God save your majesty!
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.
The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.
Cade:Henry The Sixth, Part 2 Act 4, scene 2, 71–78
Nay, that I mean to do.
Dick the butcher, a character no one remembers, utters one of the few memorable lines from the entire three-part Henry the Sixth cycle. Dick's Utopian idea to kill all England's lawyers is his addition to the promises of the traitorous Jack Cade, who envisions a quasi-communistic social revolution, with himself installed as autocrat. Cade alleges that all lawyers do is shuffle parchments back and forth in a systematic attempt to ruin the common people. His demagoguery is simply a calculated appeal to simple folks' longing to be left alone. Yet one may recognize Cade's moral failings and still sympathize with Dick.
In 1987, three Supreme Court Justices convened for a mock trial, in which representatives of the poetaster Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford (1550–1604), challenged Shakespeare's authorship of the plays. The president of American University in Washington, D.C., which sponsored the event, "drew some nervous laughter from the legal contingent in the crowd," the New York Times reported, "when he yielded to the temptation to quote the world's most-quoted English author (whoever he was) by saying, 'The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers. . . .'" Unsurprisingly, the justices ruled in favor of the Bard of Avon.
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