Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Law Salic

In an effort to out-nerd the nerds over at The Volokh Conspiracy, I hereby inaugurate a new feature. Jonathan Adler has his Sunday Song Lyric. Get ready for—the Sunday Literary Allusion.

Today’s literary-ism comes from Shakespeare’s Henry V. Specifically, from Act I, scene ii. Henry, the new and untried king, is contemplating a war of territorial aggression against France. All the important lords are in attendance. The King asks the Archbishop of Canterbury to explain England’s right to the disputed land. Canterbury replies with about 60 lines of totally incomprehensible pentameter explaining the relevant law of succession and inheritance (mainly having to do with whether and when title can descend through a woman).

Henry, ignoring the legal exposition, replies with a single question: “May I, with right and conscience, make this claim?” This time Canterbury’s answer is blessedly direct: “The sin upon my head, dread sovereign.”

I think there’s a lesson here. Clients in a counseling context have highly situational need to know what they can and cannot do. They don’t care about the logic of the law. At all. The GC of Volkswagen of America, who spoke here recently, said that one essential rule of working in-house is that you never send a memo of more than one page to an executive who asks you a question.

The whole scene is masterful. This is by far my favorite of the “History” plays.


Blogger Armen said...

This is lame. It is beyond lame, it's unoriginal. I've already stolen the idea at De Novo, where I post weekly quotes from actually funny movies, rather than something as useless and trivial as literature. This week's Quotent Quotable is here.

3/18/2007 8:37 PM  
Blogger Isaac Zaur said...

Wow. I guess I'll have to kick the crap out of you in the courtyard with everyone watching again, Armen. Or are law-related media superstars like Gloria Allred, Nancy Grace and you too good for that kind of thing?

3/18/2007 10:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Fletcher said...

Thanks for the reference Isaac. I may have to up the ante on both of you and your respective college majors (Isaac, English; Armen, television) by posting my weekly favorite molecule. Yes, I think a post on the virtues (and terrible, terrible vices) of alpha-pinene will go over wonderfully with this audience.

3/18/2007 11:48 PM  

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