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The Making of International Criminal JusticeThe View from the Bench: Selected Speeches$
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Theodor Meron

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199608935

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199608935.001.0001

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Justice and Leadership Dilemmas in Shakespeare

Justice and Leadership Dilemmas in Shakespeare

(p.286) 27 Justice and Leadership Dilemmas in Shakespeare
The Making of International Criminal Justice

Theodor Meron

Oxford University Press

Time and again, Shakespeare's work — and, in particular, his history plays — illustrates the ambiguous netherworld of compulsion, indirection, and diffusion of responsibility that make assessing culpability for war crimes a vexing question to the present day. We see in his work the intellectual and moral compromises made by legal advisers faced with a national leader's determined political will to undertake acts of dubious legality. He illustrates the recurrent effort by rulers to preserve plausible deniability in the face of subsequent inquiry — while nonetheless making their intentions perfectly clear to those who will execute them. He shows us the underpinnings of the instinct that leads to the contemporary doctrine of command responsibility. By connecting these and other themes to contemporary currents in the international jurisprudence of the law of war — from Nuremberg to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia — this chapter seeks to further illuminate certain overarching themes of leaders' responsibility and the subtle synergy between the soldier and the leader.

Keywords:   Shakespeare, crimes, leaders, leadership, plays, responsibility, war crimes

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