Monday, February 1, 2016
Cast of 2016 literary moot in costume

Iago on Trial: (back row, from left) Dean Ed Iacobucci, Prof. Brenda Cossman, Lauren Posloski and Prof. Anthony Niblett with (front row) Prof. Martha Shaffer and Angela Chaisson.


By Maeve Chandler, 2L  /  Photography by Kara Dueck

To acquit or not to acquit? That was the question before Justice Shakesbill, portrayed by Dean Iacobucci, at the 2016 annual literary moot.  Held at Innis College Town Hall, the benefit raised over $3000 for University in the Community, an outreach program that provides non-credit, university-level humanities courses free of charge for vulnerable adults in Toronto.

On trial this year was Iago, the nefarious villain of Shakespeare’s Othello, who, after being passed over for a promotion, hatched a plot to drive Othello to kill his beloved wife, Desdemona. Or did he? As his lawyer pointed out, the Bard has been known to overdramatize events. More inquiry was needed to find out what really happened.

The court heard testimony from three witnesses who were expertly and hilariously played by members of the faculty at U of T’s own law school. It also had the benefit of the eloquent arguments of alumna Lauren Posloski (of Norton Rose Fulbright) on behalf of the Crown and Angela Chaisson (of Ruby & Shiller) on behalf of the accused.

Graphic image for 2016 literary moot

Professor Brenda Cossman, as Bianca, testified for the Crown. This wily witness stubbornly held to her story under tough cross-examination, particularly when her credibility was challenged on the basis of her occupation (a lady of the night).  When Defence counsel accused her of being a “strumpety strumpet,” Bianca was quick to retort “You’re a strumpet!” to general applause from the audience.   

Professor Martha Schaffer portrayed Emilia, adoring servant to the deceased Desdemona, who was testifying against her own husband. Unsurprisingly, given Professor Schaffer’s expertise in Evidence Law, she ran circles around Iago’s lawyer.  She was impossible to pin down on the facts while maintaining an angelic demeanour, even while being questioned on why she had passed Desdemona’s fateful handkerchief to her husband, Iago.

When Defence counsel accused her of being a “strumpety strumpet,” Bianca was quick to retort “You’re a strumpet!”

And finally, Professor Anthony Niblett as Brabantio, the unsavoury father of the deceased, stymied the two lawyers (“You both look the same to me,” he declared, though he was officially testifying for the defence) and had the audience in stitches. Making strategic use of rhyming couplets, he succeeded in answering everything except the lawyers’ questions. Instead the audience was treated to the story of Desdemona’s conception, Brabantio’s theories on Othello’s witchcraft, and the democratic virtues of an unelected Senate (of which he was, of course, a member).

In conclusion, Crown counsel brilliantly submitted that “if justice be not done, a pox upon your house!”  However, in a brief oral statement Dean Iacobucci as Justice Shakesbill found Iago “not guilty!” on grounds that it was not reasonably foreseeable that his actions would cause Othello to smother Desdemona with a pillow.  As an alternative ground for his decision, he held that “Iago” is just a “bucci” away from something very pleasing to the ear.  (Cue the collective groan from the audience.)


Many thanks to Alayna Dueck, 2L, event organizer, Joanne Mackay-Bennett of University in the Community, event sponsors Innis College and Norton Rose Fulbright, and of course, the donors. We look forward to next year’s moot!