Frederick Schiller: The Pitaval Casebook.
To present Humanity in its full expression was Schiller's intent in rewriting and adapting, in the form of a novel or a telling according to the spirit of Enlightenment, these legal cases taken from the exhaustive volumes of real life cases compiled by Pitaval. More
To present Humanity in its full expression was Schiller's intent in rewriting and adapting, in the form of a novel or a telling according to the spirit of Enlightenment, these legal cases taken from the exhaustive volumes of real life cases compiled by Pitaval.
In eight remarkable legal cases which portray the human being in all his erring and excesses, we see the author reinterpreting, in the spirit of a human friendly observer, past legal judgments which call upon the use of newly discovered field such as psychology, as well as new principles which were used to draft laws, in an effort to reconcile humanity with legality.
The Brinvillier case has been the subject of various books until recently. Abused early during her childhood, used as a token to advance the career of her brother who was a MP, Mrs Brinvillier has never known but indifference from her family. When a man comes along and promises her love and affection; she resorts, driven by lust and greed, to the most abominable crimes to deserve and retain his attention.
Another case which has aroused modern attention was the imposture case of Martin Guerre whose story has been adapted on the screen with Gerard Depardieu and Nathalie Baye playing the deceitful couple in a French version (in “The return of Martin Guerre”) and Richard Gere and Jodie Foster in the American one (in “Sommersby”).
The most difficult and ambiguous case presented in this work is that of LaPivardiere where we see citizenry, nobility and clergy all interfering in the case to protect themselves. How would judges reconcile such contradicting interests and yet respect the principles of Justice?
“A corrupt state employee” presents a very common case of a citizen who corrupts witnesses and uses the whole administrative apparatus to bring his fellow citizens to chaos. Such attitude is however against the quintessence of Schiller's philosophy, and we see him insisting on the fulfilment of the letter of the law as well as on its spirit in certain cases.
The stated aim in presenting these cases was to educate the citizen into making enlightened judgment about crimes and criminals, as well as, empowering him with tools with which he is allowed to behave himself as a human and yet responsible judge of his fellows in society.
“The secret game of passion develops itself here before our eyes, and many rays of truth will be shed over the secret aspects of intrigues, over the machinations unraveled by the spiritual as well as the worldly authorities in their deceit.” (Schiller: Introduction to the Pitaval casebook)