The anti-teacher, anti-lawyer, anti-education, anti-math, anti-civil rights truth behind “Kill all the lawyers”

March 10, 2012

Mostly an encore post — something we shouldn’t have to repeat, but thoughts that deserve a place in everyone’s mind in an election year.  I originally posted this back in 2006.

Poster from Michael Boyd's 2000 production of Henry VI, Part II, at Stratford

All this murder of lawyers, teachers, accountants, education and civil rights, is bloody business. Poster from Michael Boyd’s 2000 production of Henry VI, Part II, at Stratford; PBS image via Wikipedia

In an otherwise informative post about a controversy over alternative certification for school administrators, at EdWize, I choked on this:

The Department leaders, Klein, Seidman and Alonso, lawyers all (perhaps Shakespeare was correct), are rigid ideologues who have alienated their work force as well as the parents of their constituents

Did you catch that? Especially the link to the Shakespeare line, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers?”

This is not exactly history we’re fisking here — it’s drama, I suppose. Still, it falls neatly into the category of debunkings, not too unlike the debunking of the story of Millard Fillmore’s bathtub.

The line from Shakespeare is accurate. It’s from Henry VI, Part II. But it’s not so much a diatribe against lawyers as it is a part of a satirical indictment of those who would overthrow government, and oppress the masses for personal gain.

It is Dick the Butcher who says the line. Jack Cade has just expressed his warped view that he should be king, after having attempted a coup d’etat and taken power, at least temporarily. Cade starts in with his big plans to reform the economy — that is, to let his friends eat cheap or free, while other suffer and starve.

Dick chimes in to suggest that in the new regime, the lawyers ought to be the first to go — they protect rights of people and property rights, and such rights won’t exist in Cade’s imagined reign. Cade agrees. The purpose of killing the lawyers, then, is to perpetuate their rather lawless regime.

At that moment others in Cade’s conspiracy enter, having captured the town Clerk of Chatham. The man is put on trial for his life, accused of being able to read and keep accounts. Worse, he’s been caught instructing young boys to read.

There is no saving the poor Clerk at that point.  Cade orders the Clerk to be hanged, “with his pen and inkhorn around his neck” (even the pen was considered dangerous!).

Thus Shakespeare relates how terrorists of old steal government and rights, by killing the lawyers, the educated, and especially the teachers.

It’s still true today. Those who would steal rights from people, those who would oppress others, assault the rule of law, education, and those who spread learning. Beware those who urge death to law and learning; they are related to Dick the Butcher, philosophically, at least.  (No offense to honest butchers, I hope — especially to members of the UFCW.  Dick the Butcher was not a member of any butcher’s union.)

Here is the text, from the site “William Shakespeare — the Complete Works”:

CADE
Be brave, then; for your captain is brave, and vows
reformation. There shall be in England seven
halfpenny loaves sold for a penny: the three-hooped
pot; shall have ten hoops and I will make it felony
to drink small beer: all the realm shall be in
common; and in Cheapside shall my palfrey go to
grass: and when I am king, as king I will be,–

ALL
God save your majesty!

CADE
I thank you, good people: there shall be no money;
all shall eat and drink on my score; and I will
apparel them all in one livery, that they may agree
like brothers and worship me their lord.

DICK
The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.

CADE
Nay, that I mean to do. Is not this a lamentable
thing, that of the skin of an innocent lamb should
be made parchment? that parchment, being scribbled
o’er, should undo a man? Some say the bee stings:
but I say, ’tis the bee’s wax; for I did but seal
once to a thing, and I was never mine own man
since. How now! who’s there?

(Enter some, bringing forward the Clerk of Chatham)

Smith the Weaver and Dick the Butcher seize the Clerk of Chatham, Bunbury print of Henry VI, Part II scene

Smith the Weaver and Dick the Butcher seize the Clerk of Chatham, in Act IV, scene ii of Henry VI, Part II. Engraving by Henry William Bunbury, from collection of the Folger Shakespeare Library; original published by Thos. Macklin Poets Gallery, London, 1795

SMITH
The clerk of Chatham: he can write and read and
cast accompt.

CADE
O monstrous!

SMITH
We took him setting of boys’ copies.

CADE
Here’s a villain!

SMITH
Has a book in his pocket with red letters in’t.

CADE
Nay, then, he is a conjurer.

DICK
Nay, he can make obligations, and write court-hand.

CADE
I am sorry for’t: the man is a proper man, of mine
honour; unless I find him guilty, he shall not die.
Come hither, sirrah, I must examine thee: what is thy name?

CLERK
Emmanuel.

DICK
They use to write it on the top of letters: ’twill
go hard with you.

CLERK
Sir, I thank God, I have been so well brought up
that I can write my name.

ALL
He hath confessed: away with him! he’s a villain
and a traitor.

CADE
Away with him, I say! hang him with his pen and
ink-horn about his neck.

>Exit one with the Clerk

More, Resources (some from Zemanta):


Shakespeare: Still viral after all these years

September 19, 2011

A little sketch in her notebook, an off-the-top-of-her-head list of common phrases.  Common today, but originating with William Shakespeare.

Becky's tumblr image:  Things we say that we owe to Shakepspeare

Becky's quick summary of some of the best-known phrases we use everyday, invented by Shakespeare. From Becky, age 20, in London.

Becky’s quick work caught a lot of eyes.  One of NPR’s blogs brought it to my attention.  English teachers, take notice (maybe someone at your school has a large format printer, and can make for you a poster . . .)

Someone could write a book explaining the original Shakespeare meaning of these phrases, the play, the context, and the value in the story. (Perhaps it’s already been done.)  It’s really quite stunning to consider how many phrases trace back to the Bard — surely he did not originate each and every one.  But Shakespeare’s works are rivaled perhaps only by scriptures in producing so many common phrases and aphorisms.

Is this graphic design of a sort that would meet with approval from Edward Tufte and his followers?


Full moon, sailing tide for Democrats in Corpus Christi

June 29, 2010

Moon over Corpus Christi Bay, June 25, 2010 - photo by Ed Darrell

Moon over Corpus Christi Bay, June 25, 2010 - photo by Ed Darrell; use permitted with attribution

This is the scene that greeted delegates to the Texas Democratic Convention as they left the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas, at about 8:00 p.m. last Friday, June 25.  (Natural light photo, handheld, 1/60th exposure at ISO 400)

The Moon was near full, and the tide was good for sailing.

Delegates had just heard Bill White accept the party’s nomination for governor.

In my brief period as a Sea Scout, I most enjoyed evening and night sailing.  Water is astoundingly quiet at dusk and later, when sailing.  In Corpus Christi I got a half-dozen shots and lamented I didn’t have a tripod, to get a better shot of the Moon.

Actually, the tide was on the way out at 8:00 p.m. — it had peaked about about 1:10.  But it was still good for sailing.

I thought of Shakespeare:

There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

(Julius Caesar, Act IV.ii.269–276)


Behind “kill all the lawyers”

September 24, 2006

In an otherwise informative post about a controversy over alternative certification for school administrators, at EdWize, I choked on this:

The Department leaders, Klein, Seidman and Alonso, lawyers all (perhaps Shakespeare was correct), are rigid ideologues who have alienated their work force as well as the parents of their constituents

Did you catch that? Especially the link to the Shakespeare line, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers?”

This is not exactly history we’re fisking here — it’s drama, I suppose. Still, it falls neatly into the category of debunkings, not too unlike the debunking of the story of Millard Fillmore’s bathtub.

The line from Shakespeare is accurate. It’s from Henry VI, Part II. But it’s not so much a diatribe against lawyers as it is a part of a satirical indictment of those who would overthrow government, and oppress the masses for personal gain.

It is Dick the Butcher who says the line. Jack Cade has just expressed his warped view that he should be king, after having attempted a coup d’etat and taken power, at least temporarily. Cade starts in with his big plans to reform the economy — that is, to let his friends eat cheap or free.

Dick chimes in to suggest that in the new regime, the lawyers ought to be the first to go — they protect rights of people and property rights, and such rights won’t exist in Cade’s imagined reign. Cade agrees. The purpose of killing the lawyers, then, is to perpetuate their rather lawless regime.

At that moment others in Cade’s conspiracy enter, having captured the town Clerk of Chatham. The man is put on trial for his life, accused of being able to read and keep accounts. Worse, he’s been caught instructing young boys to read. Read the rest of this entry »


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