John Curtis


Doctoral researcher

Shakespeare Institute



PhD title: Shakespeare in Law
Supervisor: Professor Michael Dobson
M.Litt English Literature
Hometown: Stratford-upon-Avon, England.


  • B.A. (Hons) Drama and History
  • Qualified Teaching Status, (Warwick)
  • M.A. Shakespeare and Theatre (University of Birmingham)
  • Common Professional Examination (De Montfort)
  • Barrister-at-Law (Inns of Court School of Law, London)
  • Called to the Bar 1996 at Middle Temple


This thesis explores the connections between the language of the courtroom and Shakespeare’s works. In particular, my research centres on the appropriation of Shakespeare by the judiciary and surveys the practice of employing Shakespearean quotation and allusion in judgment writing. It includes the development of the Shakespeare in English  Law Database (SH.I.E.L.D). This project will serve as an online catalogue of several hundred references, spanning cases from the last two centuries. 

The analysis includes observations on the wider practice of literary quotation by judges, Shakespeare’s presence in the jurisprudence of other jurisdictions and in super-national courts such as the European Court of Human Rights. I consider the rhetorical gains and disadvantages of invoking Shakespeare as well as the implications for enhancing his cultural value through this utilisation of the works within the powerful social mechanism of the law courts.

I am a practising barrister and undertake study on a part-time basis. Dual qualifications in law and Arts provide a wide perspective and professional contacts in both fields. I hope to develop the work into a PhD.

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