Trial by jury evolved in England in the early thirteenth century in the wake of the papal abolition of trial by ordeal, wherein a priest tested the flesh on the accused in order to determine the truth-value of a claim. The basic form of trial by jury has changed little over the centuries. Today, it is one of the most recognizable and popular emblems of Anglo-American common law. This entry begins with a survey of the historical stages of development of trial by jury, paying particular attention to the mythologizing tendencies of the medieval and Renaissance legal writers who first described it. It closes with a discussion of how lay writers unaffiliated with the law used trial by jury to expand ideas of lay legal agency. Religious writers compared the testifying conscience to the process of being tried before a jury. Dramatists mined the participatory and communal elements of trial by jury for novel theatrical pleasures. They staged scenes of faulty or imperfect judgment to trigger vividly emotional and intellective reactions from playgoers. The habits of legal feeling and thought invented by Renaissance writers—both professional and nonprofessional—continue to structure modern notions of civic legal duty and communal responsibility in law.