Research Lecture: Professor Paul Raffield (University of Warwick)

‘Men of Violence, Men of Vision: John Davies and John Marston of the Middle Temple’

Wednesday 11 March, 5.15 pm
Lawson Lecture Room, Kennedy Hall, School of English 

Paul Raffield, Professor of Law at the University of Warwick, will give a paper entitled ‘Men of Violence, Men of Vision: John Davies and John Marston of the Middle Temple’.


In Hilary Term 1598, John Davies entered Middle Temple Hall during commons, concealing a dagger and a ‘bastinado’ under his gown. Davies approached his close friend (and fellow Middle Templar) Richard Martin, with whom he had fallen out, and hit him over the head with the bastinado, so hard apparently that the weapon broke. In this essay, I consider the theme of violence in late Elizabethan England, using the lives and works of Davies and John Marston as a framework within which to examine the causes and effects of violence and rebellion in London and throughout England in the 1590s. I investigate especially the role of early modern lawyers in articulating and restating the classical theory that eternal or moral law was coterminous with natural law, and superior (in the words of Davies) to ‘all the written laws in the worlde’. In the course of the essay, I address the theme of censorship, and the institutional suppression of freedom of expression, in its late-Elizabethan context and with especial reference to the satirical epigrams of Davies. The future Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, was not only one of the most eminent lawyers and jurists of the late-Elizabethan and Jacobean period: he was also one of its most successful poets, the author of Orchestra, or a Poem of DancingHymnes of Astraea; and Nosce Teipsum. I examine the close correlation between law and poetry (and by way of conclusion, through analysis of an early play of John Marston’s, entitled Histrio-Mastix, between law and theatre), concluding that the indivisibility of these aesthetic forms was a salient feature of the early modern legal institution.​ 

Professor Raffield’s research interests include legal history, law and literature, and critical legal studies, and he has published extensively on theatre and the law, with a particular emphasis on Shakespeare. To a considerable degree, his research interests derive from his career as an actor and director, for 25 years prior to his appointment at Warwick. He was the co-organiser of a major international conference on Shakespeare and the Law, hosted by The University of Warwick in 2007: see P. Raffield and G. Watt (eds.), Shakespeare and the Law (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2008).

His other publications include Images and Cultures of Law in Early Modern England: Justice and Political Power, 1558-1660 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), and his most recent sole-authored monograph, Shakespeare’s Imaginary Constitution: Late-Elizabethan Politics and the Theatre of Law (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2010). This latter volume was nominated for the 2011 Inner Temple Book Prize, awarded every 3 years for a book which has made a profound contribution to the understanding of law in the United Kingdom.  He is also the founding co-editor of Law and Humanities, published by Hart Journals.


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