Why read Shakespeare? Familiarity with the Bard will help understand Supreme Court opinions, writes Sasha Volokh.
Justice Scalia writes in various places in his King v. Burwell dissent:
Understatement, thy name is an opinion on the Affordable Care Act! . . .
Impossible possibility, thy name is an opinion on the Affordable Care Act! . . .
Contrivance, thy name is an opinion on the Affordable Care Act!
Scalia’s dissent in Johnson v. Transportation Agency (1987) cites Henry IV:
GLENDOWER: I can call Spirits from the vasty Deep.
HOTSPUR: Why, so can I, or so can any man. But will they come when you do call for them?
I discovered this exchange when I was a kid watching The Hollow Crown, a BBC series of Shakespeare’s historical plays. I’ve always loved it. (The BBC has released a new version of The Hollow Crown.)
Scalia isn’t the only Shakespeare-quoting justice, notes Volokh. In Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition (2002), a child pornography case, Justice Kennedy cites the teen-age lovers in Romeo and Juliet.