Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 18 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the relationship between religious arguments for and against the mitigation of legal penalties for religious nonconformity, and the arguments in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice for and against the moderation of legal rigour. It argues that Elizabethan legal debates over epieikeia or equity were heavily inflected with the debate over conscientious nonconformity. Shakespeare’s play restages these debates, not only in the courtroom scene but in a variety of moral dilemmas or cases of conscience, repeatedly supporting the ideal of individual conscience against the claims of Church of England conformists such as Richard Hooker that law can only be mitigated when it serves the public good.

Keywords: Merchant of Venice, equity, epieikeia, William Perkins, Richard Hooker

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.