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Law and Drama  

Hegyi rpd Jutocsa, DLA
Director of  theatre and opera
Guest Professor of the Faculty of Law at the Etvs Lrnd University, Budapest, Hungary 
Guest Professor of the University of Theatre, Film and Television, Budapest, Hungary

Law and Drama
Interdisciplinarity of Science and Art

Summary of an essay – introduction to a new subject of univertity 

At the core of great theatrical texts of world literature, the dramatic conflict often centers around the law and legal issues. This is not surprising as these conflicts, dramatic and legal, are always between human beings. If  these conflicts are dramatized on stage, we are creating the art of theatre. If these conflicts are explored judicially, we are in the field of the science of law. 

 It is thrilling to analyze legal issues in plays as dramatic events, and conversely the dramatic events as legal problems. The art of drama can help expand the horizons of the science of law and the science of law can help provide dramas with a richer vision of humanity.

 In a dramatic masterpiece, the playwright is able to show the many emotional, psychological, moral, and social aspects behind a legal dilemma.

 The plays of Shakespeare often contain legal disputes as the central dramatic conflicts.

 In Measure for Measure Shakespeare show us how many human tragedies, indignities, and  damnations result when the perverse Deputy-Duke of Vienna rabidly clings to an obsolete section of city-law. Ironically, it is the Deputy who is the first one who violates this law by attempting to seduce and abuse a young girl. 

In The Merchant of Venice, Shylock, the Jew validates his bond and demands one pound of flesh from Antonio, the Christian. Through this action we can understand how tragically the law can be misused, providing legal revenge for the Christians against the Jews, the majority against the minority. 

We can empathize with the young, amorous Romeo in the Romeo and Juliet if we study his character as a „dramatic persona” – but, we must convict him as an illegitimate „criminal persona” if we study him from the aspect of law.

Also, we sympathize and feel solidarity with the Prince of Denmark in Hamlet if we  recognize that he ultimately dispenses justice to all. But a strict reading of the law  makes him an ordinary criminal offender.

Other great plays give us new perspectives if we read  them through the dual lenses of law and drama.

 In Antigone by Sophocles we are confronted with the conflict between divine law of the antagonistic Antigone and the social law of the despot Creon and, how his intereference and arrogance must have tragic consequences. 

Twelve Angry Men is a play about a routine capital murder trial where the accused faces the death penalty – but, through the theatrical lens the playwright, Reginal Rose reveals our own psychological barriers and social and racial prejudices

Analysing the function of  the law in dramatic texts, we can discover and explore brand new themes in the plays of Schiller, Moliere and other dramatical masters of the world literature. 

This same analyses can be applied to operatic texts. For example, if we explore Mozart’s Don Giovanni through the dual lenses of law and drama, the issues of love and sexuality, the „genious of sensuality” versus the common law gives us a new insight into this classic opera.

To conclude, the study through the interdisciplinarity of law and drama can provide the scholar with a deepened understanding of the complexities of the legal system and, gievs a new horizon for the artist to analyze the dramatic events in the plays.     

Budapest, Hungary, 2011.

© 2013. Hegyi rpd Jutocsa, DLA