji Y. has done a great service to Shakespeare and hopefully to American literacy by writing a thoughtful analysis of a number of Shakespeare plays, among them, Titus Andronicus, Othello, The Henry Plays, Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Macbeth, Hamlet, among them, to probe Shakespeare's dramas for their themes of justice, and by doing so, explicates a history of European justice, a look at justice during Elizabethan era, a close reading of a number of texts, in particular passages that relate to his theme, and finally, the relevancy of Shakespeare's portrayal of justice and how it provides excellent analysis of the current view and practice of seeking justice in a post 9/11 world. For example, the author analyzes Titus and convincingly argues that the escalation of revenge motives in the play that lead to overwhelming tragedy, are mirrored in the practices of retribution between and among the 'West' and certain elements of Islam. He draws on historical and literary sources to make the literary connection and analogy for the ideological one. Interestingly, a new book by a former FBI interrogator, argues that torture of suspected terrorists did not lead to "breaks" in acquiring information; rather, 'outsmarting' the enemy did. If Titus had resorted to the latter method, limbs and lives could have been saved.

Each chapter of the book is an explication of Shakespeare's portrayal of justice, and the book's organization complements the clarity of the prose.

Maybe most importantly, it will get the general public to read Shakespeare by showing his relevance.
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Format: Paperback
Yoshino is an American lawyer with a love for Shakespeare's plays. In this book he presents twelve of the Bard's plays including the last play written by Shakespeare - "The Tempest" in nine chapters. In each of the plays Yoshino draws out not just the literary themes but also the aspects that pertain to law and justice; the very stuff that has led many to suppose that Shakespeare himself might have been a lawyer. Each play is given a subtitle to emphasize the main theme concerning justice. Chapter one, Titus Andronicus, is subtitled "The Avenger" because of the theme of vengeance and the horrific consequences it brought to the protagonists. Titus Andronicus has drawn sharp criticisms from eminent critics such as T S Eliot and Harold Bloom. Had those critics read Yoshino they might have appreciated this play a little more. Yoshino discusses the acts of revenge against the acts of retribution in modern day events including "the war on terror" and "Abu Ghraib" and the significance of the rule of law in international affairs.

The Merchant of Venice is subtitled "The Lawyer" because of the masterly legal arguments presented in the three trials presented in the play, ending with the trial of Shylock's contract claim. Yoshino compares all the hair-splitting legalism with some of the masters of the modern day drama - President Bill Clinton. Yoshino refers to "Measure for Measure" as "The Judge" for in this play, the emphasis here is on the factors and relationships that count when a judge dispenses justice.
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