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date: 18 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Law and the literary imagination in early modern England had shared stakes in the relation between face and intent, surface and significance, truth and semblance, nature and artifice. Using the legally attuned dramatist John Webster’s The White Devil as its central example, this chapter probes law’s preoccupation with legibility and the way in which drama enters into dialogue with it. In the process, law emerges an interface between an expressive mode and a hermeneutic model, and thus an imaginative resource for literary writers interested in selfhood and inwardness. Ultimately, the argument intimates how the gaps and dualities of the interrelation between the theatre and the law are used by early modern dramatic practice to conceptualize the larger interrelation between literary and legal epistemologies.

Keywords: evidence, character, hearsay, physiognomy, legibility, hermeneutic/s, transparent/transparency, Sir Walter Raleigh, John Webster, The White Devil

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