Contexts

Historical Contexts: Justice and Law

Robert Wilson’s Legal Imaginary

Karen Cunningham

Abstract: This essay looks at The Three Ladies of London in the context of the sixteenth-century common law, especially the law of contract. Remarkably aware from start to finish of English legal practices, the play navigates a complex, unstable relationship between kinds of law – the divine law associated with the morality play and the common law of English contemporary culture. In its morality play features, it looks back at a system in which divine law was prominent and God was the judge, but in its city comedy features it looks at the contemporary system in which positive law rules and ‘no one’ metes out what the play takes as proper justice. Invoking the specific language, procedures, and theories of common law, Wilson grounds his play peopled with abstractions in the human reality of his society.

Citation: Cunningham, Karen, ‘Robert Wilson’s Legal Imaginary’, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context, http://threeladiesoflondon.mcmaster.ca/contexts/KarenCunningham.htm.

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Baubles for Bell-Metal: English Anxieties about Trade and Traffic in The Three Ladies of London

Fatima Farida Ebrahim

Abstract: The contrast between Turkey and London, the two geographic locations of the play, and its relevance to the historical moment demonstrates how the English flounder in the new trade system, while the Turks flourish. Through several key themes – hospitality, immigrants and foreign merchants, moneylending, and justice – Wilson contrasts Turkey and London so that Turkey appears in a more positive, favourable light wheras London is faltering, unstable, and morally and economically weak. Considering that Wilson wrote the play just after the Turkey Company was established, when Queen Elizabeth I and Sultan Murad III agreed upon formal trading 'capitulations' in 1580, I argue that Three Ladies responds to these mercantile shifts by demonstrating an English anxiety and struggle in establishing itself within this new global partnership. My reading of the play shifts the focus to the English inability to manage the incoming foreign merchants and alien immigrants in this new economic system, especially as compared to the thriving Ottoman Empire.

Citation: Ebrahim, Fatima Farida, ‘Baubles for Bell-Metal: English Anxieties about Trade and Traffic in The Three Ladies of London’, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context, http://threeladiesoflondon.mcmaster.ca/contexts/FatimaEbrahim.htm.

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