Shakespeare and Criminology

Henry Fuseli, Lady Macbeth Seizing the Daggers

Shortly after receiving my Ph.D. in English, having written a dissertation on Shakespeare, I was hired to teach writing and theory classes in – of all places – a Department of Criminal Justice. A stranger in a strange land, I used this occasion to consider the relationship between Shakespeare and criminology. The result is my current research project, Shakespeare and Criminology, which explores how Shakespeare depicted crime and justice, how criminologists have used Shakespeare's drama, and how his works remain a valuable resource for criminology on both a theoretical level (helping criminology scholars build theories) and a pedagogical level (helping criminal justice professionals develop skills of analytical and ethical reasoning). In this work, I argue that Shakespeare was doing criminology before there was such a thing as “criminology,” a discourse that only emerged late in the nineteenth century. The example of Shakespeare thus requires us to re-think what criminology is: our understanding of criminology needs to be broadened historically (to include pre-modern criminological theorization) and disciplinarily (to extend from the social sciences to the humanities). An article outlining the foundation for this project appeared in the social science journal Crime Media Culture.