“To Law for Our Children”: Norm and Jurisdiction in Webster, Rowley, and Heywood's <i>Cure for a Cuckold</i>

Bradin Cormack

in A Power to Do Justice

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print February 2008 | ISBN: 9780226116242
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226116259 | DOI:
“To Law for Our Children”: Norm and Jurisdiction in Webster, Rowley, and Heywood's Cure for a Cuckold

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Focusing on Cure for a Cuckold (1624), this chapter examines the question of jurisdictional complexity internal to English law by tracking how the sea's disruptive energies implode, claustrophobically, into the space of London. Written by John Webster, William Rowley, and John Heywood, Cure for a Cuckold tells the story of Compass, a sailor who refuses to acknowledge what his neighbors and the law might tell him: that his wife's illegitimate son is not properly his own. Describing Compass's response to the normative order by invoking a labyrinth of complementary jurisdictional orders (including canon law, civil law, common law, manorial law, and municipal law), the play produces in Compass's evasions a consequentialist ethics that is grounded in a splitting off of effect from cause and in the dramatic projection of a jurisdictional imaginary capable of sustaining a norm alternative to the law's own jurisdictionally constituted norms. Its fascination with jurisdiction and with semi-technical distinctions within and between legal orders speaks to the continuing importance of the Inns of Court as sponsors and knowing audience for theatrical and literary production.

Keywords: Cure for Cuckold; English law; common law; jurisdiction; London; John Webster; William Rowley; John Heywood; norm; consequentialist ethics

Chapter.  17979 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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