Essay on Shakespeare Moot Court Project

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Shakespeare in My Canada

Desmond Manderson and Paul Yachnin created the Shakespeare Moot Court Project in
2002, aimed at exploring the interpretative nature of law and literature in relation to Shakespeare.
In this court, Shakespeare is law; his plays and sonnets form a body of law used to argue cases of various topics. In 2003-2004, the project took on the issue of same-sex marriage in “Love on
Trial: Same Sex Marriage and the Law of Shakespeare.” Halpern v. Attorney General of
Canada, a case from 2002 that challenged the heterosexual definition of marriage in Ontario, was the starting point of the project. The legality of same-sex marriage according to
Shakespeare was considered in relation to the meaning of the institution and
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The faith necessary for such relationships is not bound by gender; the absence of same-sex marriage in Shakespeare reflects an historical moment rather than a prohibition. The importance of faith so central to this argument is dependent on Manderson’s reading of the ending of The Winter’s Tale in particular, in which he sees a decidedly secular faith working. In opposition, Paul Yachnin contends that marriage is naturally heterosexual in Shakespeare’s works; larger than individual needs, it is fundamentally nested in community values (508). Yachnin appeals to Sonnet XX to argue that same-sex love is too good in Shakespeare, necessarily existing outside the institution of marriage. He calls instead for the formation of autonomous homosexual expressions of
“interpersonal commitment and faith” rather than their integration within a heterosexual institution (511). Though these arguments rely on Shakespeare to answer a question pertaining to law, they also rely on Shakespeare to discuss a specific Canadian concern regarding the issue of same-sex marriage.
In Shakespeare’s time, homosexuality was conceptualized in a radically different way than in contemporary thought. In the twentieth century, the gay pride movement, the influence of feminism and the

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