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date: 13 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Recent work in literature and contract law has endorsed a view of literature as supremely sensitive to legal technicalities. But literary texts respond as well to deeper, slower-changing features of the idea of contract. The example of Philip Henslowe shows how law illiteracy produced tactical adaptations that responded only vaguely to developments in contract law. Although contract as a literary device may appear in any genre, it has particular and abiding affinities with comedy. In Shakespeare, contract tends to appear in close association with two other literary forms, riddle and prophecy, and in conjunction with these functions as a tool to think about the management of the predictability and intelligibility of future contingencies.

Keywords: contract, assumpsit, consideration, conditional bond, Henslowe, All’s Well That Ends Well, The Comedy of Errors, The Merchant of Venice, Doctor Faustus, Shakespeare

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