Published on:

Shakespeare quotation: Let’s NOT Kill all the Lawyers?


Shakespeare and Lawyers, from f/k/a (with links):

Excerpt (quote):

“… ‘Service to others is a worthy goal for an aspiring professional and the best response all lawyers can make to our critics. We might also urge the bashers to read their Shakespeare more carefully

The words, ‘Let’s kill all the lawyers,’ were not spoken by a disgruntled litigant (or even by Henry VI’s press secretary). They were uttered by the conspirators in Cade’s Rebellion, who planned to overthrow the English government, destroy the ancient rights of English men and women, [as such “rights” were available to women at that time], and establish a virtual dictatorship.

Through the rebels’ threat, Shakespeare reminds the groundlings that lawyers, as protectors of that system of ordered liberty, are as much an obstacle to a rebellion that would curtail liberty as any garrisoned castle. Thus, Cade’s path to oppression leads inevitably over their bodies…’. — John J. Curtin, Jr., Esq., President, American Bar Association, published in the ABA Journal, September, 1990. …”

(link to full f/k/a post)

See also here for another view and comments.

Published on:

3 responses to “Shakespeare quotation: Let’s NOT Kill all the Lawyers?”

  1. Hi, Laura. I always appreciate when you link to one of my f/k/a posts, but this time I’m a little unhappy — you have quoted the statements that I was writing to debunk. The point of my post is that the Bar’s propaganda about what Shakespeare meant is simply unsupportable.

    Here is some of my discussion:

    There’s one problem, neither the play itself nor English history supports the legal profession’s interpretation of Shakespeare. First, the conversation between Jack Cade and Dick the Butcher is not a discussion on how to plot to win a rebellion against lawful government. Quite the opposite, Cade is proclaiming what he will do “when I am king, — as king I will be.” When Butcher yells out that the first thing he wants done is to kill all the lawyers, Cade responds, “Nay, that I mean to do,” and laments “I was never mine own man” since signing a contract [”scribbled” on parchment by a lawyer and sealed with bee’s wax].

    . . . In this historic context, lawyers were seen as protecting the privileged and corrupt establishment, as part of the resistance to needed social change and justice. Whatever William Shakespeare actually felt about the legal profession, a good part of his audience would have enjoyed hearing Dick the Butcher’s idea for improving society once their rebellion was successful. The royal “we” here at ethicalEsq are not advocating slaughtering all the lawyers — just stifling all the liars.

  2. Laura says:

    Hi David:

    Thank you for the clarification! I was aiming for a sort-of “another view of the cathedral” post, but did not succeed, so am very glad to have your Comment get me closer to my goal (and for my readers’ benefit!

    There is such a thing as keeping too far removed from controversy, though some might say ALL public/civil servants (and I am one) should never dip their toes into even benign (especially literary 🙂 controversies. But we do get grief taking positions on the most banal of subjects, so I sometime err on the grayside of life, which is very sad. (I am quite opinionated, though never without a humble wink – who amongst us knows TRUTH?)

    Best regards as always (and appreciation for f/k/a – the best blog ever!)


  3. Hello, Laura. Thanks for your kind reaction to my Comment. Of course, that last phrase is going to get you into trouble with the organized bar, so you might have to redact it. I wonder what I would have done if weblogs existed back when I was a government lawyer.

    I’m not so sure that public/civil servants should be stripped of the right to opine on issues in contention — especially where, as here, one side relies totally on self-serving conjecture and the other actually makes verifiable points. Even government employees should be allowed to call a spade a spade — and look bad if they act as if the guy calling it a pitchfork has a viable argument.

    Research Librarians — even those paid by the government — should be the last folks to make believe all arguments deserve equal respect. When one side makes fantastic claims, and a bit of research can readily prove them wrong, civil servants don’t have to make believe the debate is a draw.

    As to your post, since few people are going to check out the comments, I’d love it if you adding some indication that I have looked into the claims made in the quoted speech and found them lacking.

    Meanwhile, please don’t park your opinions and personality offline, your readers want more of both.

Contact Information