‘The Sinewes of Truth’: Binding Law and Emotion in Thomas Tomkis’s Lingua

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Colleges, School and Institutes


This essay traces the intersections of truth, law and emotion in Thomas Tomkis’s 1606 play Lingua: Or the Combat of the Tongue and the Five Senses for Superiority, in which the title character appeals for full status as a Sense. Moments of judgment structure the play, and suggest an overarching effort to seek truth in spite of the muddiness introduced by deceitful senses and heightened emotion. Although the bulk of the play emphasizes the volatility of the Five Senses, their susceptibility to emotion, and the unreliability of the ‘truths’ they report, it is Lingua who is ultimately ‘contained’ by the play’s legal structures. Nonetheless, Tomkis invites us to consider this vision of law’s power as little more than a fantasy.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-31
Number of pages15
JournalForum for Modern Language Studies
Issue number1
Early online date14 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018