Scalia: ‘Pound of Flesh? Come On’

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Antonin Scalia and his wife Maureen attend the 2014 Folger Gala.

Photograph by James Brantley

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Antonin Scalia and his wife Maureen attend the 2014 Folger Gala.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the court’s most conservative jurists, joined in celebration of the 450th birthday of William Shakespeare at last night’s Folger Gala.

Before dinner in the Folger reading rooms on Capitol Hill, Scalia, seated next to Italian Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero, reflected on his own history with the Bard.

“I played Hamlet in a school production, ” Scalia remembered fondly. “It was the finest accomplishment of my life,” he joked.

Since he attended an all-boys school at the time, he said, things got a little complicated for the guy who played his on-stage love interest, Ophelia.

Timothy Shriver, a Kennedy cousin and chairman of the Special Olympics, had a little more luck.

“I got to kiss Portia,” he explained about his student turn as “the lover in The Merchant of Venice.”

He didn’t elaborate on whether it helped his Romeo-charm in real life.

The justice themes in “Merchant” don’t impress Scalia.

“The law in it is horrible, ” he said emphatically. ” A pound of flesh? Come on!”

As for Portia, “she was a terrible lawyer.”


Gillibrand names the heroine of “Merchant” as her favorite.

“She’s passionate, she’s articulate and she’s a decision maker,” she said of Portia, even comparing her to her favorite presidential contender, Hillary Clinton.

Do we need more Portia’s in the Senate?

“Without a doubt,” Gillibrand said.

The Folger is the largest collection of printed Shakespearean materials, and its theater draws tourists, politicos and diplomats to its productions.

British Ambassador Peter Westmacott and his wife, Susie, recently saw the “Richard III” show.

He chatted with Gillibrand during dinner under a marble bust of The Bard, while the ambassador’s wife dined with Peter Rose, head of public affairs for The Blackstone Group.

The event raised over $300,000 for the library’s programs.

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