Focusing on Shakespeare's Winter's Tale, the essay counters Carl Schmitt's claim that Absolutism represents an ideal conjunction of the monarch's creative and legislative acts. It argues that early modern theater conveys the problematic character of the relation between law and sovereign act—indeed, that it locates the problem of the political precisely in the aporetic character of that relation. Further, the piece suggests that the aesthetic emerges as a self-conscious and autonomous form, not, as Schmitt would have it, as a depoliticizing feature of liberalism, but specifically in response to the problem of sovereign agency in the early modern era. Such relations among sovereignty, law, and the aesthetic are a function of the equivocal transition between an organic concept of the body politic and the emergence of a bourgeois domestic sphere, the ambiguous historical moment of Absolutism. With that historical transformation—the interval of “domestic sovereignty”—the possibility of sovereign agency comes to depend on an unstable articulation between law and the aesthetic, Shakespeare's play suggests.

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