Washington jury, on stage, deadlocks on judging Hamlet's insanity defense





Poetic justice is not so easily meted out, as a distinguished gaggle of lawyers and psychiatrists found out when gathered on Thursday night to consider the sanity of Hamlet.

After two hours of mock-trial arguments at the Kennedy Center -- presided over by no less a jurist than Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy -- a jury of Washingtonians deliberated over whether Hamlet was in his right mind when he stabbed Polonius to death. In elegant tribute to Shakespeare's enigmatic masterpiece, the jurors deadlocked, 6 to 6.

Sitting on the Eisenhower Theater stage under a towering portrait of Shakespeare, Kennedy told Joshua Drew, the young actor playing the sullen defendant, that the verdict "leaves us no choice but to remand you to the pages of our literary heritage."

With that, the exercise -- applying modern legal and psychological standards to a character who must qualify as the most tirelessly scrutinized in Western literature -- was complete. "The Trial of Hamlet," the brainchild of Justice Kennedy and the Shakespeare Theatre Company, proved to be a diverting showcase for some incisive analytical thinkers.


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