“Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.” Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

Watch a full video of the event here

Actors Alex Jennings and Juliet Stevenson; "I have a brother is condemn'd to die" - Measure for Measure

On 16 November 2015 PBI UK and the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk held an event ‘Shakespeare and the Law’ to celebrate and honour the courage of lawyers who take risks on a daily basis to defend the rule of law. The event was well attended with over 250 guests including leading members of the British legal community such as Sir Peter Roth, Sir Henry Brooke and Lord Scott of Foscote.

Shakespeare was intimately involved with the legal life of early modern London and had a profound respect for the capacity of the law to protect individuals. The event featured wonderful performances by Sheila Hancock, Alex Jennings, Samuel West and Juliet Stevenson, reading excerpts from some of Shakespeare’s plays most concerned with justice and the law, from the famous courtroom scene of The Merchant of Venice to Hamlet’s forensic rhetoric.  The Shakespearean texts also included passages from Julius Caesar focusing on courage in the face of death, passages which Nelson Mandela annotated whilst in jail. 

The event featured accompanying talks by academics from Kings College London Dr Hannah Crawforth and Lorenzo Zucca which explored the playwright’s work and its insights into justice.  The Shakespearean mood was set by musical interludes performed using traditional instruments of the time, including the viola da gamba and the theorbo. Fatima Lahham, Sarah Small and Johan Lofving from the Royal College of Music performed pieces inspired by Shakespeare’s plays and Elizabethan dances by Henry Purcell, Thomas Arne and William Byrd.

The event also provided an opportunity to hear about the impact of PBI’s protection work on lawyers who operate under threat and the role the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk plays in offering a collective voice and their legal expertise to these courageous individuals. High Court Judge and PBI UK patron Sir Peter Roth hosted the evening on behalf of PBI UK’s Lawyers Advisory Committee. He spoke eloquently about his longstanding involvement with PBI UK and the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk and the significant personal cost that upholding human rights has on lawyers around the world.

The night was rounded off with a fundraising appeal from PBI UK patron Juliet Stevenson, followed by a drinks reception. We are very grateful to all those who gave donations on the night and to those who have previously donated and continue to do so. Through ticket sales and donations, PBI is raising funds to contribute to the protection of lawyers and other defenders of human rights and the rule of law, enabling them to carry out their vital work in safety. Funds will also go towards the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk’s activities to help build the capacity and increase the protection of lawyers under threat.

PBI would like to express our sincere thanks to everyone who came and to all involved, especially the artists and speakers who all gave their time and talent for free, the Lawyers Advisory Committee, our team of wonderful volunteers, and sponsors, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer Fisher Jones Greenwood and Sir Henry Brooke CMG, without whom the event would not have been possible.

Actor Samuel West performs Twelth Night "If music be the food of love"
Dr Hannah Crawforth talks about Shakespeare and Civil Rights
Actors Sheila Hancock and Alex Jennings as Shallow and Silence from Henry IV
The event was attended by over 250 people