Justice and Leadership Dilemmas in Shakespeare

Theodor Meron

in The Making of International Criminal Justice

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780199608935
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729706 | DOI:
Justice and Leadership Dilemmas in Shakespeare

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Time and again, Shakespeare's work — and, in particular, his history plays — illustrates the ambiguous netherworld of compulsion, indirection, and diffusion of responsibility that make assessing culpability for war crimes a vexing question to the present day. We see in his work the intellectual and moral compromises made by legal advisers faced with a national leader's determined political will to undertake acts of dubious legality. He illustrates the recurrent effort by rulers to preserve plausible deniability in the face of subsequent inquiry — while nonetheless making their intentions perfectly clear to those who will execute them. He shows us the underpinnings of the instinct that leads to the contemporary doctrine of command responsibility. By connecting these and other themes to contemporary currents in the international jurisprudence of the law of war — from Nuremberg to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia — this chapter seeks to further illuminate certain overarching themes of leaders' responsibility and the subtle synergy between the soldier and the leader.

Keywords: Shakespeare; crimes; leaders; leadership; plays; responsibility; war crimes

Chapter.  3598 words. 

Subjects: Human Rights and Immigration

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