As long as there are lawyers, there will be lawyer jokes and lawyer insults. You can probably think of three lawyer jokes off the top of your head. I know I can. (Don’t worry – I won’t tell any in this blog post!)
But was William Shakespeare among the insult-hurling lawyer joke makers? Was the best writer of the English language among the mud-slinging anti-lawyer crowd? I ask this because of the famous line from one of his plays where one of his characters says, “‘the first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”? This phrase is often bandied about as proof that the great bard hated us lawyers. And if Shakespeare – the greatest writer in the English language – hated us, shouldn’t all reasonable but less skilled writers and thinkers hate us as well?
In my opinion, and the opinion of many Shakespeare scholars, Shakespeare did not despise lawyers! Au contraire, he loved us. Shakespeare’s famous “kill all the lawyers” line was uttered by Dick the Butcher in ”Henry VI,” Part II, act IV, Scene II, Line 73. Dick the Butcher followed rebel Jack Cade who thought that if he got rid of law and order, he could become king. Thus, when Shakespeare has Dick say, “the first thing we do (to take over government), let’s kill all the lawyers”, he is really giving a kind of backhanded compliment to lawyers. He is saying, “if you want to illegally take power and set up a totalitarian regime, you need to first get rid of lawyers who will stand in your way”.
Yet this quote from Shakespeare has instead been used by many to slam lawyers. It is used to insinuate that lawyers are an annoying and drab lot who get in the way of the legitimate pursuits of mankind. Nonsense! In fact, Shakespeare is saying “thank God for lawyers, who are the guarantors of the rule of law and order and who protect us against mob or totalitarian rule”.
I love Shakespeare and I am proud that he loved my kind. I like to think that if he needed a New York personal injury lawyer, he would come a-knocking on my door. And if he did, I know exactly what I would say to him: “Hey Will, the first thing we do, let’s kill all those insurance defense lawyers – in court!”
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
michaels-smolak.com Central & Syracuse NY Personal Injury Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.