Measure for Measure: Annual Shakespeare Performance

Boston Lawyers Chapter
Start : Tuesday, June 12, 2007 05:00 PM
End : Tuesday, June 12, 2007

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Shubert Theater
270 Tremont Street

Boston, MA

Highlighted Speakers:

  • Hon. Paul Cellucci, former Massachusetts Governor
  • Hon. Jennifer Braceras, U.S. Civil Rights Commission
  • Jan Crawford Greenberg, ABC News Legal Correspondent
  • Many Others...

On Tuesday, June 12, 2007 at 5:00 p.m, United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer will host a discussion and debate at Boston's Shubert Theatre on the art and practice of judging framed by a staged reading of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. The event, free to the public, is the seventh in a series, entitled Shakespeare and the Law, produced by the Boston Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society, in conjunction with Commonwealth Shakespeare Company. The event is directed by CSC's Artistic Director Steven Maler and produced by McCarter & English partner Daniel J. Kelly. The Massachusetts Bar Association serves as a co-sponsor of the event.

Measure for Measure is Shakespeare's most direct study of law and society. As Dan Kornstein notes, in it, the Bard addresses head on "how much public support and respect the law needs, whether or not to enforce dead letter statutes, and if it is better to interpret laws strictly or equitably." The plot is far from dry and academic: in a Governor's absence, a Deputy Governor (Angelo) attempts to strictly enforce long dormant laws prohibiting sex before marriage and prostitution. In doing so, he sentences a young Romeo to death (after being caught in the act with his fiancé), only to offer to commute the sentence if his chaste sister (Isabella) agrees to have sex with him. The Governor (Vincentio) comes back to save the day but not before Isabella must make some hard decisions with regard to Angelo's demands. Using this plot as a backdrop, Shakespeare focuses on the special role of those who have been empowered to judge -- and the unique temptations that may beguile judges as they weigh the twin but often conflicting goals of justice and mercy.

Extending this theme, the discussion following the play will address, among other things, the judicial selection process, whether political or social predispositions can affect a judge's decision, is it fair to label a judge as "conservative" or "liberal," and how far can a judge go when he or she believes that strict enforcement of the law will produce an unfair result. Audience members are encouraged to ask questions and join the debate.

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, a program of the CitiCenter for the Performing Arts, brings A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, free to Boston audiences this summer on Boston Common. This production is CSC's 12th annual "Free Shakespeare on the Common" offering; last year's THE TAMING OF THE SHREW drew more than 90,000. Since its inception, CSC has played to over 800,000 people.


As in the past, the first hour will feature prominent judges, public officials and members of the bar performing an abridged version of one of Shakespeare's works. This is followed by a discussion of the legal and political issues addressed in the play and their application to today's headlines.

Federal judges Mark Wolf and Nancy Gertner and former U.S. Attorney Wayne Budd will take on the lead roles of Angelo, Isabella, and Rounding out the cast will be former Governor Paul Cellucci, federal judges Douglas Woodlock, Rya Zobel, Patti Saris, Dennis Saylor and Nathaniel Gorton, Supreme Judicial Court Justices Robert Cordy and Judith Cowin, U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Jennifer Braceras, Wilmer Hale Managing Partner Bill Lee, Ropes & Gray Managing Partner John Montgomery, and Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Justice Breyer will host and preside over the discussion following the play. Jan Crawford Greenburg, ABC News Legal Correspondent and author (most recently, Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court), and Daniel J. Kornstein, attorney and author of Kill All the Lawyers; Shakespeare's Legal Appeal, will moderate.

Registration details:

No RSVP is necessary.  There is no cost to attend.