Shakespeare and the Law explores rule of law’s limitations

Issue August 2011

More than 20 judges from the Massachusetts Superior Court, Appeals Court, Supreme Judicial Court and U.S. District Court participated in a staged reading and discussion of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston on June 21.

The event, part of the Federalist Society and Commonwealth Shakespeare Company's Shakespeare and the Law series, and co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Bar Association, drew more than 300 people. The event began with a special tribute to retiring judges Judith A. Cowin, John C. Cratsley, Wendie I. Gershengorn, Nancy Gertner, Margaret R. Hinkle and Stephen E. Neel, and featured performances by Appeals Court Judges Andrew R. Grainger and Gabrielle R. Wolohojian as Shylock and Portia.

"Shakespeare and the Law has become a signature event in the Boston legal community," said event producer and moderator Daniel Kelly, a partner with McCarter & English LLP in Boston and chair of the Boston Lawyers Division of the Federalist Society. "Four hundred years later, Shakespeare's plays provide a unique opportunity for people of all political persuasions and backgrounds to discuss issues, both universal and particular, that confront lawmakers, lawyers and judges."

In addition to a staged reading, the program included a pointed debate on the meaning and limitations of the rule of law and how equity and mercy should inform a judge's decision in civil and criminal matters.