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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: April ::
Re: Antic Disposition: Question
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0900  Saturday, 1 April 2002

[1]     From:   Holger Schott <
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        Date:   Friday, 29 Mar 2002 12:14:43 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.0883 Antic Disposition: Question

[2]     From:   Harvey Roy Greenberg <
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        Date:   Friday, 29 Mar 2002 17:51:48 ES
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0883 Antic Disposition: Question

[3]     From:   Cliffford Stetner <
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        Date:   Friday, 29 Mar 2002 22:41:51 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0883 Antic Disposition: Question

[4]     From:   Andy White <
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        Date:   Saturday, 30 Mar 2002 08:27:48 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0883 Antic Disposition: Question


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Holger Schott <
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Date:           Friday, 29 Mar 2002 12:14:43 -0500
Subject: 13.0883 Antic Disposition: Question
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.0883 Antic Disposition: Question

>From:           Markus Marti <
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>Does anybody know more about the punishment for murder committed in a
>state of madness in  Elizabethan England, ancient Rome (cf. Seneca's
>tragedies) or  Greece (Medea, Hercules etc.)?

I'm not absolutely positive about the situation in early modern England,
but I'm pretty sure that there was no insanity defense - at least I
can't think of any major trial where the accused was acquitted because
of alleged health issues (mental health and physical health being
essentially inseparable in the period). I imagine convicted felons might
have been able to obtain a royal pardon on the basis of insanity, but
pardons could pretty much be granted to anyone on any grounds whatsoever
anyway... As for the Roman and/or Greek practice, I have no idea, but
Daniel N. Robinson's _Wild Beasts and Idle Humours: The Insanity Defense
from Antiquity to the Present_ (Harvard UP, 1996) should have the
answer...

Holger

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:              Harvey Roy Greenberg <
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Date:           Friday, 29 Mar 2002 17:51:48 EST
Subject: 13.0883 Antic Disposition: Question
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0883 Antic Disposition: Question

A plea of madness did not help an English lord escape the gallows during
the l8th century. Cannot remember his name at the moment, but he brought
in one of the great London mad doctors, James something or other, who in
his testimony at the house of Lords was quite circumspect -- the man in
question was not deluded, no did he hallucinate, he was a right mean
vicious bastard by all accounts. He did not succeed, as noted, and was
executed.

The plea of innocent by reason of insanity as far as I know did not
enter English jurisprudence until the l9th century, in the famous
M'Naughton assassination case, in which it was propounded that one had
to understand the difference between the right and the wrong as was so
far deranged by mental incapacity or illness that one could not adhere
to the right.

As far as earlier pleas in England elsewhere, I do not think there was
law per se to support them, except -- and I may be wrong here -- for the
Talmud, which would at least ask that a consideration of the murderer's
mental state be undertaken. But this is dim in my memory.

Harvey Roy Greenberg

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Cliffford Stetner <
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Date:           Friday, 29 Mar 2002 22:41:51 -0500
Subject: 13.0883 Antic Disposition: Question
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0883 Antic Disposition: Question

The traditional connection between revenge and feigned madness that
includes David, Brutus and all of the sources of Hamlet is usually a
ploy to divert suspicion in advance of the act.  The issue of punishment
generally doesn't come up, as the avenger either dies in the process or
inherits the victim's political power. The feigning of madness as a
literary trope (as opposed to the real madness of Medea and Hercules)
is, in all cases I'm aware of, expressly calculated to protect the
avenger who is in a vulnerable position from falling prey to the fate of
the victim of the crime he is planning to avenge. Real madness is more
complicated. The Hercules myth is often cited as reflecting Greek ideas
about insanity, as he was forgiven for his crime and treated
sympathetically by the community, reflecting Plato's Laws Book 9 which
suggests that insanity should be exculpatory to a certain degree. The
history of the insanity defense is widely covered in legal and medical
literature. Here are some of the important precedents (from
http://ua1vm.ua.edu/~jhooper/insanity.html ):

ROMAN LAW- the Twelve Tables ~450BC ROME: Excused children and the
insane from crimes; gave guardianship for fools, usually their paternal
family Romans used expert witnesses, but no Drs. - one law says public
officials should check carefully since many people feign insanity to
avoid civil obligations

Code of Justinian - Corpus Iuris Civilis 528AD Rome: Codified Roman law,
separated it from Church Law- Discussed the rights of the insane,
competency to make wills, excused all insane from any criminal
responsibility - insane were like someone dead or asleep "soundness of
mind, not... of body, is required... to make a will."

Henri de Bracton. On the Laws & Customs of England 1256 England:
described the "wild beast" test, also noted that insane were allowed to
seek pardons from the King to release from responsibility. This is
essentially a Guilty But Insane (GBI) law, with exclusion after the
fact.

Edward I -The King's Right 1300: differentiated between 'natural fools'
who were congenitally abnormal and 'non compos mentis' who could wax &
wane in symptoms.

Principles of legal insanity between 14th and the 16th century seem to
be Texan rather than Roman.

REX v. William LAMBARDE Eirenarcha 1581 ENGLAND: "If a madman or a
natural fool or a lunatic in the time of his lunacy has no knowledge of
good or evil and he does kill a man, this is not a felonious act, for
they can not be said to have any understanding Will."

REX v. ARNOLD16 How. St. To. 695 1724 ENGLAND: Trial of "Mad Need"
Arnold is the first known Insanity trial in which full transcript
exists. Arnold shot Lord Onslow - believed Onslow was "in his belly and
Bosom, and caused imps to keep him awake at night"; Charge said "must
have no more understanding than an infant, brute, or Wild Beast" Arnold
found guilty, but sentence commuted to life by Lord Onslow.

It would seem then that Saturninus' comment reflects a "new" rather than
a continuous legal principle in England.

Clifford

> It is a recurrent motif in revenge tragedies that revengers feign
> madness before they start their revenge. Could this just be to escape
> capital punishment after the deed?
>
> Titus Andronicus, IV.4. 21ff "But if I live, his feigned ecstasies /
> Shall be no shelter to these outrages, / But he and his shall know that
> justice lives / In Saturninus' health..." seems to indicate this.
> (feigned ecstasies / madness = legal shelter)
>
> Does anybody know more about the punishment for murder committed in a
> state of madness in  Elizabethan England, ancient Rome (cf. Seneca's
> tragedies) or  Greece (Medea, Hercules etc.)?

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andy White <
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Date:           Saturday, 30 Mar 2002 08:27:48 -0500
Subject: 13.0883 Antic Disposition: Question
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0883 Antic Disposition: Question

Feigned madness has a tradition that goes back to pagan times; madness
could be put on in order to conceal the hero's plan for revenge -- it
has been pointed out that the "original" version of the Hamlet legend,
written by a Latin monk, seemed to borrow heavily from the lore of a
previous regicide who feigned stupidity as he plotted his revenge --
i.e., "Brutus," which in Latin has the connotation of 'dummy.'

In these legends, the madness was not adopted in anticipation of legal
proceedings, but it's worthwhile to consider whether Shakespeare added
that layer into his version of the story -- hence, Hamlet's claim before
the duel that he acted out of temporary insanity.

Good question!

Andy White

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