Eternal Bonds, True Contracts
In Eternal Bonds, True Contracts, A.G. Harmon closely analyzes Shakespeare's concentrated use of the law and its instruments in what have often been referred to as the problem plays: Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida, The Merchant of Venice, and All's Well That Ends Well. Contracts, bonds, sureties, wills—all ensure a changed relationship between parties, and in Shakespeare the terms are nearly always reserved for use in the contexts of marriage and fellowship. Harmon explores the theory and practice of contractual obligations in Renaissance England, especially those involving marriage and property, in order to identify contractual elements and their formation, execution, and breach in the plays. Using both legal and literary resources, Harmon reveals the larger significance of these contractual concepts by illustrating how Shakespeare develops them both dramatically and thematically. Harmon's study ultimately enables the reader to perceive not only these plays but also all of Shakespeare's writing—including his poetry—as integral with, and implicated in, the proliferating legalism that was helping to define early modern English culture.