As published in the Winter Park/Maitland Observer, Thursday Jan. 3, 2012 Edition Offers... Read More »
Did Shakespeare Really Hate Lawyers?
I confess, I’m a bardolater. When I’m not blogging or representing one of my clients in Immigration Court or Tax Court, it’s a good bet you’ll find me reading something to do with Shakespeare.
Now how does Shakespeare find his way onto a lawyer’s blog? I’m glad you asked.
It’s because of this line in King Henry VI:
The first thing we do, lets kill all the lawyers.
Just about everyone I know assumes that this famous line, spoken by Dick the Butcher (one of Shakespeare more simplistic and unmemorable villains), is an expression of Shakespeare’s personal disdain for lawyers. Of course, it is nothing of the kind.
(How absurd it would be if every word Shakespeare put into his characters mouths was an expression of his own personal views?).
In Henry VI, Shakespeare’s Dick the butcher is a dimwitted follower of John Cade, the leader of a band of rebels bent on overthrowing the King (see Jack Cade’s Rebellion). In short, the aptly named Dick is neither a smart nor good man.
Now think about it. Why would Shakespeare have a dumb, bad guy say “kill all the lawyers” if he, himself, loathed lawyers?
Well, he wouldn’t.
The obvious answer is that Shakespeare believed that lawyers were protectors of law and order – the good guys. Naturally, then, Dick the butcher would want to butcher the lawyers so he, Jack and their gang of thugs could continue to rape and plunder the country folk.
And this is precisely what they do – both in history and in Shakespeare’s play.
The line “the first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers” is, therefore, a complement compliment to lawyers.
The Ethical Spectacle said it better than I ever could,
The first thing we do, is kill all the lawyers. Contrary to popular belief, the proposal was not designed to restore sanity to commercial life. Rather, it was intended to eliminate those who might stand in the way of a contemplated revolution — thus underscoring the important role that lawyers can play in society.
As the famous remark by the plotter of treachery in Shakespeare’s King Henry VI shows – “The first thing we must do is kill all the lawyers,” – the surest way to chaos and tyranny even then was to remove the guardians of independent thinking.
I am quite certain this post will resolve the issue once and for all.
And I just bought a wonderful tract of oceanfront property located in Boise, Idaho!