(K. Brent Tomer),
WHEN Oscar Pistorius was convicted of murder last month, the presiding judge described the case as a “human tragedy of Shakespearean proportions”. The Paralympic athlete’s fall from grace had followed a narrative arc that made this comparison appropriate: overcoming severe disability to reach “Olympian heights”, falling in love with a beautiful model, and, in a coincidence that wouldn’t be out of place in one of the bard’s plays, taking her life on Valentine’s Day. Mr Pistorius’s tragic flaw was an excessive paranoia regarding intruders, which manifested itself in an enthusiasm for guns. His downfall will be complete when he is sentenced in April.
Mr Pistorius’s case is, indeed, peculiarly Shakespearean. But Justice Eric Leach, who delivered the judgement, is but one of a vast hoard who have turned to the playwright in times of legal need. In 2012, Britain’s High Court evoked “King Lear” in a trial regarding a “menacing” joke on Twitter—they eventually overturned a conviction on the grounds that social-media users “are free to speak not what they ought to say, but what they feel”. A choice…Continue reading