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The Importance of Choosing Literary References Wisely

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5 Responses

  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    By suggesting that perhaps the Defendants (and their counsel) had not read the play or understood its relevance, despite their having put ‘pound of flesh’ in quotes, sounds like the judge was being way too nice.

  2. reader says:

    Give me a break. Most lawyers don’t know the origin of terms like “pound of flesh,” and to suggest that this was somehow intentional, or even merely “unwise,” goes too far.

    They put it in quotes because it’s a saying and they were using it in a legal brief. Is everyone supposed to look up the literary or cultural origins of every proverb or saying they use, lest they offend a delicate Shakespeare fan?

  3. another reader says:

    Is everyone supposed to look up the literary or cultural origins of every proverb or saying they use, lest they offend a delicate Shakespeare fan?

    No. I think there’s a difference between missing context and missing the boat altogether. “Pound of flesh” is a specific reference and means something other than just “an unreasonable demand.” Just as in ordinary writing, it’s best not to use words you don’t know the meaning of (e.g. “penultimate” doesn’t mean “really ultimate,” as some people think), the same goes for literary references.

  4. A.J. Sutter says:

    Sadly, I stand corrected. I thought Shakespeare was still read in US high schools; evidently, an introduction to his work was absent from the education of some readers of even this erudite blog.

    As “reader” might glean from reading simply the quote from the judge, though, the point isn’t about offending “delicate Shakespeare fan[s],” it’s about an offensive ethnic and religious slur. Again, I’m amazed that this needs pointing out, especially to anyone in or entering the legal field.

  5. Katie says:

    Most lawyers don’t know the origin of terms like “pound of flesh,”

    They don’t? Seriously? Maybe law schools need to look into requiring some sort of pre-law curriculum to ensure that their students – who will use words for a living – have some idea of their connotations.