Monday, April 23, 2012

Book Review: A Thousand Times More Fair by Kenji Yoshino

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Author: Kenji Yoshino
Publisher: HarperCollins
Hardcover: 320 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

A provocative exploration of justice in our time through fresh readings of Shakespeare's greatest plays 
In A Thousand Times More Fair, Yoshino turns his attention to the broad question of what makes a fair and just society, and he delves deep into a surprising source to answer it: Shakespeare's greatest plays. 
A Thousand Times More Fair addresses fundamental questions we ask about our world today: Why is the rule of law better than revenge? How much mercy should we show a wrongdoer? What does it mean to "prove" guilt or innocence? As Yoshino argues, a searching examination of Shakespeare's plays-and the many advocates, judges, criminals, and vigilantes who populate them-can elucidate some of the most troubling issues in contemporary life. 
Yoshino considers how competing models of judging presented in "Measure for Measure" resurfaced around the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor; how the revenge cycle of "Titus Andronicus" illuminates the "war on terror" and our military engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq; how the white handkerchief in "Othello" and the black glove in the O. J. Simpson trial reflect forms of proof that overwhelm all other evidence; and how the spectacle of an omnipotent ruler voluntarily surrendering power in "The Tempest," as Cincinnatus did before him and George Washington did after him, informs regime change in our own time. 
A Thousand Times More Fair is an altogether original book about Shakespeare and the law, and an ideal starting point to explore the nature of a just society-and our own.

Overall Rating: 5/5

This is by far one of the best analyses of Shakespeare's works that I have ever read. While I have heard many critics applauding Shakespeare's thorough knowledge of the law, I have never read anything that actually goes through his works and analyzes the uses of trials, judging, and ruling. Instead of looking at Shakespeare through the lenses of deconstruction, gender, new criticism, new historicism, etc., Yoshino uses the lens of law and justice. Each chapter focuses on a certain aspect of law, using one play as the main reference. Through the use of present-day analogies, he shows us that society's concerns and ideals of justice haven't much changed since Shakespeare's time.

A Thousand Times More Fair is an incredibly relevant, enlightening look at Shakespeare's works. We deal with law and justice every day. Our sense of justice influences how we act in situations where we feel we've been wronged; the written law is a reflection of our sense of rights and morals; and judging is how we are able to ensure fairness in our society. By looking at how these things are portrayed in literature and our ancestors' thoughts on justice, the law, and judging, we can gain a better understanding of our society and ourselves. Yoshino helps us do just that.

Any fan of Shakespeare will enjoy this book, and I think those who are both familiar with Shakespeare's works and interested in law will also get a lot out of this. Literary criticism isn't for everyone, but for those who like getting different perspectives on what authors are trying to portray through their works, you will find Yoshino's take on Shakespeare very interesting.