SHAKESPEARE AND THE LAW OF NATIONS
A Parallel or Confrence of the Civil Law, the Canon Law, and the Common Law. London, the Company of Sationers, 1618 [with] The Second part of the Parallele [and] the Padectes of the Law of NationsLondon, Thomas Wright, 1602
FIRST EDITIONS of the second and third titles, second of the first. 4to ff (xii) 104 (viii), (viii) 74 (viii), (iv) 90. Three works in one, separate t.p. to each. Roman letter, woodcut initials and ornaments, contemporary ms statutory references at head of 1st t.p., fly with early case mark (that and next blank loose), Earl’s C19 armorial bookplate on pastedown. A few margins slightly dusty in places; good, crisp, clean copies in contemporary calf, ruled and panelled in blind, joints cracked, upper cover loosening but sound, some wear to spine at head.
Fulbecke (1560-1616), dramatist, lawyer, legal writer and historian was educated at Oxford and then Grays Inn where he practised. His legal writings have long been highly regarded but he has been attracting renewed interest as the author of Shakespeare sourcebooks. It is likely that Fulbecke and Shakespeare were acquainted through one of the Inns of Court plays, masques or revels, in which it is believed both were involved and there is evidence that Shakespeare was acquainted with at least two of Fulbecke’s works; an acquaintance discernible particularly in King Lear.
That apart, Fulbecke was one of the first pioneers in the field of comparative and international law, especially the first English writer to deal with them in English. Most previous works on those topics, from wherever, had been written in Latin, indeed even on the common law which until Fulbecke’s influential comparative work had remained sturdily impervious to the influence of other legal systems. But the most significant text here is the ‘Pandectes’, the earliest substantive original contribution in English to the law of nations, now more commonly known as ‘public international law’.
“What Fulbecke appeared to be doing in his introduction of these controversial issues was suggesting a need for compromise. No doubt he realized the issue of authority was a critical problem that would probably escalate further upon the death of the Queen. His arguments were an idealistic attempt to please the various groups concerned. He took political ideas from men of such opposing views as Sir John Fortescue and Jean Bodin and developed them into a theory of authority. He attempted to check the power of the monarch further, not by emphasising parliament’s role, but rather by giving the common law an independent status and associated it with the law of reason. Finally he resolved the debate over the origins of the common law by offering a moderate opinion. Overwhelmingly, the mood of compromise created in the introduction was carried over into the dialogues”. Terrill “The Application of the Comparative Method by English Civilians”, Journal of Legal History 1981 II p 177.