Having just celebrated the 400th anniversary of the death of The Bard, it is right to include him, considering he is the most quoted in New York’s judicial decisions.
Here are a few morsels illustrating the literary side of our New York Judiciary:
Neither a borrower nor lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
William Shakespeare, Hamlet Act 1, Sc. 3, Ln. 75; although the Court notes, forced to choose, the latter is certainly more appealing than the former.1
In act III, scene II of William Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night, Malvolio, the steward of Olivia’s household, asks her over imbibing uncle Sir Toby, Is there no respect of place, persons, nor time, in you?2
Is “Sexual Freedom in Denmark” − a motion picture, pure pornography − as claimed by the District Attorney, or is it pornographically pure, as defendants claim? That is the question. And in so many cases there has been such disparity of holding in this field of law that it may in earnest be said, as Hamlet once did [Act III, Scene 1 (by William Shakespeare)], it is the undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller returns… We make our way ad hoc with bifurcated trails at every turn.3
Since this decision started with the paraphrase of a quote from the Bard of Avon, perhaps it is appropriate to end with one as well. It is a law drafted by a legislature, full of sound and fury, achieving almost nothing.4
As William Shakespeare put it:
Let your reason serve
To make the truth appear
where it seems hid,
And hid the false seems true.
Measure for Measure (act V, scene 1, line 65).5
Act 1, Scene 4 of Hamlet engraved by Robert Thew. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-115274
Manuscript page of Hamlet by William Shakespeare, 1632. By permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library
Photoengraving portrait of William Shakespeare, after engraving by Maerten Droeshout. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-80147
1. MBNA Am. Bank, N.A. v. Nelson, 15 Misc. 3d 1148(A) (N.Y. Civ. Ct. 2007)
2. Park Slope Med. & Surgical Supply, Inc. v. MetLife Auto & Home, 35 Misc. 3d 686 (N.Y. Civ. Ct. 2012)
3. People v. Hilty, 67 Misc. 2d 67, 68 (N.Y. City Crim. Ct. 1971)
4. Malach v. Cheng Lung Chuang, 194 Misc. 2d 651, 666 (N.Y. Civ. Ct. 2002), see also, footnote 4: A paraphrase of Macbeth in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, act V, scene 5
5. People v. Lalka, 113 Misc. 2d 474 (N.Y. City Ct. 1982)