The Atlantic

When Hamlet Starts Showing Up in Federal Court

A Pennsylvania judge’s decision to quote Shakespeare in a recent ruling doubled as a meaningful, yet still ambiguous, interpretation of cultural chaos.
Source: Lisi Niesner / Reuters

Hamlet makes sense in 2018. Almost too much sense. The contours of his tragedy, as with many of Shakespeare’s doomed characters, are startlingly familiar at a time when Americans are deeply divided over the fate of the country and its people. The story of a man exposed to the political violence of a kingdom under usurpation, some would argue, offers an eerie parallel to the lack of sanctuary or safety in the United States for many of the people who seek to make their lives here.

Philadelphia does not officially label itself a sanctuary city, but it has led the way, along with Los Angeles and Chicago, in fighting threats from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to withhold federal grant money for refusing to cooperate with strict immigration-enforcement conditions.

A recent by a federal judge in Pennsylvania, Michael Baylson, attracted public because of the urgent legal questions it poses—and the lives at stake—as well as and —and from an academic by Benjamin Woodring, “Liberty to Misread: Sanctuary and Possibility in .”

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