CLE at the American Shakespeare Center: The Skull of a Lawyer—Hamlet and the Law of Evidence

MCLE Credits: 3.0
Ethics Credits Included: 0.0

Live on Site: Thursday, March 1 / American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse (SOLD OUT)
Registration: 9:30 a.m.
Program: 10:00 a.m. - 5:15 p.m. (performance at 10:30 a.m.; seminar at 2:00 p.m.)
MCLE Credit: 3.0 (Ethics: 0.0)
Live-Interactive Credit: 3.0 Live Interactive MCLE Credit Symbol


This Experience CLE includes:

  • A world-class Shakespearean performance of Hamlet from the Lords’ Chairs or Front-Row Stalls at the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton
  • Interactive instruction by the faculty and the actors themselves held right in the Playhouse, on topics such as demonstrative evidence, circumstantial evidence, eyewitness testimony, character evidence, and retributive justice
  • A copy of A Guide to the Rules of Evidence in Virginia (2017-2018 edition, $60 value)
  • A catered buffet lunch
  • An optional backstage tour
  • Guest tickets available

This program has sold out. If you would like to be added to a wait list, please contact Rich DiMeglio at

American Shakespeare CenterJoin us at the beautiful and internationally acclaimed Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton for a front-row view of an amazing Shakespearean production of Hamlet, followed by a catered lunch and a three-hour live-interactive seminar held right in the Playhouse, using the play as a platform to discuss the law of evidence.

Words, whether spoken or written, are the tools of our trade as lawyers, and there is much we can learn from William Shakespeare, the greatest writer and storyteller in the history of the English language.

Whether it be Portia’s brilliant legal argument and wit against Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, Leontes’s circumstantial evidence case against his Queen Hermione for adultery, conspiracy, and treason in The Winter’s Tale, or Antony’s “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” speech in Julius Caesar, Shakespeare’s plays offer much to inform and improve our legal advocacy and trial skills.


While several plays may be discussed during the seminar, Hamlet will be featured to lead the discussion on the law of evidence. The faculty, assisted by Shakespearean actors from the ASC, will use Shakespeare’s words in Hamlet to discuss concepts and topics such as demonstrative evidence, circumstantial evidence, eyewitness testimony, character evidence, and retributive justice.

Located in historic Staunton, the American Shakespeare Center recovers the joys and accessibility of Shakespeare’s theatre, language, and humanity. This 300-seat Renaissance-style theatre, the world’s only recreation of Shakespeare’s own indoor theatre, offers an intimate space to see the Bard’s plays in a fast-paced, spirited style where the audience is always part of the show.

Registration includes your ticket to Hamlet, lunch, the seminar, and a backstage tour. Guest tickets available.

BONUS! A Guide to the Rules of Evidence in Virginia (2017-2018 edition), the definitive source on Virginia evidence law, is included as part of your seminar materials. A $60 value!

Why may not that be the skull of a lawyer? Where be his quiddities now, his quillities, his cases, his tenures, and his tricks?
(William Shakespeare, Hamlet (5.1.100-02))

Comments from prior CLEs at the American Shakespeare Center:

“Totally different than any other CLE in 40 years; wonderful participant engagement; terrific dramatic performance.”

“Excellent, imaginative presentation that made me see Shakespeare and legal argument in new ways.”

“Most entertaining CLE I have ever attended.  Do it again!”

“Thank you!  This fed my soul.”

This program is not eligible for discounts.

Photo: Patrick Earl as Hamlet in HAMLET. Photo by Michael Bailey.




9:30 Registration (with refreshments) begins (at the Blackfriars Playhouse)
10:00 Pre-play music and entertainment in the Blackfriars Playhouse
10:30 Performance of Hamlet
1:00 Hot buffet lunch (next door at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel)
2:00 Seminar: The Skull of a Lawyer—Hamlet and the Law of Evidence 
5:15 Adjourn and option for a backstage tour



Ralph Alan Cohen
, American Shakespeare Center / Staunton

Ralph Alan Cohen is Co-Founder and Director of Mission at the American Shakespeare Center, and Gonder Professor of Shakespeare and Performance and founder of the Master of Letters and Fine Arts program at Mary Baldwin College.  He has directed 35 productions of plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, including America’s first professional production of Francis Beaumont’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle and the first modern production of Thomas Middleton’s Your Five Gallants, which he also edited for The Collected Works of Thomas Middleton. He is the author of ShakesFear and How to Cure It: A Handbook for Teaching Shakespeare, and founded the Studies Abroad program at James Madison University, where he was one of the first recipients of Virginia’s award for outstanding faculty.  In 2001, Mr. Cohen established the Blackfriars Conference, a bi-annual week-long celebration of early modern drama in performance. In 2008 he won the Commonwealth Governor’s Arts Award, and in 2009 he was the Theo Crosby Fellow at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, where he is on the Architectural Review Group. In 2013 he received the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Shakespeare Steward Award for outstanding contribution to the innovative teaching of Shakespeare.  In June of 2014 he was the first American to receive the Globe’s Sam Wanamaker Award for pioneering work in Shakespearean theatre.  Mr. Cohen earned his undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College and his doctorate at Duke University.

Kimberly R. West, Wallace, Jordan, Ratliff & Brandt, LLC / Birmingham, AL

Kim West serves as lead and liaison counsel to health plans across the country in federal multi-district pharmaceutical and mass tort litigation.  In addition to her legal background and training, Ms. West is a member of the Shakespeare Association of America, and of the International Shakespeare Association. She teaches Shakespeare and Trial Advocacy at the Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama, and is a trustee of the American Shakespeare Center. She presented at the World Shakespeare Congress in Prague during the summer of 2011, and in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2016. She has written many legally focused works regarding Shakespeare.  Her 2011 paper “A Legal Assessment of the Circumstantial Evidence in The Winter’s Tale” appears in the Proceedings of the Ninth Shakespeare World Congress, and her 2013 paper “Craving the Law in the Merchant of Venice or How to Draft an Enforceable Contract for a Pound of Flesh” was published in the proceedings of the 2013 Blackfriars Conference.  At the request of the Administrative Office of the Federal Courts, she recently gave a CLE on judicial ethics for federal judges, using Shakespeare's Measure for Measure

Locations, Dates and Fees


$270 regular registration (includes the seminar, printed materials (including the 2017–2018 Guide to the Rules of Evidence in Virginia), catered lunch, and the play). 

Seminar attendees can purchase additional tickets for a guest to attend both the play and lunch for $45 each.  Guests are also welcome to sit in on the seminar.  To purchase an additional ticket, please e-mail Rich at

BONUS! A Guide to the Rules of Evidence in Virginia (2017-2018 edition), the definitive source on Virginia evidence law, is included as part of your seminar materials. A $60 value!


STAUNTON / Thursday, March 1
American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse, Staunton (Venue Website / Google Map)
10 S. Market Street
(540) 851-1733

Registration Deadlines: 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 27, for registrations received by mail, fax, or phone; 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, February 27, for online registration.

Detailed instructions (with information about parking, registration, seats, and lunch) will be emailed to all attendees in advance. 

Directions to the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, along with parking options, may be found here.

Make it a getaway!  A limited number of rooms are being held for seminar attendees at a discounted rate of $109/night at The Stonewall Jackson Hotel (540-885-4848), next door to the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, for both February 28 and March 1.  This room block is in place until January 28.  After that, availability is not guaranteed.  Please reference “Virginia CLE” when making your reservation.

Cancellation/transfer requests for the seminar will be honored until 5:00 p.m. the DAY BEFORE the program; for cancellations made after February 22, however, a $70 cancellation fee will be charged.

If you have a disability that requires special accommodation, please contact Virginia CLE® well in advance of the program date.

Private recording of this program is prohibited.

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